Rhode Island Clam Chowder aka Clear Broth Clam Chowder
My apologies to the fine folks of Rhode Island for preparing their eponymous clam chowder with bivalves from Florida. Our local fishmonger carries Cedar Key Sweets, littleneck clams grown in certified clean Florida waters whose aquaculture farm has the highest quality standards. I have been buying them for years, and they are always tender, fresh and flavorful.
With nary a tomato nor cream in sight, Rhode Island Clam Chowder is made from a clear broth and is lesser known than its more popular cousins – Manhattan Clam Chowder (the red) and New England Clam Chowder (the white).
The true briny clam flavor shines through in this lighter version. Bacon and potatoes play supporting roles, while Asian fish sauce adds a layer of depth and umami qualities. Italian parsley and dill bring bright fresh notes as well as adding nice color to the monochromatic soup.
Rhode Island Clam Chowder Recipe
3 slices of thick bacon, diced
2 T. butter
1 1/2 c. diced onion
1 c. diced celery
1/2 c. dry white vermouth (or wine)
3 c. bottled clam juice, divided
4 doz. littleneck clams, rinsed
1 1/2 lb. yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 bay leaves
1 T. high-quality Asian fish sauce (I like Red Boat)
1 T. parsley, chopped
2 t. dill, snipped
salt (only if needed) and fresh ground pepper
Cook bacon in a large heavy soup pot over medium heat until soft and cooked but not browned. Add butter, stir to melt, then add onion and celery. Cook until onion is translucent.
Turn up the heat and add vermouth. Bring to a boil, letting the alcohol evaporate, then add 1 1/2 cups of clam juice. Stir, then add the clams. Cover to cook the clams. As the clams open, use tongs to remove them to a bowl. Discard any clams that do not open.
When all the clams have been removed, add remaining 1 1/2 cups of clam juice and 2 cups of water to the pot along with the potatoes and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, then immediately turn down to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are tender (about 15 minutes).
While potatoes are cooking remove clams from most of the shells. Leave a few clams in the shells and set aside for presentation. Once the potatoes are tender, remove bay and add fish sauce, clams and herbs to the pot.
Taste for seasoning, add salt only if necessary and fresh ground pepper. Once the clams are hot, serve immediately by lading the chowder into warm bowls and garnishing with the reserved clams in their shells.
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