This classic New England Clam Chowder is a great winter soul-warming soup. It is hearty and nourishing and can be eaten as a full meal. Traditionally, clam chowder is served with saltine or oyster crackers but we did a change-up and served it with homemade crispy puff pastry dilly crackers.
Why is this rich, savory chowder called New England Clam Chowder?? We live in the Pacific Northwest and Puget Sound specifically, where clams are super plentiful and clam chowder is found on nearly any seafood restaurant menu. And these restaurants serve up some amazing clam chowders.
There are so many varieties of clam chowder on the either side of the country with each side professing to have the best of the best. Do you use fresh clams, potatoes, tomatoes or both? Milk, cream or broth? And the texture of the chowder is also in question. Oh…. the debate rolls on. But, the best chowder is the one you like.
Our clam chowder is a milk and cream-based, savory soup made with a lot of clams as the main ingredient. The secret of keeping the clams tender is to add them at the end of the cooking process so they do not over-cook and become tough. Our chowder also includes a little smokey bacon, sliced leeks, potatoes white wine and fresh herbs.
How to make New England Clam Chowder:
As we don’t particularly like chunks of potatoes in our chowder I grated the potatoes on the largest side of my box-grater.
- Cook the bacon until nice and crispy, transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to cool.
- In the same saucepan, add the sliced leeks to the bacon fat and cook until soft.
- Add the clam juice, chicken broth, white wine and potatoes.
- Add the dried dill, sea salt and black pepper.
- Bring the mixture to a boil then reduce to low and simmer until the potatoes are tender.
- In a large pot or a Dutch oven melt the butter and stir in the flour and cook until the flour is just beginning to color lightly. Do not brown.
- Slowly whisk the milk and cream into the flour mixture and cook until thickened.
- Stir in the potato mixture and the clams. Keep the heat on low and simmer until the potatoes and clams are heated through.
- Ladle the chowder into bowls and garnish with the chopped bacon and dill. Serve with the puff pastry dilly crackers
We like the texture to be just semi-thick. If you like an extra thick chowder just increase the amount of flour and butter when making the roux. Two more tablespoons of flour will make it very thick.
Tips for success:
- For the best flavor, cook the leeks in the bacon fat. If you can’t find leeks, replace them with sweet yellow onions. Leeks are a bit milder and let the clam flavor stand out but onions work well.
- Clam broth gives this creamy soup a great flavor. You can find bottled clam juice in the canned meat aisle near the tuna.
- Dice the potatoes small so they cook quickly.
- Use whole milk and heavy cream for the best creamy New England clam chowder.
- Frozen or fresh clams have the most flavor but canned clams will work in a pinch.
- Don’t overcook the clams. For tender clams, add them last and heat them just until cooked through.
How to Make Puff Pastry Crackers:
These crackers are crisp, crunchy and so easy to make. The bits of dried dill is a perfect complement to the clam chowder. The secret to keeping the puff pastry dough flat is to set another baking sheet on top of the dough.
Just roll the puff pastry out, slice it into squares and season them. Sandwich the pastry between two baking sheets and bake until crispy.
Serve this New England Clam Chowder in big bowls garnished with chopped chives and the reserved chopped bacon along with the puff pastry dilly crackers.
Check out these recipes for chowders and soups:
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For the Chowder:
- 4 slices of bacon
- 2 medium leeks, rinsed of soil and finely sliced, white part only
- 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
- 1 (8-oz.) bottle of clam juice
- 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 1 cup white wine
- 1 pound Yukon Gold Potatoes, peeled and diced small
- 1/2 teaspoon dried dill
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 4 tablespoons flour
- 3 cups whole milk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 16 oz. container of frozen clams, defrosted—undrained
- 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh chives
For the puff pastry crackers:
- 1 sheet of puff pastry dough, thawed
- 1 tablespoon flour
- 1 egg
- 1 tablespoon cold water
- 1 tablespoon dried dill
- kosher salt
- Over medium heat, add the bacon to a large saucepan and cook until crispy.
- Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel-lined plate and when cool chop finely and reserve.
- In the same saucepan, still over medium heat, add the sliced leeks to the bacon fat and cook until soft. Add the clam broth, chicken broth, white wine and the grated potatoes. Add the dried dill, sea salt and black pepper. Bring to a boil then reduce to simmer and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes.
- In another large pot or a Dutch oven set over a medium-low heat, add the butter and when it has melted stir in the flour and cook the mixture stirring it until the flour is just beginning to color lightly. Do not brown. Slowly whisk the milk and cream into the flour mixture and cook until thickened.
- Stir in the potato mixture and the clams, simmer on low for about 5 minutes. Ladle the chowder into bowls and garnish with the chopped bacon and dill. Serve with the puff pastry dilly crackers
For the puff pastry crackers:
- Preheat the oven to 400°F
- You will need 2 baking sheets, one to bake the crackers on and one to stack on top of the crackers while they bake.
- Cut 2 pieces of parchment paper to fit baking sheets.
- Place the parchment paper on a work surface and sprinkle with flour; unroll the sheet of puff pastry onto the parchment paper. Roll the pastry out to the size of the parchment paper.
- In a small dish mix the egg and water together as an egg-wash and brush onto the puff pastry. Sprinkle with the dried dill and salt. With a sharp knife, cut the pastry into squares, being careful not to cut the parchment paper.
- Carefully, slide the parchment paper with the cut pastry onto one of the baking sheets, place the second piece of parchment paper on top of the pastry and place the second baking sheet on top of the parchment paper. This will keep the puff pastry flat and bake into crisp crackers.
- Transfer the set of baking sheets to the middle rack of the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 316Total Fat: 16gCholesterol: 70mgSodium: 630mgCarbohydrates: 22gProtein: 15g