Clam Chowder Two Ways

clam chowder two ways served with oyster crackers
Photo: Con Poulos
Prep Time:
20 mins
Total Time:
40 mins

The secrets to incredible clam chowder are tender seafood and silky broth; the rest is a matter of preference. Whether you keep it classic New-England-style with cream, or go to Manhattan by swapping in tomatoes and oregano, our sterling technique will net you summertime in a spoon.


  • 4 pounds top neck, cherrystone, or littleneck clams (about 3 dozen), cleaned (see cook's note)

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

  • 1 ounce pancetta, diced

  • ½ onion, diced (1 cup)

  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

  • 1 dried bay leaf

  • ½ cup dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc

  • 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour (optional)

  • 1 russet potato (about 10 ounces), peeled and cut into ½-inch cubes (2 cups)

  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream

  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

  • Oyster crackers


  1. Working in batches if necessary, place clams in a medium saucepan with 1 3/4 cups water. Cover and bring to a boil. Uncover, stir, and continue to cook, removing clams as soon as they open (this way, none of them will overcook and turn too chewy).

  2. Once they've all been removed, strain liquid through a sieve lined with a dampened cheesecloth to get rid of residual grit. You should have 3 cups broth; if you have less, add water or bottled clam broth. Gently separate clams from shells; discard shells and coarsely chop clams (halve if small).

  3. Wash and dry saucepan; place over medium-high heat. Melt butter in pan, then add pancetta and cook, stirring, until browned on edges, about 2 minutes. Add onion, thyme, and bay leaf. Cook until onion is translucent, about 3 minutes. Add wine and simmer, stirring, until almost evaporated, about 3 minutes.

  4. Sprinkle mixture with flour and keep stirring, 30 seconds. Add potato and broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, until potato is tender, about 10 minutes; stir in clams and cream. Gently heat through, about 30 seconds—but without boiling, which would cause the clams to become tough. Remove and discard bay leaf. Season with salt and pepper, and serve with crackers.


Manhattan Clam Chowder:

In step 1, reduce the water to 1 cup (this should yield about 2 cups broth). In step 2, add 1 chopped celery stalk with the onion, replace the thyme with oregano, eliminate the flour, and add a puréed 14-ounce can of whole peeled tomatoes in juice with the clam broth.

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