LEGAL SEA FOODS NEW ENGLAND CLAM CHOWDER

This phenomenal clam chowder, made with lots of fresh littleneck clams, was chosen to represent the state of Massachusetts at the first inauguration of Ronald Reagan in 1981—just a year after first being served at the restaurant—and has been served at every presidential inauguration since. I think it’s the best clam chowder you’ll get at any casual restaurant chain in America, and that makes it a perfect clone candidate for this book. I was able to glean only minimal information from servers at the Legal Sea Foods location in Philly where I first tasted this fantastic chowder. Fortunately, the company has an online seafood store where I could order a quart of the soup—for a whopping 45 bucks with shipping!—which provided me with an ingredients list on the package to aid in the hacking. The restaurant has its own cookbook, which provided a few more clues, but the recipe there does not produce a soup that is anything like the version in the restaurant. Many of the ingredients I found on the label of the restaurant version are not listed in the cookbook recipe.

The real soup includes a little salt pork, which I have replaced here with bacon since such a small amount is used. For the best flavor you’ll want to use fish or seafood stock, which I found at Walmart, but you can substitute with chicken broth if seafood stock is unavailable. This recipe makes over 2 quarts of the soup and will cost you a fraction of what I paid for just a single quart through the company’s website.

8 pounds littleneck clams
2 cups water
2 teaspoons minced garlic (2 cloves)
1 slice uncooked bacon, finely chopped
¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter
2 cups minced white onion (1 medium onion)
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 cups fish stock or seafood stock
3 cups diced peeled russet potato (1 large potato)
2 cups heavy cream
½ teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
¼ teaspoon Tabasco pepper sauce


Cooking method

1-Cover the clams with cold water in a large bowl and let them sit for 20 to 30 minutes so that they spit out any sand. Repeat the process until no more sand is coming out of the clams. Three times should do it.

2-Pour 2 cups of water into a large soup pot, add the garlic and clams, and bring to a boil. Cover the pot, reduce the heat to a simmer, and steam the clams for 8 to 10 minutes until they all open. Remove the clams from the pot, then strain the liquid to remove the garlic and any detached clam meat, and save the liquid (clam juice).

3-When the clams have cooled, remove them from their shells and chop them up. Set aside. You will have around 2 cups of clams.

4-Rinse out the pot, then add the bacon to the pan and cook it over medium/low heat until crispy, about 10 minutes. Remove the bacon from the fat and set the bits aside. Add the butter to the pan. When the butter has melted, add the onions and cook until beginning to turn translucent, about 10 minutes.

5-Stir the flour into the onions and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring often. Dissolve the cornstarch into the seafood stock, then pour it into the onions along with 4 cups of the clam juice. Raise the heat to high.

6-When the soup comes to a boil, add the potatoes and cook for 15 minutes or until they begin to get tender. Reduce the heat to medium/low, then add the cream, black pepper, Worcestershire, Tabasco, and bacon bits. Bring the soup to a low simmer and cook for another 15 minutes or until it thickens. Just before serving, add the clams and turn off the heat.

7-OPTIONAL Depending on how salty your clams are, you may want to add a bit of salt to the soup. Even better, add about a tablespoon of Better than Bouillon concentrated clam base to punch up the flavor.

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