LEGAL SEA FOODS’ NEW ENGLAND CLAM CHOWDER (for eight)
Legal Sea Foods began life as a Boston fish market and eatery. According to the restaurant, at the first presidential inauguration of Ronald Reagan in 1981, Legal Sea Foods’ New England clam chowder was chosen to represent Massachusetts on the menu, and it has been served at every presidential inauguration since.
four quarts littleneck clams (sometimes fish markets sell shucked, chopped clams in their liquor — if you prefer to use this shortcut, buy about 2 cups of the chopped clams and ask that the liquor be included)
1 garlic clove, chopped
2 ounces salt pork, finely chopped
2 large onions, chopped (about 2 cups)
3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
4-1/2 cups clam broth
3 cups fish stock (if fish stock is unavailable, substitute more clam broth, ham broth, water or a combination)
1-1/2 pounds potatoes, peeled and diced into ½ inch cubes
2 cups light cream
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
oyster crackers (optional)
- Clean the clams and place them in a large pot along with the garlic and 1 cup water. Steam the clams just until they open, 6 to 8 minutes, depending on their size. Drain the clams, reserving the broth. Let cool slightly. Mince the clam flesh and set aside. You should have about 1-2/3 cups chopped clams. Filter the clam broth through either coffee filters or cheesecloth and set aside. (If you’ve bought fresh chopped clams at the fish market, drain them, reserving the liquor, and filter it as described above.)
- In a large, heavy pot, slowly render the salt pork. Remove the cracklings with a slotted spoon and set them aside. Slowly cook the onions and garlic in the fat for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently, or until cooked through but not browned. (Some salt pork renders less fat. Add a little oil if your onions seem too dry.) Stir in the flour and cook, stirring, 3 minutes. Add the clam broth, reserved clam liquor and the fish stock, and whisk to remove any flour lumps. Bring the liquid to a boil, add the potatoes, lower the heat and simmer until the potatoes are cooked through, about 15 minutes.
- Stir in the reserved clams, salt pork cracklings and light cream. Heat the chowder until it is the temperature you prefer. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve in large soup bowls with oyster crackers on the side, if desired.
adapted from Roger Berkowitz and Jane Doerfer, The New Legal Sea Foods Cookbook