Meet the quahog aka - hard clam

Duke’s Chowder

This is the time of year when I begin to fall back in love with New England. It’s funny, I once heard that being married requires falling in love over and over again, always with the same person. That’s kind of how it is to be a New Englander. We have our ups and downs with weather, times when we are fed up with the blasted cold and long winters, days when we swear we’re retiring somewhere South. That is until the dead of August when the heat and humidity are unbearable. Then the season changes and our love is restored. Am I right?!

Clam chowder is deeply rooted in our culture, and one of the great things about it, is that it doesn’t have a particular season. What it does have, is loyalists. That’s right – you know who you are. I will stand up for my New England style clam chowder and defend it vehemently. New Englanders are passionate people.

Let me reference an oldie but goodie (hello 1994 throwback):

Woodstock: What’s the password?
Ace Ventura: New England clam chowder.
Woodstock: Is that the red or the white?
Ace Ventura: Ah, I can never remember that. White.
[Door opens]
Ace Ventura: Yes!

Anybody?? Of course it was the white, duh! I know many of you may swear by the red Manhattan style, and perhaps a certain few – the Rhode Island clear broth. I happen to have a girlfriend who proclaims to be one of these “few,” she is married to a NE style enthusiast who not-so-affectionately refers to her darling clear broth as “dirty water chowder.” I won’t name names (hehe) but it makes me laugh. Not to start trouble, even when divided, we can all agree that we love the quahog.

Any food that is surrounded by festivals and cook off’s is serious business, chowder is one of them around these parts. Chef’s and home cooks alike have come to fisticuffs (*I just wanted to say fisticuffs) over a proper chowder, though I have yet to see that happen. I can absolutely see it though, I’ve known one or two hot heads in white coats in my day…

Shockingly, my favorite New England style clam chowder recipe comes from Duke’s Chowder House in Seattle, WA. Yep, you read that right, the West Coast. Who is this Duke guy and what does he know about our beloved creamy chowder? Well, possibly a thing or two. I’ve never met the guy, and I’ve actually never set foot in his restaurant, but his Grandfather’s award winning creation is tops. It seems like every other restaurant claims to offer the best bowl in town, well I have stopped my search. This is it. I have to thank my Mother for this one, she stumbled upon it years ago and we’ve been churning it out whenever the craving hits since.

Duke’s Clam Chowder
Ingredients:
 
4-5 slices of uncured bacon diced – preferably local
1 medium sweet onion diced
3 stalks of organic celery, washed and diced
2-3 red potatoes, diced
*2 cups of 2% organic milk
*2 cups of organic half-and-half
**OR: 4 cups of whole cream-in raw milk
1/2 cup of heavy cream
1 large container of fresh shucked quahogs in their juice: rinsed, chopped and nectar strained and reserved
1/3 cup of unbleached all-purpose flour
3 ounces of butter (preferably from pasture raised dairy cows)
2 tbsp clam base
1 garlic clove smashed
1 pinch of white pepper
1 pinch of fresh cracked pepper
1 lg pinch of cayenne
1 tsp of fresh marjoram
2 tsp of fresh basil
1 tsp salt free italian seasoning
1/4 tsp fresh dill
1/2 tsp fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
1/8 cup of fresh chopped parsley
Magic in the making.

Magic in the making.

I use a fine mesh strainer over a metal bowl to initially separate the clams, then I rinse them to eliminate any grit (yuck). I set the clams aside and rinse the strainer, setting it back up like this:
Open up a few coffee filters and lay them inside to catch the sand.

Open up a few coffee filters (or use cheesecloth) and lay them inside to catch the sand.

Then I pour the clam nectar through so it comes out nice and clean. When it’s time, you’ll need 1 and 1/4 cups worth, or all of it if you like a thinner chowder.
I like a thick chop on the quahogs, no messing around. This is chowder, not bisque after all and I want to know it when I bite into one. As my (hilarious) friend would say, “I want to choke on them.” Too far? Never…
I will NEVER understand how people buy and eat the canned clams. This is what they should look like, bright and clean.

I will NEVER understand how people buy and eat the canned clams. This is what they should look like, bright and clean.

So now that all of your prep work is done, grab a large soup pot and set it on medium heat. Render down the bacon until transparent.
MmMm brown bits

MmMm brown bits

Next add your butter, when it stops foaming add the onions, celery, and all of the seasoning EXCEPT for the dill and parsley.
Dear aromatics, you make my nose smile. Love, Kristen

Dear aromatics, you make my nose smile. Love, Kristen

 Once tender, add the flour, give it a stir, and cook over low heat for 3-4 minutes.
Is this easier than you thought?

Is this easier than you thought?

Now add all of the diary, the clam base, and reserved clam nectar.

Bring it just under boiling point.

Here is where I stray off the path - I like to put the mincing attachment on my immersion blender and buzz it into a smoother consistency before adding potatoes and clams.

Here is where I stray off the path – I like to put the mincing attachment on my immersion blender and buzz it into a smoother consistency before adding potatoes and clams.

Finally, you can add the potatoes and clams.

Seriously, buy fresh quahogs!

Seriously, buy fresh quahogs!

If you diced your potatoes small enough, you can throw them in the pot with the clams and cook 2-3 minutes without worry of under-cooked crunchy pieces. If you went for larger potato pieces – blanch them first but be careful because you don’t want to end up with mush.

lastly, add the dill and parsley.
As it goes for all chowder – they taste best when made ahead, even 2-3 days ahead so the flavors can really meld together. Trust me, it’s worth having a little patience.
When you are ready, make sure you have plenty of these:
Are you a crusher? Do you prefer them sprinkled in whole? Do you do BOTH?!

Are you a crusher? Do you prefer them sprinkled in whole? Do you do BOTH?!

Then you can sit down and enjoy a hearty bowl of CHOWDAH!
Oh holy hell this stuff is good!

Oh holy hell this stuff is good!

   And when you do – I promise you’ll be as happy as a Keiko:
Where did that expression, "happy as a clam" come from anyway?

Where did that expression, “happy as a clam” come from anyway?

3 thoughts on “Duke’s Chowder

  1. Jeffrey McDermott

    That sounds ridonkulous!!!!! I’m sure if you send some to work with Mark and he puts it in the fridge it would definitely be there at mid shift . Just tell me when you are going to send some in with him! 🙂 great blog!

    Reply
  2. Pingback: Top 5 Super Bowl Recipes for Seahawks Fans

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