New England Clam Chowder

 

New England Clam Chowder Recipe

If you’re not from a place, you don’t have the same nostalgic pangs for the foods, even if some of us invoke Proust when we bite into a madeleine, or get all bent out of shape when someone messes with a certain food from a particular country or region – even if we’ve never been there.

I’m not a big fan of creamy soups, but I am a staunch defender of New England clam chowder. The word “chowder” comes from the French word “chaudière,” a big soup pot or cauldron. Some say it may have been invented by Breton fishermen in France, who later brought the soup to Canada and New England. Although I am not sure about the Manhattan-variety of chowder, which to me is like adding tomato puree to the dressing for a Caesar Salad, and calling it a “Caesar Salad.” If you’re looking for a tomato-based clam chowder there are plenty of places to find one in books and on the internet. This isn’t one of them.

New England Clam Chowder

I grew up eating New England clam chowder, which we often enjoyed at Howard Johnson’s, the famed roadside restaurant (which was once the largest restaurant chain in America), where Jacques Pépin worked, coming up with recipes in the 1960’s.

The place wasn’t fancy, but it was pretty good; the orange and turquoise roofs were a welcome sight during long drives on the Massachusetts Turnpike. (Most New Englanders of a certain age will remember hearing the phrase; “Sorry, we don’t have Coke. We have HoJo cola. Would you like one?”

New England Clam Chowder

They served New England clam chowder in thick, restaurant-ware bowls, along with salty, puffy oyster crackers that came in little cellophane packets. One was never enough and it was normal just to bring a big bowl of them and let you help yourself. (I think my mother may have pocketed a few in her time as well.) Their clam chowder was rather goopy, most likely heated from a can, and dense enough to swap out for wallpaper paste. I loved it.

Most HoJo’s are gone, and the last version I had was at the Grand Central Oyster Bar in New York City about six years ago, and made me pine for even the admittedly hokey version of chowder from my youth at HoJos. (I had to beg for oyster crackers at the oyster bar – three times.)

New England Clam Chowder

For some reason, I had a hankering for a bowl of chowder, and I picked up a can of clams when I saw them in a grocery store, the same ones which my parents often used to make linguini with clams and butter sauce, a quick-fix meal for time-pressed parents. They changed the can and it didn’t bring back the same Proustian memories when I dropped it into my shopping cart. Nor could I rustle up the interest to open it when I got home.

New England Clam Chowder

Sometimes I run into readers, online or in person, and I caught a bunch of flak for buying a bag of produce that wasn’t local. (Oddly, I’ve never gotten flak for buying Sicilian lemons, oranges from Malta, Venezuelan chocolate, Italian Parmesan cheese, coffee from Colombia, Mexican vanilla, or Greek feta, when I’m not in any of those countries.) I was pointedly grilled by some where the peppers were from. So I’m starting a hashtag in response: #itsokay – feel free to use it : )

New England Clam Chowder

Finally, I’d like to remind any remaining naysayers that my nickname when I worked at Chez Panisse, one of the leaders of the farm-to-table movement, was “Chez Dave,” which perhaps we could also use as a hashtag whenever I (or you) does something interdit, if you want to merit the approval of others.

New England Clam Chowder

So I went to the fish market and bought Littleneck clams. In France, clams don’t get the same attention that oysters and mussels get. But in New England and on the eastern seaboard in the U.S., you can find them pretty easily. #ChezDave got some lovely, local Littleneck clams, but #itsokay realized that not everyone can get fresh clams, and the questions would arise about swapping out something more globally available. You can also make a pretty nice chowder with fish, and I’ve linked to a recipe at the end of the post.

New England Clam Chowder

Since I’m not giving up on my canned sardines (or coffee or chocolate), and I hate food waste, I’m not tossing that can of clams. But this chowder is so good with fresh clams that if you can track some down, give it a try. I invited a friend who I cooked with for many years at Chez Panisse over for dinner the other night and she absolutely loved it. So if you’re looking for approval, take it from us, this chowder will make sure you get it.

