The cast of characters in this rich, thick chowder includes the traditional favorite lineup: bacon, potatoes, cream and clams. The arrangement of using canned clams may be a modern convenience for a weeknight meal, however, if you have additional time use fresh – the stock from steaming them adds unparalleled flavor to the chowder and it’s what makes this version so distinctive. The finished touch of the anchovy breadcrumbs and crumbled bacon creates a magnificent rendition, one that your guests and family will keep asking for seconds and maybe even the recipe. When draining the clams to reserve the broth from cooking, ensure to line the strainer with a coffee filter to remove any sandy and gritty sediments from the steaming them. Dammit, I love me some anchovy breadcrumbs on top of seafood soup!
4 dozen little neck or cherrystone clams, thoroughly scrubbed
4 medium Yukon gold potatoes – peeled and cubed into ½ “ dice
5 thick slices of thick Applewood smoked bacon – cut into lardons
1 large onion – finely chopped
1 ½ cups of heavy cream
1 ½ cups of whole milk
3 TBSP APF – all-purpose flour
3 Fresh thyme sprigs
2 bay leaves
Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper
Place the clams in a pot with about 1 cup of water. Cover them and bring them up to a boil to steam them – about 5-6 minutes. Uncover them and with some tongs remove the opened ones to a bowl. Cook for another minute to check if any of the unopened ones open. Discard the ones that have not. Cool, strain their liquid and reserve. Shuck the clams and chop them roughly.
In the bottom of a medium Dutch oven, add about 1 TBSP of olive oil and add the lardons. When they have rendered some of their fat and are crispy and brown – remove to a plate lined with paper towels. To the fat in the pan add the chopped onion, the thyme sprigs, bay leaves and a small sprinkle of salt. Cook them until they are soft but have no color. Add the cubed potatoes and cook for about 3 more minutes. Throw in the APF and stir well to combine and the flour is no longer raw – about 3 minutes. Pour the reserved clam juice and mix with the flour, ensuring that there are no lumps. Add the milk, cream and the lardons cook at a gentle simmer until the potatoes are tender – about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and toss the reserved clams. Taste for seasonings and add fresh cracked pepper if desired. Serve in shallow soup bowls with the anchovy topping.
ANCHOVY BREADCRUMB TOPPING
¼ cup of EVOO
8 anchovy fillets
1 cup of panko breadcrumbs
1/3 cup of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
4 garlic cloves – finely minced
¼ cup of fresh chopped parsley
Fresh cracked pepper
Heat the EVOO in a skillet to medium heat and add the anchovies stirring until they dissolve with the oil. Lower the heat and add the garlic with the fresh cracked pepper and sauté for about 1 more minute. Incorporate the breadcrumbs and stir them around until they become deeply fragrant and they become well toasted. Remove from the heat and add the parsley and cheese and mix well. They keep in an airtight container for about 2 weeks.
This topping is supremely versatile and elevates so many dishes to the next level. Try it over marinara sauce, spaghetti and meatballs, creamed soups (cream of broccoli or cauliflower) and any other pasta dish that comes to mind. If you are planning on staying away because of your aversion to anchovies, think again. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at the nutty and earthy flavor that the anchovies impart.