The Best Clam Chowder + Tips For Cooking with Clams

Clam chowder is Cape Cod’s signature dish just as pizza is New York’s specialty. You can find the soup in any given food shop you walk into, sitting in a hot vat, protected by a film of cream skin (I know, the thought, so unappetizing). It all pretty much tastes the same: creamy, salty, and a little clammy. It hits the spot on a chilly, rainy summer afternoon. It doesn’t do much more than that.

If you have fresh clams near you, you are lucky. If not, I do not turn my nose up at canned clams. Try to find Bar Harbor clams, and buy a bottle of clam juice.

I thought about winging the recipe, but then I came across this, and it was so simple that I decided to follow it. It doesn’t have bacon in it, which I actually like – the real star of the show is the clams, and there’s no smoky flavors detracting from that awesome brininess.

soup

If you happen to get your hands on some fresh clams, here’s how I prep and steam them:

First, scrub them. Now’s not the time to be gentle! Really give them a good scrub, focusing on the area around the base (where the clam shells meet), which can hold the most grit and sand.

Dump them into a big bowl, and fill it to the top with cold water. Let it sit for 20 minutes, then pull the clams out of the water and drop them into the sink, giving them one more rinse. Try not to skip these steps, if you’re impatient. Sandy soup=worst.

Steam the clams by placing them in a big pot, then filling it with a few inches of water. Cover, turn the heat to high and wait until you hear the rattling of the clam shells popping open. The clams are done when their shells have all popped open. Discard any that haven’t opened – that means they’ve gone bad (or died before you steamed them).

For making the soup: if you’re anything like me, hold off on seasoning the onions and celery, especially if you’re using salted butter. The soup I made is perfectly salty, but any additional seasoning would have put it over the edge.

I garnished mine with parsley and ground pepper instead of the croutons, but I imagine that would be delicious as well. Serve hot!

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