New England Clam Chowder Recipe

New England Clam Chowder
Print Recipe
Four servings
Be sure to wash the clams very, very well, to remove any grit. There’s nothing worse than biting into a grain of sand when eating chowder. So give the clams a good scrubbing with a stiff brush under cold running water. I used Littleneck clams (about 3 dozen for this recipe) whose meat is about the size of a silver dollar, so I ran a chef’s knife over them after they’re cooked – but don’t overdo it. You want distinct, large pieces of clams. Not tiny bits that no one know what they are. If using other clams that are smaller, you might not need or want to chop them. See note at end of recipe for using canned clams. Some versions use all whole milk, others use heavy cream. I like about one-third cream, but you can use all whole milk or all half-and-half. Skim or low-fat milk isn’t recommended. Whatever you use, Just be sure not to let the chowder boil once you’ve added the milk to it, or it can break. For best results, let the chowder cool and refrigerate it for a few hours – I let mine sit 8 hours, to allow it to thicken. Rewarm it gently before serving. Be sure to serve with oyster crackers which people can float them on top. Crumbled saltines will work in a pinch. (Or make your own oyster crackers with the recipe at the end of this post.)
3 pounds (1,3kg) fresh clams in shells, well-scrubbed
2 cups (500ml) water
2 tablespoons butter salted or unsalted
3/4 cup (110g) diced bacon
1 medium onion, peeled and diced into 1/4-inch (1cm) pieces
2 large potatoes, peeled and diced(into 1/4-inch (1cm) pieces
salt and ground black pepper
generous pinch of smoked or sweet paprika
1 cup (250ml) whole milk
1/2 cup (125ml) heavy cream
1 to 2 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley
1. Put clams in a pot. Add water, and cover. Turn the heat on and when the water starts to boil, reduce the heat to a low boil and let the clams steam until they open, about 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.
2. When the clams are cool enough to handle, pluck out the meat from the clam shells (discard any clams that don’t open), and discard the shells. Strain the liquid through a fine mesh strainer, and set aside. Coarsely chop the clams and set them aside as well.
3. In a soup pot or Dutch oven, heat the butter and bacon together over medium heat, cooking the bacon for about 3 minutes, until it just starts to curl. Add the onions and cook, stirring, until they’re translucent and soft, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the diced potatoes and season with salt (lightly, as the clam broth you’ll add later is salty), black pepper, and paprika. Stir a few times then add 1 ½ cups (375ml) of the clam broth. (Reserve and refrigerate any extra for later, in case you want to thin the soup.) Cover and simmer until the potatoes are tender, 6 to 8 minutes.
4. Add the milk and cream, then the clams and gently warm until heated through, but do not boil. You can serve the chowder right away, stirring in the parsley just before ladling into bowls, or better yet, chill the chowder for several hours, which will give it time to meld and thicken. Rewarm it gently before serving. Taste for salt and pepper, adding more if you wish. If it’s too thick after standing, thin with a bit of the reserved clam broth when rewarming it.

Notes: If using canned clams, you can use about 1 ½ cups of (drained) canned clams (200-250g) and 1 ½ cups of the clam juice. If you don’t have enough juice from the can(s) of clams that you have, add water to make up the difference.

Traditionally chowder is made with salt pork, which can be hard to find. If you want to use that in place of the bacon, you can.

Use any kind of potatoes. Russets will break down a bit, but lends starch to the chowder. Yellow-fleshed potatoes, which are what I used.

It’s normal for the finished chowder to have a slightly separated appearance, which I don’t mind because I like the little rivulets on the surface. One technique is to strain the liquid, puree it, then rewarm it with the clams and potatoes.

New England Clam Chowder

Related Posts and Links

What’s the Difference? Little Neck, Cherry Stone, Top Neck, and Quahog Clams (The Kitchn)

Maine Fish Chowder (The Art of Eating)

Manhattan Clam Chowder (If you’re so inclined…) (Simply Recipes)

Homemade Oyster Crackers (Serious Eats)

Fish Chowder (La Chaudrée) (La Varenne)

How to Purge Sand From Clams (Honest Food)


Never miss a post!

95 comments

  • Donna in Connecticut
    March 19, 2015 10:05pm

    David, I love me some chowdah, and your recipe is a good, classic one. In fact, every recipe of yours I have tried has turned out wonderful. Here in CT, (I live in E. Hartford) we sometimes have “Rhode Island style” chowder-with clear broth, and of course, quahogs.

    First time to post; spent a pleasant time reading every one of your posts and most comments and links-I thought from 1999, but that option doesn’t seem available any more. Yours is the only blog I follow.

    First trip to Paris last summer performing with the Hartford Chorale, at St. Etienne du Mont, American Church, and Chartres Cathedral. I fell in love and can’t wait to return.

    Since I have a library of probably 300 cookbooks, I have tried to curtail buying them. But you had me at the cover picture of “My Paris Kitchen”. I may make an exception…

    One thing that I think will pique your interest: I was a 17-year old at the Winter Garden Theatre in June of 1964, watching my idol Barbra Streisand-at that time about 23 I think- in “Funny Girl”, with all the original cast. Jealous? :-)

  • Debbie Kuchciak
    March 19, 2015 10:27pm

    Sounds yummy! Looking forward to giving this a go!

  • Alex
    March 19, 2015 10:41pm

    As a born and bred Bostonian, I heartily approve of this recipe! :) I agree that the little oyster crackers, the ones with a nice little amount of salt in their puffed tops, are an absolute must. And, the mini All-Clad serving pots just take it over the top! (P.S. A cousin of mine worked at little summer restaurant on the Maine coast that was famous, famous for its clam chowder. Busloads of tourists every day! Magazine write-ups! The secret? “Snow’s New England Chowdah”– right of the can!! :) )

    • March 19, 2015 11:01pm
      David Lebovitz

      Whew : )

      Funny, I remember the canned clam chowders, like Snow’s, as being pretty good. But that might just be the childhood memories, like the bowls of chowder from HoJos!

  • March 19, 2015 10:42pm

    I think I’ve only had wallpaper paste-y chowder and if you haven’t grown up with it, its not…easy to like? Reminded me of a clam oatmeal or something.

