Classic Clam Chowder

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  • Level: Intermediate
  • Total: 1 hr 40 min
  • Prep: 30 min
  • Cook: 1 hr 10 min
  • Yield: 4 to 6 servings
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Clam Broth:

4 slices bacon, chopped

Olive oil

1 onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, smashed

6 sprigs fresh thyme

1 bay leaf

16 littleneck clams, scrubbed well

1/2 lemon, juiced

1/2 cup white wine

3 cups water

2 tablespoons butter

Extra-virgin olive oil

2 garlic cloves, minced

Leaves from 4 sprigs fresh thyme

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 cups heavy cream

2 Idaho potatoes, peeled and diced

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Common Crackers, recipe follows

Common Crackers:

2 to 3 cups crushed saltine crackers (crackers wrapped in a tea towel and smashed with a rolling pin

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons butter, melted


  1. Start by making the clam broth: Put a large pot over medium heat, add the bacon and saute until the fat is rendered and the bacon is browned, about 5 minutes. Remove the cooked bacon pieces from the pot and reserve them for something else. Add a 1-count of olive oil, the onion, garlic, thyme, and bay leaf and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the clams, lemon juice, white wine, and water and bring to a low boil. Reduce the heat, cover the pot, and simmer for 10 or 15 minutes to steam open the clams. Remove the clams from the pot, discarding any that don't open. Strain the broth into a bowl. Pull the clams out of their shells, chop them, and set them aside separately; discard the shells. Set the broth aside.
  2. Heat the butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the bacon, onion, garlic, and thyme and cook until the bacon renders its fat and the vegetables are good and soft, 8 to 10 minutes. Dust the vegetables with flour and stir to coat everything well. Pour in the clam broth and bring to a boil. Add the cream and the potatoes, bring to a boil and boil hard for about 7 minutes, until the potatoes break down (this will help to thicken the soup and give it a good texture). Add the chopped clams and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Now add the 16 clams in their shells. Cover and simmer to open the clams, about 10 minutes. Stir in the parsley and serve hot, with the common crackers.

Common Crackers:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Put the crushed crackers in a bowl, add the oil and melted butter, and toss to coat the crackers with the fat. Spread on a baking sheet and bake until crisp and lightly browned, about 10 minutes.
  3. Yield: 2 cups
  4. Prep Time: 5 minutes
  5. Cook Time: 10 minutes
  6. Inactive Prep Time: none
  7. Ease of preparation: easy
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