Rhode Island folks love their clam shacks. Most of these summer-only operations sit along the south coast on Narragansett Bay, with names that hint of the mythic grandmas' closely-held recipes that set one apart from the other: Flo's, Evelyn's, Aunt Carrie's, Iggy's. Though from time to time you might find a "modern" dish on the menu (and by modern, I mean something that's not fried), you can order two items wherever you go -- clamcakes and chowder. The clamcakes, balls of dough filled with chopped clams, range from ethereal to canonball. And while some shacks sell more than one variety of chowder (pronounced chowdah hereabouts), they all offer Rhode Island clear clam chowder, the local specialty.
Now's the time to get to know your local fishmonger. For much of the year, you can buy shucked clams and fresh clam broth at the fish market. If you crave chowder in the middle of winter, don't despair. Canned clams and bottled clam broth (combined with chicken stock in equal parts) make a very fine substitute. And, because there's no cream in this chowder, you can make it ahead and freeze it for up to three months.
For the clamcakes, stop in at one of Rhode Island's iconic clam shacks. A cold Narragansett beer will make this meal just about perfect.
Rhode Island clear chowder
This recipe, which first appeared on Soup Chick®, serves 6.
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 large Idaho potato, peeled and diced
1 quart clam broth
1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves
1 lb minced clams
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp fresh black pepper
In a Dutch oven or heavy stock pot, melt the butter in the oil over low-medium heat. Add the onion and celery, and sauté for 2-3 minutes until the onions are translucent. Stir in the diced potato, then pour in the clam broth and thyme leaves.
Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes or until the potato is soft when pierced with a knife. Using a wooden spoon, smash some of the potato against the side of the pot, and stir into the broth to thicken it slightly. Add the clams with any juice, and cook over low heat for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, and serve hot.
Other recipes that use these pantry ingredients:
Clam shack-style fried clams, from Leite's Culinaria
Bouillabaisse, from Simply Recipes
Wicked good clam chowder with thyme and ale, from Wicked Good Dinner
New England clam chowder for harried, landlocked cooks, from One Perfect Bite
Linguini with white clam sauce, from That's Not What the Recipe Says
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