A family classic in Mom’s clan since who knows when, clam chowder became our traditional Christmas Eve entree back in the mists of time. Dad got the job of making the Christmas Eve chowder back in the 80s. This year, with Dad and Mom unable to be with the rest of the family, we made some adjustments to the recipe I’ve used for years and everything worked! I’m now confident about putting this recipe forward as one of the greats. They keys are the bacon base, lots of herbal accents, and just the right mixture of flour roux and cream for that great, not too thick, texture everybody likes and is so much better than the over-floured, gloopy stuff you can get in some restaurants.
To make about 2 quarts (8 cups).
- 4 quart pot or larger (Dutch oven, pasta pot, etc.)
- 4 cans of clams
- 4 bottles of clam juice (about 4 cups)
- 4 slices of bacon
- 1 large onion
- 1 stalk of celery
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 3 medium potatoes
- 1 large bay leaf
- 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 tablespoon dried parsley
- 1 cup heavy cream
- salt and pepper
- Dice bacon strips into 1/4″ bits. Fry up the bits in the pot over medium heat. (It’s OK to start from a cold pot.) Once they start sizzling, fry for about 5-7 minutes or until they have rendered most of their fat and look browned and cooked through. If your bacon was especially fatty, you might want to spoon off some of the fat until you have about 2 tablespoons or so left.
- Dice onion and celery into 1/4″-1/2″ bits. Add to bacon. Cook for 5 minutes but don’t let the onions get too dark brown or burnt.
- Add flour and stir or whisk it in thoroughly. Let it cook for a minute or two, stirring occasionally.
- Add clam juice and water (total of 5-6 cups). Stir.
- Dice potatoes (1/2″ pieces) and add to pot with thyme and bay leaf. Stir, bring to a simmer, cover pot, and cook for 10-12 minutes until potatoes are done.
- Add cream, clams, parsley, and pepper. Add salt if needed.
Sometimes I add a couple tablespoons of butter at the end which is really a nice touch, but not necessary. The chowder is ready to eat right away, but tastes just as good later or the next day. We usually make this right before sitting down to Christmas Eve dinner. The kids used to enjoy their clam chowder in sourdough bread bowls. This is fantastic with really good sourdough, but really filling! Enjoy!