Cook time: about an hour
Makes about 6 bowls
Inspired by the amazing chowder I had at The Black Pearl in Newport, RI, (go there as soon as you can, you’ll thank me later!) this recipe features fresh clams, homemade broth, deep flavor, and the Pearl’s famous dill and vermouth garnishes.
2 Lbs fresh littleneck clams or quahogs
6.5 Oz (1 can) whole Maine cherrystone clams, finely minced in the food processor with a small amount of juice
6 Oz salt pork, cubed
1 Medium onion, chopped
2 Medium Yukon Gold or russet potatoes, peeled and chopped roughly into 1/4 inch cubes
2 Celery stalks, finely chopped
1/4 stick butter
3 Tbsp all purpose flour
1 Tsp garlic powder
1 Tsp dry thyme
Pinch white pepper
2 Pinches salt
Pinch freshly ground black pepper
1 or 2 fresh bay leaves, cracked
1/2 pint light or heavy cream (no milk, no half and half)
1 Tbsp dry vermouth
1 or 2 sprigs fresh dill chopped finely
1. Steam the fresh clams. Add an inch or two of water to a large sauce pot and place over high heat. When the water reaches a rolling boil, add the fresh clams and cover the pot. Check clams after about 5 minutes and start removing them as they open. Some clams will take longer to open than others, but all should open and be removed within the first 10-12 minutes of cooking. Clams that have not opened after that should be discarded. When all clams are removed from the pot and set aside, strain the cooked juice and reserve. Cool the clams, remove the meat from the shell, and chop.
2. In a stock pot or dutch oven, brown the salt pork over medium high heat until the pork fat has rendered. Remove the pork bits with a fork or slotted spoon and discard, leaving as much of the pork fat in the pot as possible.
3. Add the chopped onion to the pork fat and sweat until translucent, about 3 minutes.
4. Stir in the celery and cook for an additional 2 minutes.
5. Add the minced/canned clams, salt, white pepper, garlic powder, thyme and stir.
6. Add the butter and flour, stirring frequently to blend until the roux thickens.
7. Add the potatoes and enough of the reserved fresh clam juice to cover them (a couple cups worth to start).
8. Stir in the bay leaves and cook to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are fork-tender. Remove from heat and cool.
9. At this point you can refrigerate or freeze your soup base to finish at a later time.
10. When you’re ready to serve, re-heat the soup base, adding the fresh clams, heavy cream and fresh dill, along with a tablespoon (or two) of dry vermouth. Stir frequently and allow soup to reach a pipping-hot temperature, without boiling. Taste for salt.
Serve immediately with oyster crackers, adult diapers, and a glass of dry white wine.