While the amount of clams and the quantity and type of ingredients is variable (if you like celery, add celery), what makes this recipe so special is the bacon, beer, and canned tomato soup. Do not tinker with those ingredients, because the result is superb. I might have given this recipe a conventional title; as penance for my crimes, my version remains “Illegal.”
Illegal Clam Chowder:
1 large carrot, scrubbed, peeled, and diced or sliced into ½-in. pieces
1-12 fl. oz. (341 mL) can kernel corn, undrained
1 large onion, coarsely diced
4 slices raw bacon, in 1-in. pieces
1-14 fl. oz. (398 mL) can clam nectar
3-5 oz. (142 g) cans baby clams, with nectar and clams used separately
1-10-fl. oz. (284 mL) can condensed cream of tomato soup
1-12 fl. oz. (355 mL) beer or pale ale
Salt and pepper, as desired
Cover and simmer 30 min., stirring now and then. Combine tomato soup with beer or ale, whisking to remove lumps. Add clams, sitrring into chowder. Season to taste, serving at once. Serves 6-to-8.
One More Note: I prefer to use small butter clams in this recipe, because they’re readily available in the Time Zone and at the Latitude Where I Live. Larger clams may need to be ground or chopped finely to ensure their tenderness. Note that licenses are now available online, leaving you no excuse! Stick to the daily allowed limit, too. Sustainable clamming depends on ethical harvests. For a very good guide to clamming, see:
|Illegal Clam Chowder|
Freshly caught clams are full of sand. If you’re fortunate enough to live near the ocean and have a strong net bag or mesh diving bag, hang the clam-filled bag from the side of a dock or boat, allowing the clams to spit their sand as the current flows through the bag over several hours.
Alternately, place the clams in a large bowl of sea water or cool, salted fresh water. Change the water every couple of hours as the clams spit their sand. Commercially caught crabs are sand-free when you buy them - one reason why so they’re pricey.
Clams toughen up with cooking, so steam them as quickly as possible, usually for two or three minutes. I use the two-pot system - the pot on the bottom containing a small amount of boiling water, and the pot on the top (with its little steamer holes) allowing the nectar to drip through.
I cook fewer than 50 clams for even heat dispersement, steaming them for only a couple of minutes so they’ll remain tender. Transfer the opened clams to a bowl and start the process over without adding any more water as the bottom of your pot will now contain all that delicious nectar. Discard any clams that fail to open under steaming; they were probably dead when they were caught, so you won’t want to eat them, now.
Save the gorgeous broth for making chowder or for serving hot clams naked (the clams - not you, Dollinks), perhaps with a little white wine added to the hot broth in which you serve them. Shell and dip the hot clams into melted butter, offer slices of baguette on the side, and you will know nirvana. Have a bowl for the empty shells, a finger bowl with hot water and lemon, a small face cloth for discreet lip-dabbing, and all will be right with the world.