On a cold snowy day, nothing beats a hot bowl of soup. Especially a thick velvety clam chowder like this one. Even better if when your husband, after being told of your dinner plans, offers to stop by Panera on the way home to pick up a few bread bowls for serving! Yesterday, as my family was walking along the National Mall during DC's first snow of the year on a family outing to the Smithsonian, I was dreaming of this soup. It's rich and comforting, filling but not overly heavy. And it reminds me of our weekend trip to San Francisco, when our oldest was a baby, and we had bread bowls and chowder for lunch on the pier after touring Alcatraz. So many happy memories, ladled into the perfect bowl of sourdough, warming my heart!
1 tablespoon butter
1 1/2 tablespoons flour
2 1/2 pounds fresh clams (littleneck or Manilla), scrubbed well
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 thick slices bacon, minced
2 small yellow onions, finely diced
1 large rib celery, finely diced
1 large carrot, peeled and finely diced
1 cup half and half
1 1/2 cups milk
1 large or 2 small Yukon potatoes, peeled and finely diced
leaves from 3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
Melt the butter in a medium saute pan over low heat. Add the flour and cook, whisking constantly, until it forms a roux. Don not allow flour to brown. Remove from heat and set aside.
Combine 2 1/2 cups water and the clams to a large saute pan, discarding any clams that do not close when tapped gently. Place over medium heat, cover, and cook until clams open, 2-5 minutes. Remove from heat and let the clams and cooking liquid cool slightly. Discard any clams that did not open while cooking. Using your fingers or a small spoon, pick the meat from the clam shells, allowing juice to fall back into the soup pot and removing meat to a cutting board. Discard the shells. Strain the cooking stock to remove any grit. Chop the clams coarsely. Set clams and stock aside.
Heat the olive oil over low heat in a large stock pot. Gently saute the bacon, onions, celery, and carrot, stirring constantly, until tender. Do not brown. Add the clam stock, half and half, milk, potatoes, thyme, and bay leaf. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook 5 minutes. Stir 1 tablespoon on the chowder mixture into the roux and stir until smooth. Add the roux back to the chowder, stirring to thoroughly incorporate. Simmer until thickened, about 5 minutes.
Just before serving, add the clams to the chowder and simmer 2-3 minutes longer. Add salt, adjust seasonings to taste, and garnish with fresh parsley.
Recipe adapted from the Williams-Sonoma Bride and Groom Cookbook, by Gayle Pirie and John Clark.