A family classic in the Queen’s family since who knows when, some version of New England clam chowder became our traditional Christmas Eve entrée back in the mists of time. Dad got the job of making the Christmas Eve chowder back in the 80’s, a family tradition passed on (gladly) by the Queen’s father. We speculate that he may have developed his preference for New England style chowder as a boy living in Boston for a few years. Since taking over chowder duties, I have experimented with some twist or turn on the original recipe nearly every year. It turns out that as wonderful a man as my father-in-law was, cooking wasn’t his thing. Learning how to improve the chowder has been a great learning experience for me. I encourage everyone who wants to be their own, better cook in the kitchen to try new ways of improving even family favorite recipes if the inspiration strikes. After many years of fiddling, I’ve decided that the version below is one for the ages — one of the greats.
Tips: The keys are the bacon base, the herbal accents, and just the right thickening for that great, not too thin or thick, texture that everybody likes.
Keto upgrade (2018): Our clam chowder is a great Keto deal from the get-go since we use bacon and heavy whipping cream and add butter for even more richness and fat. But since potatoes and wheat flour are Keto no-no’s, another solution had to be found to thicken the chowder.
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 whipping 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 juice from all four cans of clams and water for a total of 5-6 cups. Stir to combine.
- Peel (or not) and dice potatoes (1/2″ pieces). 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!