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New England Clam Chowder. Our lightened-up take on a Cape Cod favorite. Made from local cherrystone clams that Adrian raked up on one of his recent clamming excursions.

You don’t get a clam chowder fresher than this.

The base of the chowder is so good that we’re going to do something similar when corn is in season this summer (minus the clams) for some amazing summer corn chowder.

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Adrian got a shellfish license in the fall. Each location has it own rules and regs – our salt water pond allows non-professional fishermen to clam on the weekends. And for Christmas, my parents surprised him with waders, one of the items on his wish list. They’re basically thick waterproof overalls attached to rubber boots. About once a month since January, he’s gone digging for clams and oysters in our neighborhood. Banker by weekday, fisherman by weekend. Well, since we’re trying to finish all of our home renovations before the baby comes in August, he’s also construction man/handyman/painter/plumber by night and weekends.

Back to the clams.

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The shellfish license allows one bushel of clams each day and all must be a mature enough size. Adrian was raking for about 30 minutes and dug out almost a bushel of clams. It’s no easy task! He worked up a sweat out there. And I sat on the beach drinking tea, watching the birds and snapping photos.

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And look at the surprise found among all the clams. A little feisty crab.

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There about 10lbs of clams in this bushel. Plenty for our homemade chowder plus a few pounds for the neighbors.

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To make the chowder, we steamed the clams.

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Until they opened. Any clams that don’t open, discard.

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We combined the cooked chopped clams with the clam broth, bacon, onions, celery, garlic, white wine, potatoes, thyme and milk.

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Not to worry, you don’t need to harvest your own clams. You can use bottled clam juice and canned clams or clams from your local fish market or supermarket.

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Serve with a crusty roll or oyster crackers.

Here’s how to make this New England Clam Chowder:

New England Clam Chowder
Serves: 6
Time: ~1 hour 20 minutes
• 5 lbs cherrystone clams, scrubbed
• 4 cups water
• 2 slices bacon
• 4 celery stalks, thinly sliced
• 3 large onions, diced
• 4 garlic cloves, minced
• ½ cup dry white wine
• 2 lbs potatoes, cut into bite-sized cubes (we used Yukon Gold)
• 1 teaspoon thyme
• 2 Tbsp cornstarch
• 4 cups 2% milk
• 4 scallions, thinly sliced
• Freshly ground pepper
• Oyster crackers or fresh rolls, for serving
Directions: In a large steamer pot, add 4 cups of water and bring to a boil. In the steamer basket, add the clams. Cover and cook until most of the clams open, 5-6 minutes. Remove open clams and place on a large baking sheet to cool. Cover the pot again and continue cooking the remaining clams for 2-3 more minutes. Turn off heat. Discard any clams that haven’t opened. Set clam broth aside and let cool. Once clams are cooled to the touch, remove them from their shells, chop into bite-sized pieces and set aside. Strain the clam broth through a fine mesh strainer lined with a coffee filter and set aside. In a nonstick pan over medium heat, cook bacon until crispy and brown. Remove bacon and crumble when cool. Keep bacon fat on heat. Add celery and onion and cook for 5-6 minutes until soft, stirring often. Add garlic and cook 2-3 minutes more. Add wine, stir and cook 2-3 minutes more. Add this vegetable mixture to the large pot holding the reserved clam broth. Add potatoes, thyme, bacon and milk. In a small bowl, add cornstarch and 2 Tbsp broth from the pot, stir until clumps are gone. Add to chowder. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 30 minutes, or until potatoes are tender. Remove from heat. Ladle into bowls, top with scallions and freshly ground pepper. Serve.