Chaudrée de palourdes

Clam chowder

This chowder, an American recipe with French roots, takes about half an hour to prepare. The clams are soaked to remove any sand, potatoes are cubed and boiled, bacon is sautéd in butter with finely sliced leek, celery, carrots and thyme, and some potato water is added. The clams are steamed open in this soup base, and heavy cream is added at the end.

For best results, use small clams — palourdes in French, Manila clams or steamers in English, vongole in Italian. You will need a large saucepan and a heavy-bottomed soup pot with a cover. The quantities below will make 4 bowls or 6 cups of chowder.

3 pounds (1.5 kilo) small clams
4 medium potatoes
6 cups (1.5 liter) water
1/4 pound (125 g) thick-cut bacon
1 leek
1 branch celery
1 carrot
1 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 sprigs fresh thyme, or small pinch dried thyme
1/2 tsp. salt

freshly ground black pepper
2-3 sprigs parsley
2 cups (500 ml) heavy cream

Immerse the clams in cold water for 20 minutes to allow them to discharge their sand. While the clams are soaking, proceed with the recipe.

Bring 6 cups of unsalted water to a boil. While the water is heating, peel and cube the potatoes into bite-sized pieces. Add to the water and cook until just tender (al dente). Drain through a sieve placed over a bowl, and retain the potato water for later use.

Chop the bacon into thick matchsticks (lardons). Set aside.

Finely slice the white part of the leek. Finely slice the bottom half of the celery stalk. Peel and finely slice the bottom half of the carrot. Set aside.

Melt the butter in a large, heavy-bottomed soup pot. Add the bacon and thyme. Sauté over low heat, stirring, until the bacon has released some of its fat, about two minutes.

Add the sliced leek and celery. Sauté, stirring, for one minute. Add the sliced carrot and continue cooking over low heat for five minutes more. Add the potatoes and 2 cups (500 ml) of the potato water. Add the salt and grind on some black pepper. Turn off the heat.

If you like, you can pause the recipe here. In this case, refrigerate the clams in their soaking water until ready to go.

Drain the clams through a colander. Rinse under cold running water. Discard any clams that are open or have broken shells.

Transfer the drained clams to the soup pot, cover and cook over medium-high heat until all the clams have opened, about 3 minutes. While the clams are cooking, finely mince the parsley, retaining a few whole leaves for garnish.

When the clams have opened, stir in the parsley and the heavy cream. Bring to a simmer.

Serve piping hot, accompanied by crusty bread and a flinty white such as a Sauvignon. Makes four bowls or six cups of chowder.

This recipe is adapted from the clam chowder recipe of the Hog Island Oyster Co. in Napa, California.

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