Slideshow: The Food Lab: How to Make Real New England Clam Chowder

Real Deal Chowder
Real Deal Chowder

Not too thick, not too thin, perfectly creamy, packed with tender clams, salt pork, and potatoes.

Get the recipe New England Clam Chowder here!»

Render the pork
Render the pork
Start with a half pound of cubes of salt pork. Aim for pork that is about equal parts lean and fat. Cook them down at medium heat in the bottom of a Dutch oven, adding a small splash of water to get them started.
Ready For the Vegetables
Ready For the Vegetables
Once they've rendered out most of their fat and started to brown and crisp, they're ready for the vegetables. I like to add a couple of tablespoons of butter at this stage for some extra richness.
Get Yer Clams!
Get Yer Clams!
Any sized clams from littlenecks to quahogs will do, but I find that cherrystones offer the best balance between convenient size and tender texture. I use 2 1/2 pounds of live clams (or about 1 pound of canned or frozen chopped clams) per batch of chowder.
Starting to Steam
Starting to Steam
A a cup of water or bottled clam juice, along with your clams, then bring the whole thing to a simmer over high heat, covering it to trap in steam.
Open!
Open!
After a few minutes, open the post and start picking out open clams using a set of tongs. Even slightly cracked open is ok. It's better to undercook the clams than overcook them at this stage. If after 8 minutes of simmering your clams aren't all open, discard the ones that haven't opened. They were dead to begin with.
Ready to Chop
Ready to Chop
They should all come out of their shell quite easily. Be sure to get all of the meat out.
Chopped
Chopped
Roughly chop the clams, then transfer them to a strainer set over a large bowl, transferring as many juices as possible. Let them drain, then transfer the chopped clams to a separate bowl.
Finish the Chowder
Finish the Chowder
Add a quart of milk, a pound and a half of russet or Yukon gold potatoes (peeled and cubed), a bay leaf, and a bit of salt and pepper to the pot. Simmer until the potatoes are completely cooked, about 15 minutes.
Blend and Recombine
Blend and Recombine
Pour the liquids into a blender and blend on high speed until completely smooth and thickened slightly, about 2 minutes. Return the liquid and all of the solids to a Dutch oven or saucepan, stir in a cup of heavy cream, heat it all back up, and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Serve with Crackers
Serve with Crackers
Serve the chowder immediately with plenty of oyster crackers.