  • March 19, 2015 10:47pm

    I’ve always wanted to know what oyster crackers were – I had thought they would be more like the prawn crackers that are a staple of Chinese restaurants here (your Chinese restaurants have fortune cookies; ours have prawn crackers!). I expect they – and clams – would be available in American grocery stores here; I wonder whether they are in the “World Foods” section of our supermarkets. They’re certainly not mainstream.

    I don’t know if I’ve ever knowingly eaten a clam; I am a little wary of shellfish, having been felled by both prawns and mussels in my time. I do love sweetcorn chowder, though, and sometimes make it at home. Smoked haddock chowder is also a thing here, but as that fish was the last thing I ate before a recent bout of gastric flu, I’m slightly off it for the time being!

  • Jan Weber
    March 19, 2015 10:54pm

    David – your earnestness in regard to your food memories is so charming when you write like this – it truly makes your blog such a satisfying read. The recipes are an added bonus!

    What do you think of using frozen chopped clams? I always try to find a way to get around the stupidly high prices of fresh seafood here in NYC (fish, ironically, are actually quite affordable, especially whole fish) – there just always seems to be an abundance of very nice looking frozen seafood that is much easier on the pocketbook.

    • March 19, 2015 10:59pm
      David Lebovitz

      Thanks! I’ve not used frozen clams and have only seen them in Asian markets. If you’re in NYC, often in Chinatown you can get fresh clams very reasonably. Mine were fresh and from the Atlantic coast, and weren’t crazy expensive. (They weren’t expensive…and well-worth it.) If you use frozen am not sure how you’d get a nice broth to add, but perhaps you can poach them briefly in water and use that. There is bottled clam juice out there, but I’ve never tasted it.

  • Jan Weber
    March 19, 2015 10:56pm

    …and I meant ‘paradoxically’ instead of ‘ironically’.

  • March 19, 2015 11:43pm

    Perfect timing! Was in the US recently and happened to have a pretty good bowl of NE clam chowder, so now I happen to be craving it. But first I need to muster up the will to make those oyster crackers (haven’t seen them sold here).

  • JBSP
    March 20, 2015 12:47am

    Here in Paris, I make chowder with cheaper coques (cockles). But whatever your bi-valve preference, often the scrubbing’s not enough to get rid of the grit. But there there’s an easy way of avoiding grittiness: you fool them into thinking there’s a high tide.

    If you live near the sea, and you can get your hands on clean sea-water – from a high tide – so much the better. If not, after rincing the molluscs under running water, you let them sit for an hour or two in fake sea water made up of tap-water and 10% sea salt. The clams, who during low tide live under the sand, think the tide’s come in and spit out the sand and grit they have in their shells. If they’re really gritty, you can repeat the process.

    • pat
      March 26, 2015 1:49am

      That’s a great tip. What’d 10% saltwater be? For say, a gallon of h2o? Thanks!

  • March 20, 2015 12:57am

    I don’t get solid New England clam chowder, but Boudin’s clam chowder in San Francisco is pretty incredible. I would love to attempt it myself!
    Kari

  • Alison
    March 20, 2015 1:35am

    Arg, I love clam chowder. My dad, an engineer at a factory in Bridgeport, CT, would go clam digging in Long Island Sound on weekends with his buddies and made THE BEST NE Clam chowder (and stuffed clams, and clams casino, and, and, and…) Unfortunately, his main clam-digging buddy passed away a while back and he hasn’t been out in quite some time.

    One difference I noticed between your recipe and my dad’s – he would shuck the clams raw and put the meat through a meat grinder (the kind you attach to the edge of the table and hand-crank). I imagine it was on a pretty coarse setting. He’d then dump the meat and juice into the soup, letting the clams cook there.

    I’ve been wanting to make chowder for a while, but my husband doesn’t eat pork so I can’t make it the “right” way – if you don’t start it with bacon or salt pork it’s just wrong!! I may have to suck it up and make it anyway, and just let him deal with me having the best soup ever while I order take-out for him :)

  • Franko
    March 20, 2015 1:52am

    @Alex (and #ChezDave) – haha, Snow’s! we eat it all winter. we love that brand. we’ve tried others, and they just don’t compare.

    now i’ll have to try Dave’s recipe, because it looks amazing. maybe it will wean us from Snow’s, who knows. : )

  • judi
    March 20, 2015 3:01am

    So many people thicken clam chowder with flour but your recipe is just like my grandmother from Maine used to make. Flour has no place in clam chowder – thanks for a great recipe!

  • lisa
    March 20, 2015 3:28am

    Can’t wait to try this! I was a bit disappointed that link to the homemade oyster crackers did not work. I’ll have to do a search for it. :)

  • Jane
    March 20, 2015 4:29am

    The best kind of clam chowder. But I had this one in San Francisco. The salted pork does give a very distinct flavour, and fortunately I had the luck to pick some up in Chinatown. It all came together perfectly in the end. Thanks so much for this recipe.

