This Clam Chowder Recipe is made with fresh clams and their broth, Yukon gold potatoes, and melted leeks, a lightened-up version of New England-style clam chowder that is rich in flavor.
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1360 g clams – small to medium clams work best here.
948 ml water
3 slices bacon- finely diced (or sub finely diced salt pork, or turkey bacon)
2 medium leeks (2-2 1/2 cups) white and light green parts, sliced into half moons, rinsed well. Or sub white onions.
2 garlic cloves- rough chopped, optional
Splash of white wine, optional
454 g potatoes, thin-skinned, diced (3-3 1/2 cups)
4–5 thyme springs
2 bay leaves
2 cup whole milk ( or soy milk, half and half or cream -see notes)
2–3 tablespoons unsalted butter and flour (equal parts, for roux, see notes)
cracked black pepper to taste
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 tablespoon tarragon
INSTRUCTIONS Place 4 cups water in a large pot and add the clams. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 5-10 minutes or until the clams open and are lightly cooked. Turn the heat off. Strain the clams, saving the broth. Strain the broth, one more time through a fine mesh strainer. Let the clams cool just a bit.
In a dutch oven, over medium heat, saute the bacon, until crispy and browned. Using a slotted spoon, scoop out the crispy bacon bits and set aside. To the bacon drippings, add the rinsed leeks and cook over low heat, until melty. A little water will help them not burn, hence the rinsing, but you can always add another splash. Once tender, add the garlic, saute until fragrant, and deglaze the pan with white wine if using, scraping up any browned bits.
Add the diced potatoes and just enough strained clam broth to cover the potatoes, saving the rest. Add thyme, and bay leaves, cover, and bring to a simmer. Simmer until potatoes are nice and tender.
Sort the clams: While the potatoes are simmering, sort the clams. Keep one-third of the clams intact, leaving the shells on, and setting them aside -pick the nicest looking ones! Discard any clams that have not opened, and remove the clams from the remaining ⅔ of the clamshells, discarding the shells. If your clams are large, feel free to chop.
If using milk, thicken it just a little bit by making a roux; in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, melt butter (or use olive oil) and brown it just a bit. Whisk in an equal amount flour and stir for 1-2 minutes toasting the flour. Add one cup of milk and whisk well, add the 2nd cup and whisk until smooth, heating it to a simmer until it thickens. Turn heat off.
Once the potatoes are tender, using tongs, remove the thyme and bay leaves. Pour in the thickened milk (or use cream or half and half straight) and stir. Season with black pepper. Add all the clams, bacon bits and the parsley, give a gentle stir, and gently heat. Feel free to add more of the clam broth if you want, to loosen the consistency. Taste and adjust salt, and pepper to taste. Divide into bowls, topping each bowl with a few whole clams, sprinkle with more fresh parsley and a little tarragon and serve with crusty bread, oyster crackers or rolls.