Our Best New England Style Clam Chowder

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What's it about

Gluten free clam chowder that is rich and creamy. We cooked ham hocks till they melted off the bone to add some smokiness that perfectly complimented the juicy clams and and soft chunks of potato. This chowder has so much flavor and it is easy to make.

New England Clam Chowder

New England clam chowder garnished with crispy uncured smoked bacon

FOOTBALL & CLAM CHOWDER

Ham Hocks add a pleasant smokiness to our creamy rich chowder. A satisfying soup for Fall or Winter with juicy clams, chunks of potato and some leftover Thanksgiving ham.

Today my 49’s got thrashed by Fitzmagic and the Dolphins.  Already one quarter into the season and I was betting we would see the real Fitztragic by now.  Looks like Tua is riding the bench for his rookie season.  Jimmy G. is a good quarterback, but he may not be fully healed from his injury.   Come on Shanahan some of us are rooting for you!

November came early as I was craving clam chowder.  What a great way to celebrate the game and pay homage to the hometown team.  I’m such a tomboy.  I probably watch more football than my husband.  Being a fan carries a lot of pride and emotion.  I’m not really superstitious by nature, but I wore my SF 49’s tee thinking that this would give them an 80% chance of winning.  It sounds silly, but it’s not weird if it works right?

HOG ISLAND OYSTER CO.

I grew up eating a lot of Chinese food, but I am also a Bay Area girl.  It’s hard not to think about sour dough bread, Dungeness crab and clam chowder.  One of my favorite restaurants is Hog Island Oyster Co. located in the San Francisco Ferry Building. 

In my post-college days, my husband and I would share steamed clams, a grilled cheese sandwich with house made pickled veggies while slurping down 130 Tomales Bay sweet water oysters with mignonette and Tabasco sauce. For some reason it was always a frantic race who could finish first.  I would sit there with a smirk on my face watching my frustrated hubby finish one oyster to my every three.  Afterwards, he would accuse me of eating more than my share and I would hear about it for months.  What can I say, I’m a pro at eating oysters.

Best Sellers in Grocery & Gourmet Food

CLAM DIGGING ON THE OREGON COAST

Some years ago, I was on a trip that took me to the coast of central Oregon for clam digging.  I found myself at 6:00am in knee high boots with gloves, a bucket and shovel foraging for clams in an exposed tidal flat.  I was told to work fast because we were racing against the incoming tides.  Normally the bay is full of water, but at this moment it resembled a sea of black mud.  My son was six years old at the time and not a lot of help except for moving the bucket a few feet.  Within a couple of hours, the tides started to come back.  That’s okay because we had four buckets full of cockles, gapers, Pacific razor clams, soft shells and littlenecks.  I’m an amateur at this, but the work involved with digging then scrubbing and cleaning gave me some profound appreciation for these bi valves.  I spent the next couple of days making chowder, pasta vongole and steamed clams in fermented black bean sauce.

littleneck clams in juice

CLAMS

At the present moment I am landlocked for the week.  I could buy fresh clams from an Asian market, however I wanted to showcase the use of quality canned clams.  Not everyone has access to fresh or live clams, and you can still make a great chowder without them.  So, I picked up a couple of cans of clams from Whole Foods that had no added salt or preservatives.  Just stored simply in their natural brine.  The price was actually cheaper than some of the well-known commodity brands at the regular grocery stores.  I am not super partial to any specific type of clam in my chowder.  The only thing to really dislike is when you bite into a rotted clam.  The taste just makes you want to stop eating. 

Types of clams used in chowder

*Littleneck, razor clams, cherry stones, quahogs and even Manila clams are all workable for your chowder.  The main idea is that you don’t want to overcook a clam.  They naturally have texture, but you don’t want to make it worse.  Off subject, my favorite food in a sushi bar is raw mirugai or geoduck.  I love the clean briny flavor and crunchy texture with a little bit of lemon juice.  If you have never had it, definitely try it next time you eat sushi.  On to the recipe…

*Tasting Notes: If using fresh clams, before you start the chowder scrub and clean the clams. Heat a wide pan that has a lid over high heat. Add 1 teaspoon oil to the pan then add the clams.  Sauté for 10 seconds then add 1 cup of water and cover with lid. Steam until the clams have opened.  It should take about 8-10 minutes.  Add more water as needed.  Remove the clams and cool.  Take the meat out of the shells with a spoon and rough chop.  Reserve for chowder.

ingredients for New England clam chowder with smoked ham hock
White wine and gluten free flour

Clam chowder can range from simple to what seems like a lot of ingredients.  It is not at all difficult to prepare at home. 

