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Basic Clam Chowder

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2 thin-skinned potatoes, Yukon Gold or white
24 medium-size hard-shell clams (scrubbed)
2 cups bottled clam broth
cup diced salt pork (pancetta or slab bacon)
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 medium onion (chopped)
1 shallot (minced)
3 tablespoons (chopped parsley)
teaspoon dried thyme 
teaspoon celery seeds
2 tablespoons flour
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste


Boil potatoes until easily pierced in enough unsalted water to cover. Reserve 2 cups cooking water. When potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel and chop into half-inch cubes; set aside. Bring 2 cups water to boil in wide saucepan. Add clams, lower heat to simmer and cook, covered, removing clams as they open. Discard any clams that don't open in 10 minutes. Remove clams from shells, swirl them in their cooking liquid to remove grit, chop coarsely, and set aside. Strain liquid through fine mesh strainer and add enough clam broth to make 4 cups.

Cook salt pork or bacon in vegetable oil over medium low heat until fat is rendered and meat is fully cooked but not crisp, 10 to 15 minutes. Add onion, shallot, parsley and cook until onion just starts to color, 10 minutes. Add potatoes, clam liquid and seasonings; bring mixture to simmer. Heat or microwave potato-cooking water to lukewarm and whisk in flour until completely dissolved; add to chowder. Continue to simmer 20 minutes. Return clams to pot, simmer 2 to 3 minutes to heat through. Season to taste with pepper and, if necessary, salt.

Note: For Manhattan chowder, use only cup potato water and add 1 cups canned chopped tomatoes. For New England chowder, use cup potato water and 1 cups whole milk.

Makes 6 servings

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