  • Barbara
    March 20, 2015 1:01pm

    Oh I used to love Howard Johnson’s as a kid. When traveling my parents would always look for a motel – we’d eat supper and breakfast at HJ’s and I remember their ice cream – lots of flavors. Unfortunately my mother didn’t like fish so didn’t ever serve or or encourage us to eat it. I think I was in college before I tasted it – and then it was in the form of fish sticks. I ate them and loved them and thought I’d really eaten fish! I didn’t realize there was a whole world out there waiting to be discovered. Thanks for this recipe – as you know there are so many variations (as of anything) and having one and disliking it can cause you to declare you don’t like the dish and you don’t want to order it again. I trust your recipes though, so this is the one I’ll make. Can’t wait.

    • March 20, 2015 1:37pm
      David Lebovitz

      Howard Johnson’s was pretty neat back when it was in it’s hey-day. There was a great Lily Tomlin skit she did portraying a slightly off-her-rocker bag lady, talking about how she was the one who came up with their color scheme. And in Season 5, Mad Men filmed a great episode at HoJos that recreated the scenario/ambiance perfectly…including the ice cream scoop that’s shaped like an upside-cone!

  • Cla
    March 20, 2015 2:55pm

    Hi David
    I usually use white wine instead of milk, the combination with clam’s broth is just great!

  • March 20, 2015 4:16pm

    HoJo’s also served franks never called hotdogs, and they were fried in butter and served in a buttered split top frank bun. Don’t ask me how I know that.

  • CarolK
    March 20, 2015 5:30pm

    It’s snowing(!) again this morning in Washington DC and chowder sounds just the thing. We make salmon chowder frequently…same basic recipe, but cubes if fresh salmon are dropped in to cook a few minutes, then rest for an hour before rewarming and serving. The rest time seems important for all chowders..or oyster stew, too, for that matter, to develop the flavors. When feeling very lazy, I’ll open a can of Progresso, which, although oddly very, very white, is pretty tasty.

  • March 20, 2015 5:41pm

    Here in NC it’s cold & rain today, I would love to have some hot Clam Chowder

  • March 20, 2015 5:42pm

    HoJo’s was for clam chowder AND peppermint stick ice cream!
    And you know why it was orange and turquoise? Someone who was in the organization way back when told me it was because studies showed those colors got people to eat more and faster…

    • March 20, 2015 7:47pm
      David Lebovitz

      Oh, yeah. The peppermint stick ice cream was the best, with hot fudge sauce (!) – didn’t know that about the color scheme, but I remember the laughs when the Lily Tomlin bag lady character took credit for it : )

  • Aileen
    March 20, 2015 5:44pm

    Hi David, I’m Scottish but living in Massachusetts now. My youngest daughter loves clam chowda but I’m afraid I cannot get past a hearty Cullen skink (god awful name), very similar but with smoked fish instead of clams, or traditionally finnan haddies. If you haven’t tried it I urge you to give it a go. I did make some for New Year’s Day (alas I had to resort to smoked trout) but I did have to tell my daughter it was clam chowder

  • Marguerite
    March 20, 2015 5:53pm

    HoJo’s! The only restaurants there were in the rest stops along the Ohio and Pennsylvania Turnpikes when I was a kid. When lucky enough to stop for lunch, we’d sit at those long, winding counters, and I’d order a hot dog on a buttered, grilled roll. Later, I’d go out of my way for the fried clams. And not to mention buttered pecan ice cream cones!

  • debbie in toronto
    March 20, 2015 5:55pm

    Hi David…love chowdah! never the “manhattan kind”…like you my first taste was at hojo’s on our frequent road trips south when I was a kid…but don’t forget the fried clams…my favourite thing there….ahhh..good times.

    ps ..had chowder at the oyster bar in GCS last year and they gave me tons of crackers..I think there are still some in the bottom of my purse…:)

  • Susan Rubinsky
    March 20, 2015 6:00pm

    Try salt pork instead of bacon. You will not be disappointed. Also, needs sauteed celery. (Says this New Englander)

    And, yeah, Rhode Island “Chowdah” is the best! Love it more than the creamy one :)

  • Catherine Saxton
    March 20, 2015 6:02pm

    Clam Chowder!! Yes, Please!! My husband and I camp and surf in a remote area of Baja. Besides the surf and bad roads bringing good people, we can harvest tons of clams. “Grocery Shopping” is the key word for clamming. I love to feed others and will make up a big pot of chowder after a fun surf day and invite others over to our camp for dinner. I make sure I bring some hearty french bread to share as well. We sit around the fire and tell surf stories. PS I always loved Howard Johnsons and thinking of their logo and tables now… with my folks and my four brothers, puts a smile on my face. Thanks!

  • Mary Beth
    March 20, 2015 6:21pm

    Your description of the Hojo clam chowder brings to mind the chowder that is served at the Tides Restaurant in Bodega Bay, CA. It is irresistible!! Worth the drive, I think.

  • March 20, 2015 6:30pm

    I grew up going to HoJos with my grandparents. We always started with the clam chowder and I loved it. I’m not sure I would love it today, as I live near Boston and have been spoiled by really good, really fresh clam chowder. Thanks for recipe! I’ll try making my own.

