New England clam chowder is easy to make, tasty,nourishing and economical

Chowder is a milk soup, and I think it should not be thick and gelatinous, but that the ingredients should retain their individuality. Whatever you do, any thickening should be from the potatoes, not from flour or cornstarch. The chowder described here is basically a New Hampshire variety, somewhat modified. If clams are easily available to you, by all means cook them yourself and use the cooked clams and clam juice in this recipe. I use canned clams, which are satisfactory. Whole small Pacific clams are good; I don't recommend clam bits and other inferior offerings. There are other kinds of chowder besides clam chowder, and all are good.

Dice a half-cup or so of salt pork. Unsmoked bacon will also do, but smoked bacon gives a funny taste. I like the salt pork lean, but it must have at least half fat. Fry the salt pork in the bottom of a 2-quart saucepan until it is golden and the fat has largely rendered out. Add a chopped yellow onion, and fry until transparent. I add about three chopped leeks at this point, and fry them lightly with the onions. Leeks are not traditional, but go very well in chowder, and add nutritional balance. Even garlic can be added if you like it. Now add two cups of diced potatoes, and pour the clam broth over them. If you have no clam broth, just use water. Don't make clam broth specially if you are not making clam chowder. If necessary, add water until the potatoes are just covered. Any potatoes can be used. Red, waxy potatoes will retain their integrity, while white baking potatoes will become soft and lead to a thicker chowder. Simmer until the potatoes are soft.

Finally, add milk to about double the volume, or as you like it. Now what you have is a generic chowder, and you can go several ways from here. Cheapest is to add a can of cream-style corn to get corn chowder. This is really excellent, and corn can be added to any chowder. I have had no luck with tuna fish or oysters; they do not seem to work. Chunks of pollack or cod cooked a while with the potatoes make fish chowder. Scallops make scallop chowder, and shrimp shrimp chowder, both good with corn. A can of cleaned pink salmon makes salmon chowder, which is also excellent. One or two cans of clams makes clam chowder. Add salt to taste, and maybe a few jolts of Louisiana hot sauce. When serving, a lump of butter is nice. Chowder is traditionally eaten with common crackers (not available generally) or oyster crackers. Fresh biscuits or crusty French bread are also good accompaniments.

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Composed by J. B. Calvert
Created 23 March 2001
Last revised