This evokes memories of my childhood, spending summer holidays on the New Jersey shore and clamming in the bay in the afternoons to make this chowder.
Served with nice crusty bread, this is a soup that packs a punch
First of all you’ll have to scrub and ‘debeard’ your clams. This is simple to do but can take a bit of time. Using a pan scourer give the shells a good rub and pull on the stringy bits near the joint of the clam to debeard them
Once cleaned, put the clams in a large pan with about 600 ml of cold water. Cover, bring to the boil and steam until most are open, then pour into a sieve with a large bowl underneath to catch all the cooking liquid as we’ll need this later. Leave the clams to cool
While waiting for the clams to cool, heat a large saucepan over a medium heat and fry the bacon using its own fat from rendering
Add the chopped onion and fry with the bacon until the onions are soft, caramelised and the bacon is crisp
Add the bay leaf and flour and cook for a couple of minutes while stirring.
When the clams are cool enough to handle, remove from their shells and discard the shells
Roughly chop the clams and set aside
Strain the reserved clam liquid through a muslin cloth to remove any grit the clams have expelled – you should have about twice the amount of liquid now as the clams have given off their juices
Slowly add in all the reserved clam liquid and then add the potatoes and bring to a simmer until the potatoes are tender
Once the potatoes are tender, stir in all the cream, chopped clams and the butter. Heat through, season to your taste with black pepper and salt
This chowder freezes well so you can cook this in advance or serve it straight away