As I mentioned here, the last couple of weeks we’ve been enjoying beautiful summer weather at the Western Headquarters of the Circle B Kitchen on the California Central Coast. I think it’s a fairly well-kept secret that if you come to the Central or Northern coast of California in the summertime, you’re going to pretty much need a jacket. The seasons are so confusing here. Wintertime is definitely when you’re going to get summer and we’re lovin it!
But it really doesn’t matter what the season, New England clam chowder is one of our favorites here, and this is my all-time favorite recipe. I’ve actually made this 4 times in the last couple of months and I may even make it again before we head back to the Midwest to finish out winter.
But for this weekend, we’ve driven up the coast a little ways to Santa Cruz to visit the old home town. Our room has a beautiful view of the Santa Cruz wharf, which just happens to have one of the best spots on earth for clam chowder. If you’re a clam chowder kind of person and you find yourself in Santa Cruz, you really have to get out to Stagnaro’s Seafood on the wharf. They’ll give you a nice little sourdough bread bowl full of the stuff. It’s awesome, and I promise that if you eat the whole thing you won’t need another meal for a week.
But for those of you unable to get to Stagnaro’s any time soon, this here recipe should take care of your chowder needs quite nicely.
New England Clam Chowder
Adapted from a recipe from Epicurious
6 cans (6.5 oz) of minced clams (like Snow's), juices reserved
2 bacon slices, minced
1 tablespoon butter
1 onion, diced
1 or 2 stalks of celery, diced
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped
1 pound potatoes, peeled, diced
2 cups whole milk
1 cup half and half
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon white pepper
Drain the clam juice from the minced clams. You should have about 3 cups. Set aside
Cook the bacon in a soup pot over medium heat until lightly crisp, about 8 minutes.
Add the butter to the pan and the onion and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Add the flour and cook over low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon for 2-3 minutes.
Whisk in the clam juice, bring to a simmer, and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. The liquid should be the consistency of heavy cream. Add the bay leaf and fresh thyme.
Add the potatoes and the salt and simmer until tender, about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, place the clams and the milk mixture in a saucepan and simmer together about 5-8 minutes.
When the potatoes are tender, add the milk and clams and pepper. Simmer on very low heat for 15 to 20 minutes, remove from the heat for a few minutes to let the soup thicken.
Serve in bowls with a fresh, crunchy baguette to dip in that scrumptious broth.