Clam chowder is one of my favorite soups to make. Since fall is here, you may find yourself reading more of my soup recipes. Because I love fall and everything about it! It is by far my favorite season. It’s the greatest time to find and perfect the best comfort food dishes and share them with you.
Here is one that I have been making for years, clam chowder. Once the weather started to cool down this year and I started talking to my husband about great dishes to make, this was the very first thing he asked me for. It happened to be just my luck that it was served on a chilly and rainy night. Our first rainfall so far this year. It was like mother nature agreed with me on making this dish!
Clam Chowder Ingredients
Clams (4 cans)
Clam juice (1 bottle)
Celery (4-5 stalks)
Onion (1 small-medium)
Garlic (1 clove)
Thyme (to taste)
Parsley (to taste, and garnish)
Bacon, peppered (½ pound)
Milk (1 cup)
Evaporated milk (3 cans)
Salt and pepper (to taste)
Cornstarch (3-ish spoonfuls)
Clam Chowder Directions
Start with bacon!
I always start clam chowder with bacon. I want a nice thick cut peppered bacon, and then I add a little extra pepper before cooking. This adds both some salt and pepper components to the chowder, as well as a little smokey flavor. Plus, who doesn’t love bacon?! The key to successful even cooking of bacon is to bake it.
This is one of the easiest ways, in my opinion. I spread the pieces out on a cookie sheet, add my pepper, and then turn the oven on to 400 degrees. I like to put my bacon in immediately after turning on the oven, that way it heats up right along with the oven.
I do not recommend pre-heating, as the bacon seems to burn faster, in my experience. Once the oven has reached 400 degrees, it will beep at you to let you know it is up to temperature. That is the perfect time to check the bacon. If it is a thinner cut bacon, it’ll likely be done at this point, or very close to it.
If it is thicker, it will need to go maybe 3-5 minutes longer. But I use the oven beeping as my check point to determine how much longer my bacon needs to cook. Once it is out, I put it on a plate with paper towels to soak up any excess grease, and then put it in the fridge to cool. Cooling the bacon down makes it much easier to handle, it’ll crisp up a bit more, and then it can be chopped.
Once the bacon is cooking
Next I peel my potatoes and chop them up into bite size chunks. I like a decent size potato chunk, which will affect the cooking time, depending on how you like yours. Next I chop the celery and onions up, and add the garlic and herbs in. I saute them with a bit of the bacon grease, then deglaze the pan with a little water and the clam juice (save the empty jar).
Note, be very careful about how much bacon grease you use, because it can create this layer of grease on top of the milk as it starts to heat up and be very overpowering. Focus more on water and the clam juice. The bacon grease is more to get the saute process started.
Once that is done, put a lid on it for about 10 minutes and then start adding everything else in. It is at this point that I check my potatoes to see how they’ve cooked. You want to be able to poke them with a fork, but they should still be firm in the middle.
That way as you add in and cook the soup, you aren’t overcooking the potatoes. I add the clams with their canned juice (do not drain, as you are throwing flavor down the drain, literally!) and start adding in the canned milk.
Once that has started to heat up (keep it at a fairly low temperature and let it heat up slowly, so you don’t burn the milk and it clumps on the bottom of the pan), I add in the regular milk and keep stirring. Let it go for a little bit, but stir fairly frequently while it is heating up.
I add the bacon in after it has heated up, and let it mix in and marry with the other ingredients. After this, I taste it to determine if it needs any more salt or pepper. This is the perfect time, because all the ingredients are in. I usually find I need a pinch or two of salt, but the pepper is perfect.
Now, onto the clam juice jar I told you to save earlier. This would be where I mix my cornstarch up with some milk to thicken my chowder. I love using the clam juice jar because it is the perfect size, and it has a lid. No whisking, no stirring, no mess. Just put a little milk in first (the cornstarch will clump at the bottom if you skip this step) about 3-5 teaspoons or so of cornstarch, and then some more milk.
Fill it about ¾ of the way with milk, put the lid back on, and gently shake it up to mix together. Once it is mixed together and there are no lumps of cornstarch in the jar, pour it into the chowder and heat it up again, bringing it to a boil.
Stir, stir, and keep stirring
It is at this point that you need to continually stir the chowder as it heats up. If not, the milk and cornstarch on the bottom will burn. Then you end up with those ugly tasteless lumps of burnt milk. Yuck!
I get impatient during this step, because I’m not only hungry, but it feels like I am stirring the chowder until my arm is going to fall off. But, the cornstarch has to be heated to a boiling point for it to actually work. It is here that you will see the chowder start to thicken up. That is a good thing!
Once it has reached the point where you are happy with it, turn it off the heat, serve and garnish with a bit of parsley. I love to add oyster crackers and a nice crusty sourdough bread on the side, and I have a perfect chilly fall night meal! I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do!
Have you tried this clam chowder recipe? Let me know your thoughts in the comments! Check out my other soup recipes!