Ben Sargent, author of The Catch, made this beloved chowder recipe, adapted from his grandfather, an avid fisherman, on The Martha Stewart Show. All kinds of clams – steamers, razors, quahogs – work in this recipe. This rustic chowder will appeal to any clam chowder lover. It’s the perfect soup to pair with a hunk of crusty bread and some nice wine.
Sarge’s Clam Chowder
Recipe from The Catch by Ben Sargent
Serves 8 to 10
20 pounds quahog clams, or a combination of quahogs, steamers, and razor clams
¼ cup dry white wine
2 bay leaves
½ teaspoon black peppercorns
¼ pound salt pork, skin removed, cut into ¼-inch dice
¼ pound bacon, cut into 1-inch dice
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 pounds medium Yukon Gold potatoes, partially peeled and quartered
2 large sweet onions, cut into 1-inch dice
12 plum tomatoes, chopped
1 small fennel bulb, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, plus more for serving
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
6 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
1 tablespoon steak sauce
¼ teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
5 drops Worcestershire sauce
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Herb sprigs such as tarragon or sage, for garnish
1. Scrub the clams and rinse well. Keep the kinds of clams in their own groups. Put a very large steamer pot on the stove and add 6 cups of water, the wine, bay leaves, and peppercorns and bring to a boil. First, layer in the quahogs, then arrange the steamers over that. Top with the razor clams, but if there is no room, cook them in the next batch. Cover and cook over high heat until boiling and the clams open, about 15 minutes. With tongs, transfer them as they open to a couple of large bowls. When all the clams are cooked, let cool slightly, and while working over another medium bowl, pull the meat from all the shells, leave the two tough pink muscles on each side of the shell, and drop in the bowl, saving all of the juices. Set a strainer over a large bowl and strain the clam juices from the pot. Pour slowly, stopping when you reach grit at the bottom. Measure out 6 cups of the clam juice and freeze the rest for another use.
2. Meanwhile, in a large heavy pot, cook the salt pork over medium-high heat, stirring, until crisp, about 5 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the salt pork to paper towels to drain and pour the fat into a separate small bowl. Add the bacon and cook over medium heat until cooked through but not too crisp, about 5 minutes. Transfer the bacon to paper towels to drain, leaving ¼ cup of the fat in the pot. Add the olive oil and potatoes and cook over medium heat, stirring a few times, until the potatoes begin to soften and are golden, about 20 minutes. Add the onions, tomatoes, fennel, and garlic along with the butter and thyme and cook, stirring a few times, until softened, about 10 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, pull the skin from the long necks of the steamer and razor clams and discard. Cut the clams into strips and leave the bellies whole. Cut the solid parts from around the quahogs into ½-inch pieces and leave the bellies whole. You can reserve a few whole steamers and razors for garnishing the chowder.
4. Add the 6 cups of clam juice to the pot and stir well to blend with the potatoes and onions. Stir in the reserved fat from the salt pork, the heavy cream, dill, and the clam meat and simmer for 10 minutes. Use a wooden spoon or fork and periodically, as the potatoes soften, crush them against the side of the pot, to thicken the soup. Add the bacon and cook for 20 minutes. Then add the steak sauce, Old Bay, Worcestershire sauce, and capers, and simmer gently for about 35 minutes.
5. Discard the bay leaves. Season the chowder with salt and pepper if necessary, and ladle into bowls. Serve with a pat of butter and the salt pork cracklings. Garnish with herb sprigs and serve.
The chowder can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.