  • Patricia C.
    March 20, 2015 6:33pm

    My favorite clam chowder or chowdah by far is from The Union House in Boston. Best chowdah evah.

  • Patricia C.
    March 20, 2015 6:38pm
  • March 20, 2015 7:14pm

    Not only Hojo clam chowder memories, but I have fond memories of their fried clams, on one of those special nights out to dinner with the family. And it’s funny living here in CT, clam chowder is one of those things that’s so basic and native, we never have it, but you’ve now inspired me.

    • March 20, 2015 7:46pm
      David Lebovitz

      Yes, the fried clams were great as well at HoJos!

  • Bev
    March 20, 2015 7:17pm

    Chowder sounds delish, David. However my nostalgia is about the oyster crackers which we always used to have when I was growing up on the West Coast of Canada. I haven’t seen them since then. Do you know if they are still sold in North America? Thanks for including the recipe as a back-up.

  • Pups224
    March 20, 2015 7:23pm

    Pierre Franey worked at HoJo’s as well and was responsible for recruiting Mr.Pepin.

  • Anne
    March 20, 2015 7:42pm

    Oh David,
    Memories of Howard Johnson…the fried clam rolls, the frankfurters on toasted buttered, yes buttered, rolls, the Indian pudding, the butter brickle ice cream…and the chowder.
    I grew up in New York City, but we had property in northern Connecticut so HJ was an essential part of my childhood.
    Love New England, love Manhattan, love Rhode Island and all clam chowders. Italian clam soup is a good thing too. Will be making your version on this snowy first day of spring. Counting on Citarella to have little necks.
    More memories please.
    Thanks, Anne
    PS, No more Snow’s?

  • March 20, 2015 7:43pm

    Great recipe and beautiful shots… I was making Cotriade recently and it does seem like a precursor to at least chaudière if not chowder. I spent many years living on the East Coast and eating real chowder. Thanks again!

    Francois
    EatTillYouBleed.com

  • Shelley
    March 20, 2015 7:50pm

    We’re showing our age when we relate fond memories of Howard Johnson’s. My family would fill up on the “all you can eat” fried clams on road trips out east. They were so good that every time we saw a red roof my brother and I would call out “Howard John–son!” hoping Dad would stop.

    By the way, if you love chowder, Swan’s on Polk Street is the “go to” place in San Francisco. Like everything else fishy there, it’s delishy!!

  • Bonny
    March 20, 2015 8:12pm

    I loved Ho Jo’s. I remember the chocolate milk shakes too.
    Can’t imagine clam chowder with out equal parts celery and onions!

  • Clara
    March 20, 2015 8:21pm

    I have lived in Eastern Massachusetts all of life, and I am descended from 11 generations of Cape Cod fishermen and farmers. Clam Chowder is made with whole milk only. It’s not supposed to be thick. Cream and thickeners will overwhelm the clam taste, which is the whole point of clam chowder.

    • March 20, 2015 10:39pm
      David Lebovitz

      Some people use roux or thickeners, but I don’t, and I’m not a fan of too much cream in soups, but this amount seemed to add a nice smoothness. We enjoyed it very much and the small amount of extra butterfat. For 3 cups of liquid, there’s just 1/2 cup of cream, which is pretty small.

      Other versions are pretty heavy on the butter – someone left a recipe from the Union Oyster House in Boston which calls for 1/2 cup of butter (4x as much), which is another way to add butterfat. (That recipe also uses all half-and-half.) Before homogenization milk had a top layer of cream, which may have been added when people made chowder back in the days of yore. You can use all whole milk if you wish.

  • MJ Casavant
    March 20, 2015 8:27pm

    Oh, you brought back such memories of HoJo’s, their great clam chowder, fried clams, and milk shakes! Growing up in Massachusetts, our family road trips were frequently punctuated by cries of “HoJo’s!” from us kids in the backseat, but our parents tried to “refine” our palates by sometimes opting for Red Coach Grill instead. At least the popovers there were good. Now that I’m all gooey with nostalgia, I’ve got to make some chowder.

  • june2
    March 20, 2015 8:47pm

    Agree about the clam taste being vital, it’s so distinctive — deliciously meaty/briny. But all the other variations, especially the smoked trout one, sound amazing. Wonder how smoked clams would work out??

  • Steffi
    March 20, 2015 8:58pm

    Still grimace at the remembered taste of a HoJo Cola. (Exit 12 (?), Route 3 to the Cape). The chowder was home kitchen stuff; J. Pepin’s memoir (HoJo’s with Pierre F and Howard J is a must-read!; peppermint/choc. is still the very best IC combo. Lots of options for NE Clam Chowder as stated above, but this Cape Codder thinks the Rhode Island version is far and away the best. And the very best fish chowder is Bermuda Fish Chowder with sherry pepper sauce. I send thanks your way every day I see your missive in my mailbox: always a treat, David.

  • P Adams
    March 20, 2015 9:15pm

    Ok, now you’re just showing off with those adorable All-Clad bakers :) Thank you for the recipe and reminder of how delicious a classic New England clam chowder is.

