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American Classics by Editors of Cook's Illustrated Magazine


If desired, replace the bacon with 4 ounces of finely chopped salt pork.

• 7 pounds medium-sized hard-shell clams, such as cherrystones, washed and scrubbed clean 
• 4 slices thick-cut bacon (about 4 ounces), cut into 1/4-inch pieces
• 1 large Spanish onion, chopped medium
• 2 tablespoons flour
• 1 1/2 pounds red potatoes (about 4 medium), scrubbed and cut into 1/2-inch dice
• 1 large bay leaf
• 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves or 1/4 teaspoon
dried thyme
• 1 cup heavy cream
• 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
• Salt and ground black or white pepper

1. Bring 3 cups water to a boil in large stockpot 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 clam belly to the shell, and transfer the meat to a cutting board. Discard the shells. Mince the clams; set aside. Pour clam broth into a medium bowl, 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 bottled clam juice or 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 and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the flour and stir until lightly colored, about 1 minute. Gradually whisk in the reserved clam broth. Add the potatoes, bay leaf, and thyme and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. Add the clams, cream, parsley, and salt (if necessary) and ground pepper to taste; bring to simmer. Remove from the heat, discard the bay leaf, and serve immediately.


From late summer through winter, when dams are plentiful, you'll probably want to make fresh dam chowder. But if you're short on time or find clams scarce and expensive, the right canned clams and bottled clam juice will deliver a chowder that's at least three notches above canned chowder in quality. We tested seven brands of minced and small whole canned clams and preferred Doxsee Minced Clams teamed with Doxsee brand clam juice as well as Snow's Minced Clams and Snow's clam juice. These clams were neither too tough nor too soft, and they had a decent natural clam flavor.

Follow the recipe for New England Clam Chowder, substituting 4 cans (6 1/2 ounces each) minced clams for the fresh clams, with juice drained and added to medium bowl along with 1 cup water and 2 bottles (8 ounces each) clam juice. Reserve clam meat in separate bowl. Omit step l. Add reserved clam meat and juice at same points in step 2 when fresh clam broth and meat would be added.


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