Nantucket Clam Chowder
In New England all hard-shell clams are called by the Pequot Indian name, quahog. Quahogs can be littlenecks, cherrystones, or the fully mature 'chowder clam'—used for chowders and stuffings because they're deemed too tough for anything else.
1/4 pound salt pork or slab bacon, finely diced
1 quart quahogs, packed in 1 cup liquid
2 cups water
1 large yellow onion, finely diced
1/2 cup pounded common crackers*
2 1/2 cups diced new potatoes
4 cups milk or half-and-half (light cream)
8 teaspoons unsalted butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan or a stockpot over medium-high heat, sauté the pork fat or bacon until as much fat as possible is rendered and all that remains solid are the cracklings. Remove the cracklings and reserve. Remove all but 2 tablespoons of the fat.
- Take the quahogs out of their liquid and reserve the liquid. Rinse them in the 2 cups water. Strain the water and reserve. Finely mince the quahogs.
- Sauté the onion and quahogs together in the pork fat for about 5 minutes. Combine the pounded biscuit with the clam sauté. Add the quahog liquid and the reserved rinse water. Add the potatoes and cook until tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Add the cracklings. In a saucepan, heat the milk or half-n-half; do not boil. Add to the chowder.
- Serve hot with a teaspoon of unsalted butter in each bowl and salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
Makes 8 servings.
*To break up the crackers, wrap them in a kitchen towel and pound with a wooden or rubber mallet.
Variation: To thicken the chowder without using wheat, prepare 1 cup potato purée and add to the chowder instead of the biscuits. Use 2 cups rather than 2 1/2 cups diced new potatoes.