I used ham hocks for my chowder because of the smokiness that permeates the soup giving it a nice smoky foundation that smells fantastic and compliments all the ingredients.  It does take some planning ahead because the hocks need to be cooked till they are tender and falling off the bone.  In the picture, I used a smoked pork shank.  After going to five different stores, everyone was out of hocks.  This was the next best thing and it worked almost as good.  The flavor was there, but the shank meat shredded once it was fully cooked and the outer skin had to be cut off.  That’s fine because I chopped it and mixed it in with my Shiba’s dinner.  She was a very happy dog.

Cooking the ham hocks

Place ham hocks in a small saucepan.  Add enough water to submerge the hocks with 2 inch waterline above the hocks.  Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer.  Cover and cook for 3 hours.  Make sure that the water is constantly at a gentle boil.

Remove hocks and cool.  At this point the meat should be tender and starting to fall off the bone.  Remove all meat and fat.  Chop into bite size pieces and set aside.

Don’t forget the bread

I got really lucky on this occasion.  I found a rosemary sourdough boule at Whole Foods.  The best method is to slice it first, then wrap the whole thing in foil.  Place it in the oven for 60 minutes at 350F.  The foil keeps it nice and hot while preventing the bread from drying out.

MANGO WALNUT BREAD WITH GOLDEN RAISINS

Garnishes for clam chowder

The parsley can be fine diced ahead of time.  You can use flat leaf parsley or cilantro depending on what you prefer.  After fine dicing the parsley, spread it out on a paper towel for 30 minutes to dry it out. Refrigerate until ready to use.

*CrossEat Tip: For this small amount of bacon, I like to bake it.  It is less of mess and no clean-up.  Preheat toaster oven to 350F. Lay bacon on tin foil and fold the sides up to catch the grease.  Place on the center rack and cook for 21 minutes.  After it is done cooking, remove the bacon from the foil and till it is cool.  Chop into small pieces and reserve.  Once the grease on the foil has cooled, it is easy to discard.

Uncured smoked bacon

PREPARING THE CLAM CHOWDER

STEP 1

In a large saucepot, cook the onions and celery in the butter over a medium high heat.  I start seasoning with a little bit of salt and pepper.   Once the vegetables are translucent, add the garlic, Old Bay, paprika. thyme and bay leaves.  Cook until the garlic is fragrant, about 45 seconds.

STEP 2

Stir in the **flour.  Mix till everything is well incorporated, then add the wine and cook for 30 seconds.  As the ingredients start to thicken continue to stir.  Add the clam juice and potatoes next.  Stir constantly till smooth.

STEP 3

Once the liquid starts to bubble, stir in the milk and heavy whipping cream.  Season again with salt and pepper.  Bring the liquid back to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes or until potatoes are soft.

STEP 4

Add chopped ham hocks, ham, Worcestershire, Tabasco sauce and lemon juice.  You want to simmer this until the soup starts to thicken.  At this point, reduce heat to a low setting and add the clams.  Simmer for 3 minutes to warm the clams.  Check seasoning one last time and add salt or pepper depending on your preference.  Now we are ready to serve!

**Tasting Notes: I tried this recipe with gluten free flour that contained a mix of rice flour, whole grain rice flour and sorghum flour. The end result was good with a nice creamy base.

*CrossEat Tip: If buying a bag of potatoes, use the leftovers in our No-Mac Potato Salad recipe or Potato Leek Vichyssoise!  Don’t forget to compost the potato skins.

**CrossEat TipExtra bacon can be used in our Brussels Sprouts with Bacon recipe or Bacon Takana Fried Rice.  Bacon can be frozen to save for future uses. 

***CrossEat TipBacon is layered together in the package so if you are going to freeze them but want individual strips to use when needed, lay out the individual bacon strips on a small sheet pan over parchment paper and freeze until slightly stiff, around 30 min – 1 hour.  Remove the pan, wrap tightly and store in freezer stacked to save space.

FINISHING THE CLAM CHOWDER

Garnish each bowl with chopped bacon and parsley.  Serve with crusty bread, our favorite choice is of course sourdough.   The sourdough boule I bought was perfectly hot and crusty like fresh baked bread with a subtle rosemary flavor.  Perfect amount of sourness and the inside was like butter.  Very ideal for dipping into the chowder as we were eating.  Even though my niners lost, this soup brought a smile to my face. 