  • Jane Sherwin
    March 20, 2015 9:47pm

    Remember Moby Dick! Chapter 15, Chowder: “Oh, sweet friends! hearken to me. It was made of small juicy clams, scarcely bigger than hazel nuts, mixed with pounded ship biscuit, and salted port cut up into little flakes; the whole enriched with butter, and plentifully seasoned with pepper and salt. . . . We despatched it with great expedition.

  • Burndett Andres
    March 20, 2015 10:34pm

    I Love You, David! Your blog is such fun to read and so are the comments from your followers. I was going to suggest soaking the clams in salt water, too, but I see someone has already suggested it. I learned that trick from some natives here in Maine, USA and it’s much easier and effective than scrubbing and scrubbing which only removes the sand on the outside. Thanks for sharing on this blog. It’s such a lark as well as being VERY informative. XOXOXO

  • Sharon
    March 20, 2015 11:03pm

    David, Thanks for the recipe. How many cans of clams do you think I’ll need to make the chowder with canned, not fresh? It’s interesting you say the chowder is better after an 8-hour chilled melding. I adore my corn chowder, but it’s miles better after a night in the refridgerator.

    • March 20, 2015 11:05pm
      David Lebovitz

      It depends on how big the cans are. Some list weight, drained and undrained. I don’t think you need to get it too exact. Soups and chowders are pretty forgiving and if you’ve got a few more or less clams in it, it shouldn’t be an issue.

  • Pat from Massachusetts
    March 20, 2015 11:52pm

    Is it possible to freeze this chowdah?

  • Lisa
    March 21, 2015 1:36am

    Ah nostalgia! I remember stops at HoJos on the way to visit our grandparents in Florida every winter as a kid. For me, it was the clam strips (all you could eat on Friday nights!) and the coconut cake – every time!
    The other orange and turquoise stop to watch for was a chain of gas stations – same colour scheme but in reverse – one had a blue roof and orange walls, the other had an orange roof and blue walls – I think they were called Stuckeys. The special treat there was a roll of penuche fudge covered in nuts. You got one free with a tank of gas. Even as a kid I thought it was weird – but we had nothing like it in Canada so my brother and I would scarf it down as an exotic treat.
    Thanks for the memories!

  • March 21, 2015 2:04am

    I attempted this with canned clams, but I think next time I’d want to use fresh. GREAT recipe! Thanks :)

  • BL
    March 21, 2015 2:57am

    Thank you for the recipe and HoJo memories! We went in our town occasionally and always stayed at the hotels and ate at the restaurants when our family traveled. Their Indian pudding, clams and French vanilla ice cream are fond childhood memories. And the fish fry, where they brought the serving tray to the table, impressed us immensely as 5 year olds, lol.

    For the chowda, I live in Eastern Massachusetts and use fresh frozen whole clams. They work great, saving time and delivering flavor on a weeknight. Agree fresh steamed clams are first choice but frozen are a close runner up. Has anyone tried adding in vegetable broth if there isn’t enough clam juice?

    And to all the folks posting about Snows canned chowder, now I may have to try it for nostalgia’s sake!

    Thanks, again!

  • Helen
    March 21, 2015 3:53am

    Great post and pictures. My dad loved clam chowder and oyster stew even though fresh seafood was very hard to find here in Idaho so he mostly used canned clams and oysters. I liked the chowder best with fresh whole creamy cow’s milk and a bit of sauteed celery cooked with the potatoes. He would also use smoked trout or catfish for his fish chowder. Now I’m hungry for something fishy.

  • March 21, 2015 4:00am

    HoJo’s! My favorite was the fried clam boat (just strips, me bellies) with crinkle fries. But I remember that chowder very well. Yum!

  • Zoe Willet
    March 21, 2015 4:03am

    Noticed a reference to smoked haddock in one of the comments, which brought back a memory about which I was pondering recently. There was an English dish called ‘finnan haddie’, made with smoked haddock (which used to be readily available in the supermarket but for some obscure reason has disappeared), which was something like a chowder and that I appreciated and used to make. I would love to become reacquainted with that dish!

  • March 21, 2015 4:48am

    The chowder recipe is one for my hard-copy file. This is one of those hearty soups that sticks to the ribs and a MUST for a chilly winters night (actually we would eat this year round).
    I sadly have to admit that I’ve never made it from scratch before, I felt intimidated by it.
    I see clams in Central Market quite often. I guess this means I need a special knife or a technique to open those suckers. I’ll Google for info. Thanks for this recipe.

  • Jeri
    March 21, 2015 5:09am

    Red Lobster has very HoJo style clam chowder. It arrives at the individual restaurants already prepared, which is why it always tastes the same. But it’s GOOD. Sometimes the comfort factor outweighs the snob factor.

  • Lizzy
    March 21, 2015 5:53am

    I used a recipe almost identical to this when I first married in the eighties and made clam chowder for my husband. I have no idea where I found the recipe (I was landlocked in Texas) but still remember what a wonderful flavor the bacon gave to the soup. It’s an almost irresistible soup and my husband loved it — thanks for reminding me.

