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January 21

The Red Lion Inn’s New England Clam Chowder


imageNew England Clam Chowder

Chowders are so firmly associated with New England cooking that we tend to assume they originated here, but they are probably adaptations of the stews and hearty soups made in England and France. The name seems to have come from the pot, called a chaudière, which was brought by Breton fisherman to Nova Scotia, where it eventually found its way down the coast to New England.  It was customary for thrifty women to toss whatever edibles they had into the pot and cook it all together until tender.

Any good New England cook has his or her favorite recipe, but most will agree that a traditional chowder must include two ingredients—clams and salt pork (never tomatoes)—with a cream and stock base, just as this traditional old Red Lion Inn recipe does. This is a delicious and easy-to-prepare version of the classic.

4 cups warm water

2 dozen fresh clams in the shell, or 2 small cans chopped clams

1 teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon white pepper

¼ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

2 cups peeled and diced potatoes

¼ pound salt pork, diced, or ½ cup margarine

1 cup chopped onions

2 tablespoons flour

3 cups milk, scalded

1 cup light cream

2 tablespoons butter

1.     Combine the water, clams, salt, white pepper, and Worcestershire sauce in a large pot. Bring to a boil and boil until the clams open, about 12–18 minutes. Discard any clams that do not open.

2.     Strain the clams and reserve both clams and broth. Remove the meat from the clam shells and finely chop the clams. (If using canned clams, add them to the water and boil for 10 minutes. Strain and reserve the clams and broth.)

3.     Combine the potatoes and half of the clam broth in a large pot. Gently simmer until cooked but still firm, about 10 minutes. Drain reserving the broth.

4.     Place the salt pork in a heavy pot and sauté until partially rendered, about 5 minutes. Be careful, this will splatter. (Or, melt the margarine in a heavy pot.)

5.     Remove the pork from the pot and set aside. Remove half of the melted fat. Sauté the onions in the remaining fat over medium heat until translucent but not brown, about 5 minutes.

6.     Add the flour to the onions and blend thoroughly to make a roux. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, for 5–6 minutes. (If you prefer a thicker chowder, more flour may be added.)

7.     Add all of the reserved broth to the roux and stir until hot and smooth. Stir in the potatoes, clams, remaining fat, milk, and cream. Adjust the seasoning and add the butter just before serving, stirring until melted. Serve.

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