I’m not sure where my mom learned to make clam chowder. She did grow up for a while in port city Hamburg, Germany. But, somehow, I think the clam chowder came much later (did they invent it in New England or just perfect it?). I’ll have to ask her someday, but wherever she learned it, she learned well. My mom’s clam chowder was definitely one of my top five favorite things she cooked.
It wasn’t until I was cooking on my own that I decided it was time to improve it. (Luckily, my mom doesn’t read my blog so she’ll never know I said that.) Real New Englanders know that pudding-thick, flowery chowder is for amateurs — her clam chowder is the perfect consistency, as real clam chowder is a creamy soup with only a slightly thickened broth. Hers had the right clam to potato ratio. Sometimes she would use minced clams when she couldn’t find whole ones. That’s a no-no.
I could only think of one way to ‘improve’ her clam chowder: more seafood. So my ‘improved’ recipe for seafood chowder is basically my mom’s clam chowder with shrimp, mussels and scallops. Thanks mom (she’s so proud).
I always make a large batch at a time and freeze it in smaller portions. A great way to make the stock is to steam the live clams and reserve the juice. That’s also the best way to get fresh whole clam meat for the chowder.