Thank you for reading and enjoy!

*CrossEat TipSave herbs for homemade chicken stock or freeze for future use.  Fresh Thyme and Parsley should be dried before freezing.  Use fresh Italian parsley in our Zesty Bolognese, or Parisienne Style Gnocchi recipes.

**CrossEat Tip: Leftover bread can be made into croutons.  Sometimes I’ll freeze baguettes and grate them to make breadcrumbs.

GLUTEN FREE STRAWBERRY BANANA BREAD

Yield: 10 servings

Our Best New England Style Clam Chowder

two bowls of New England clam chowder with uncured smoked bacon, sourdough bread, fresh parsley and herbs

Ham Hocks add a pleasant smokiness to our creamy rich chowder. A satisfying soup for Fall or Winter with juicy clams, chunks of potato and some leftover Thanksgiving ham.

Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Additional Time 3 hours
Total Time 4 hours

Ingredients

  • 2 smoked ham hocks
  • 1 pound clams scrubbed and chopped (littleneck, cherrystone, quahog or chowder)
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup all purpose *flour
  • 1 tablespoon Old Bay Seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 cup yellow onion, fine diced
  • 1/3 cup celery, fine diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup clam juice or chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 sprigs thyme or 1/2 tablespoon dried thyme
  • 3 large Russet potatoes, medium dice
  • 6 cups whole milk
  • 1-1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire 
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • Optional: 1 cup ham, small chopped
  • 1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
  • sea salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon flat leaf parsley, fine dice
  • 5 strips uncured bacon (cooked and chopped)

Instructions

COOKING THE HAM HOCKS

  1. Place ham hocks in a small saucepan. Add enough water to submerge the hocks with 2 inch waterline above the hocks. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook for 3 hours. Make sure that the water is constantly at a gently boil.
  2. Remove hocks and cool. At this point the meat should be tender and starting to fall off the bone. Remove all meat and fat. Chop into bite size pieces and set aside.

GARNISHES

  1. The parsley can be fine diced ahead of time. After dicing, spread it out on a paper towel for 30 minutes to dry it out. Refrigerate until ready to use. 
  2. For this small amount of bacon, I like to bake it. It is less of mess and no clean-up. Preheat toaster oven to 350F. Lay bacon on tin foil and fold the sides up to catch the grease. Place on the center rack and cook for 21 minutes. After it is done cooking, remove the bacon from the foil and till it is cool. Chop into small pieces and reserve. Once the grease on the foil has cooled, it is easy to discard.

MAKING THE CHOWDER

  1. In a large saucepot, cook the onions and celery in the butter over a medium high heat. I start seasoning with a little bit of salt and pepper.
  2. Once the vegetables are translucent, add the garlic, Old Bay, paprika. thyme and bay leaves. Cook until the garlic is fragrant, about 45 seconds.
  3. Stir in the flour. Mix till everything is well incorporated then add the wine and cook for 30 seconds. As the ingredients start to thicken continue to stir. Add the clam juice and potatoes next. Stir constantly till smooth.
  4. Once the liquid starts to bubble, stir in the milk and heavy whipping cream. Season again with salt and pepper. Bring the liquid back to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes or until potatoes are soft.
  5. Add chopped ham hocks, ham, Worcestershire, Tabasco sauce and lemon juice. Cook till the soup thickens, then reduce heat and add the *clams. Reduce heat to a low simmer for 3 minutes. Check seasoning and add salt or pepper depending on your preference. Turn heat down to low and serve.
  6. Garnish with chopped bacon and parsley. Serve with crusty bread, our favorite choice is sourdough.

    Thank you for reading and enjoy!

Notes

1. I tried this recipe with gluten free flour that contained a mix of rice flour, whole grain rice flour and sorghum flour. The end result was good with a nice creamy base.

2. If using fresh clams, before you start the chowder scrub and clean the clams. Heat a wide pan that has a lid over high heat. Add 1 teaspoon oil to the pan then add the clams. Sauté for 10 seconds then add 1 cup of water and cover with lid. Steam until the clams have opened. It should take about 8-10 minutes. Add more water as needed. Remove the clams and cool. Take the meat out of the shells with a spoon and rough chop. Reserve for chowder.

Did you make this recipe?

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