  • Parisbreakfast
    March 21, 2015 7:17am

    Poulards(?) in Paris?
    Gee I miss clam chowder and HoJo’s.
    Clams were always my favorite food growing up…especially on the half shell.
    Now how to make this here..?

  • Aileen
    March 21, 2015 3:11pm

    Zoe Willet, finnan haddies are simply smoked haddock but from a specific place in Scotland, now it’s made in many places – I’m not living in Scotland now but I have heard comment from friends that it’s getting harder to find. I’m pretty sure what you remember is a soup called Cullen Skink that is traditionally made with Finnan Haddie although there are many, many recipes and variations out there.

  • Karen
    March 21, 2015 3:12pm

    The service at the Grand Central Oyster Bar could learn a lot from Howard Johnsons.

  • Bebe
    March 21, 2015 5:56pm

    Snow’s, in the clam products canning business for years, was bound to have good clam chowder. It was a staple in our household, and my Mother was a perfectionist. I haven’t tried it lately as DH doesn’t care for clam chowder.

    The chef in our restaurant made superb clam chowder. She included celery. And she put a bay leaf in it during the simmer. Excellent. (It MUST be fished out before serving! Bay leaves can do nasty things when they glue themselves to one’s soft palate…)

    When I was in the corporate restaurant business years ago, I was told by a restaurant consultant that the Howard Johnson orange was chosen because orange implied low prices.

  • Lauri
    March 21, 2015 6:06pm

    Must chime in–Pike Place Chowder in Post Alley in Seattle has forever ruined me for any other clam chowder. SO delicious.

  • alicenjen
    March 21, 2015 7:36pm

    Just followed your recipe, sitting down to a bowl now….yummy. Forgot how good the non-goopy version is. This is not goopy version. Very easy to execute. I have saltines only and recommend making sure you have oyster crackers on hand. Broth is really good. Thanks for sharing!

  • Alvin
    March 21, 2015 10:55pm

    I am still making quahog chowder (Rhode Island style) according to my mother’s recipe (from 70 years ago) even here in France where I have been living for over 30 years. One very important difference of my mother’s recipe from David’s is that the clams must be opened (shucked?) and not steamed to make them open, and then ground up before adding them to the chowder. It makes a tremendous difference. (Fresh Clams have become available in France in the last ten years or so. I order a 3kg bag from my fish-monger, assuring that they are fresh and still retain most of their juices. Also, I use Italian lardo in place of salt pork, which is not usually available here in France.)

  • Maralyn Woods
    March 21, 2015 11:53pm

    Boudin’s in San Francisco and in the United terminal at SFO has the best clam chowder I know of locally. For those of you who can’t find the oyster crackers Amazon has a ton of them to chose from including bags of the little packets if you want to get nostalgic. Love your blog, David, it’s always the first email I open.

  • Margaret
    March 22, 2015 10:47am

    I loved HOJO’s. We lived in western mass and always stopped in Connecticut on the way to my grandparents house! I loved the clam chowder! I live in Ireland now and not too many people know about HOJO’s! Thanks for the memory. Did you see the episode of Madmen where they take on Howard Johnsons as a client?

  • Querino de-freitas
    March 22, 2015 11:24am

    I would not eat clam chowder any in the world but on the greek islands they have the best sea food,,,there is some thing about the greek islands that oozes relaxation,with a glass of really chilled retsina,,with the slight waves gently lashing on the sands……..BLISS………thanks …Querino

  • March 22, 2015 1:16pm

    HoJo’s $2 all-you-can-eat fried clams were a Friday night staple when I was in college in New Jersey. How nice of you to jog that memory!

  • Kirsten Berwick
    March 22, 2015 1:56pm

    Sitting in the corner booth, drinking coffee, eating corn toasties, with 5 girlfriends, in highschool. Feeling very grown-up. At the Maple and Telegraph HoJo’s in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. A million years ago!
    P.S. I would switch out white pepper for the black. But, I’m just that O.C.D….

  • Kirsten
    March 22, 2015 4:09pm

    Sitting in the corner booth, in high school. with 5 girlfriends, Drinking coffee, eating Corn Toasties,and feeling very grown up. My HoJos was at the corner of Maple and Telegraph, in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. A million years ago! P.S. I would switch out the black pepper for white, But I’m just that O.C.D….

  • Bebe
    March 22, 2015 4:13pm

    I too was wondering about substituting canned clams and the quantity required.

    cooksinfo.com says a pound of clams in shells yields about 4 oz of meat. As I recall canned clams give drained weight on their labels.

    http://www.cooksinfo.com/clams

  • Sandra Levine
    March 22, 2015 5:15pm

    If you are going to the trouble of making chowder, you owe it to yourself to serve it with hard, crunchy OTC Crackers, http://www.panoramafoods.com/oysterandsoup.php, which are so much better than the wimpy bits packaged in the the cellophane bag.

  • Ellen Faris
    March 22, 2015 6:00pm

    Chowder, what a good idea. This looks like a great recipe.
    I like to strain the clam broth through a paper coffee filter, it seems to do a better job of filtering out any grit.

