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The Best Recipe: Soups & Stews, Cook's Illustrated Magazine

Serves  8

Medium-sized hard-shell clams provide the flavor for the broth and the tender dam meat for this hearty soup. This rendition is not like the traditional commercial offerings with a thick broth that resembles tomato sauce. Instead, the broth is briny and clean tasting, flavors from the sea standing out and tomatoes and vegetables offering dimension in flavors and colors. The potatoes provide substance, and cooking them before adding the tomatoes enables their starch to be released into the broth, lightly thickening it. This soup will hold for two days. Reheat over a low flame, being sure not to boil the chowder, which will toughen the clams.

• 8 pounds medium-sized hard-shell clams, such as cherrystones, washed and scrubbed clean
• 2 slices thick-cut bacon (about 2 ounces), cut into 1/4-inch pieces
• 1 large Spanish onion, chopped small
• 1 small red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and chopped small
• 1 medium carrot, chopped small
• 1 stalk celery, chopped small
• 4 medium cloves garlic, minced
• 1 teaspoon dried oregano
• 1/2 cup dry white wine
• 1 (8-ounce) bottle clam juice
• 1  1/4 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
• 1 large bay leaf
• 2 (14 1/2-ounce) cans diced tomatoes
• Salt and ground black pepper
• 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves

1. Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in large stock-pot or Dutch oven. Add the clams and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Cook for 5 minutes, uncover, and stir with a wooden spoon. Quickly cover the pot and steam until the clams just open, 2 to 4 minutes. Transfer the clams to a large bowl; cool slightly. Open the clams with a paring knife, holding the clams over a bowl to catch any juices. With the knife, sever the muscle that attaches the clambelly to the shell and transfer the meat to a cutting board. Discard the shells. Cut the clams into 1/2-inch dice; set aside. Pour the clam broth into a 2-quart Pyrex measuring cup, holding back the last few tablespoons of broth in case of sediment; set the clam broth aside. (You should have about 5 cups; if not, add water to make this amount.) Rinse and dry the pot, then return it to the burner.

2. Fry the bacon in the empty pot over medium-low heat until the fat renders and the bacon crisps, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the onion, pepper, carrot, and celery, reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and oregano and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute.

3. Add the wine and raise heat to high. Boil the wine until it reduces by half, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the reserved clam broth, clam juice, potatoes, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer until the potatoes are almost tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Using a wooden spoon, smash a few potatoes against the side of the pot.  Simmer to release the potato starch, about 2 minutes.

4. Add the tomatoes, bring back to a simmer, and cook for 5 minutes. Off heat, stir in the reserved clams and season with salt and pepper to taste; discard the bay leaf. (Chowder can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 days. Warm over low heat until hot.) Stir in parsley and ladle the chowder into individual bowls. Serve immediately.


Follow recipe for Manhattan Clam Chowder, substituting 2 ounces finely chopped pancetta for the bacon, increasing the garlic to 6 cloves, and adding 1 teaspoon fennel seeds and 1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes along with the garlic and oregano. Proceed as directed.

This variation uses a total of three bottles of clam juice. Two bottles are used to supplement the juice from the canned clams to replace the 5 cups of clam broth in step 1 of the master recipe; the third bottle is used as directed in step 3 of the master recipe.

Follow recipe for Manhattan Clam Chowder, substituting for the fresh clams 5 cans (6 1/2 ounces each) of chopped clams, juice drained and reserved, along with 2 bottles (8 ounces each) clam juice. Add the drained clams and juice at the same points when fresh clam meat and broth would be added.


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