  • March 23, 2015 1:30am

    I too remember HoJo’s Friday night treat of crispy fried clam strips. A favorite stop after Friday Night Happy Hour! My stomping grounds were in the Silicon Valley! Your Clam Chowder David? Well, it will soon be on our table:-)

  • March 23, 2015 1:24pm

    This looks soooo yummy! I remember that chowder from HoJo’s. :)

  • Kristen
    March 23, 2015 5:27pm

    Do you have any advice for which varieties of fresh clams to use for chowder in France?

  • Alvin
    March 23, 2015 6:32pm

    In answer to Kristin (above), for clams I order “clams” in France. They are true clams. How they arrived in French waters is another story.

    • March 23, 2015 6:59pm
      David Lebovitz

      Yes, what they call les clams would work (I would like to know the origin of that name – was it taken from English, or vice versa…?) Palourdes would work as well, which are smaller or praires.

  • NationwideProduce
    March 23, 2015 8:16pm

    This was a big hit at my house – even the ten year old had seconds. I subbed 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, about 1/2 tablespoon dried parsley. Your chowder is simply mouth watering!

  • March 23, 2015 9:30pm

    Clam chowder is a winter classic! I love using cod to make it, too, when I’m out of clams.

  • Sylvia
    March 24, 2015 12:17am

    Canned clams makes me think of clam dip and Ruffles potato chips. I am addicted to New York Times clam dip recipe, http://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1015991-clam-dip

    I like it a little heftier, so I make the dip according to recipe and add two heavy tablespoons of cream cheese which gives it a nice oomph. (Am sure les français don’t think of palourdes as a greate crudité combo mix. :)

    Hope the above will inspire you to use your can of clams!

  • March 24, 2015 2:07am

    My mother makes some amazing clam chowder, but I’ll definitely have to give yours a try! Yum!

  • Barbara Gilchrist
    March 24, 2015 6:11pm

    As a born and bred native of Revere, MA, my daily summer routine consisted of sunning, swimming and clam digging at Revere Beach. Those scrumptious steamers were on the menu every night. Once the love of shellfish gets in your blood it never leaves, so I jumped at the chance to make your chowdah over the weekend. Delicious! It’s a keeper.

    As for the HoJo clam strips I always felt they were lackluster in their belly-less form. I prefer my clams intact….

  • March 25, 2015 3:29am

    We owned a summer home in Margate, New Jersey. The men and boys in my family were avid fisherman. In their travels they found a dock that sold a 5 pound bushel burlap bag of cherystone clams for $5.00. We had many Clams Casino and many bowls of New England. The bag of clams were in the refrigerator in the garage and lasted for weeks. Those were the good old days back in the late 1976.

  • March 26, 2015 5:15pm

    Wow-this blog brings back memories. I waitressed at a Howard Johnson’s my first summer out of high school. It was hard work for the pocket of quarters I had at the end of the day. We had to wear white nurse-type shoes and those turquoise uniforms. Scooping rock hard ice cream was the worst. I do not remember the chowder. Probably because I hate clams.

  • Shannon
    March 30, 2015 2:00pm

    Here in Rhode Island, clams, quahogs, and “chowdah” are a way of life! I like JBSP’s ocean-water tip on how to get rid of clam grit, however, you can scrub and soak clams in water all you want to get rid of surface grit, but that wont remove the nearly tooth breaking CRRRUNCHH you will occasionally get from the grit inside the belly of a clam. We put the clams in a big bowl of cold, slightly salted water, and dump in a good amount of regular corn meal (not the fancy fine or white grit!). The clams relax and suck in the water and corn meal. They don’t like the irritating corn meal, so they spit it right out along with all of the grit inside them! Very easy trick!
    I love creamy New England clam chowder, and I also love clear Rhode Island-style chowder. Many who come here don’t enjoy the clear, but that may be because many local restaurants do not use ground quahogs and do not know how to make it the old-school way the way our fisherman grandparents and great grandparents did. I don’t know many RI’ers who like any clear chowder from our restaurants! lol

  • Sylvia
    March 30, 2015 7:37pm

    As a number of people have pointed out, there is a pretty good tradition of clam chowder on the West Coast, too. Grew up in the Pac NW and a trip to the beach usually meant clamming at low tide…which meant clam fritters, steamed clams with butter sauce and clam chowder, made pretty much like David’s recipe. Nothing better. Sadly, my son and husband like chowder thickened to library paste with flour.

    Now if I could just have a big bowl of fresh clam chowder followed up by a piece of Aunt Gertie’s boysenberry pie at the cabin…. Sigh.

    FYI, canned clam juice works pretty well in a chowder, if you need extra clam liquid.

  • Bryan Frost
    April 2, 2015 2:48am

    Good recipe. I lived in Boston for awhile, and spent time in Maine. The only addition I haven’t seen in any comments is hot sauce. Whether Tabasco or Louisiana – we always sprinkled some on top of a bowl of chowdah. It’s a nice lift.

  • Benjamin Lebowitz
    April 17, 2015 6:20am

    Love the recipe David. I’m from Boston myself so I know “Chowdah”. Thank you for this, and I will definitely use it again. Looking forward to new endeavors… Keep me posted