Clam chowder is no doubt a New England staple, but this version was actually bred in Chicago by Michael Kornick, chef-owner and of Fish Bar, the city's new homage to the sea. Inspired by his many visits to Northeast clam shacks and New Orleans oyster bars, Kornick's 30-seat restaurant focuses on sustainably caught or farmed seafood. His rich, creamy clam chowder--packed to the proverbial gills with the bivalves, potatoes and celery--is one of Fish Bar's standout dishes. Just one taste had us hearing foghorns and seagulls, prompting us to eat serving after serving.
New England Style Clam Chowder
Adapted from Michael Kornick, Fish Bar, Chicago
Yield: 8 to 10 servings
Cook Time: about 1 hour
1 pound new or Yukon gold potatoes, peeled
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
¼ cup all-purpose flour
20 Cherrystone clams, scrubbed
4 ounces salt pork or unsmoked bacon, sliced into three long, 1-inch-thick strips
3 ribs celery, chopped (about 1 cup)
1 medium Spanish onion, chopped (about 2 cups)
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1½ quarts heavy cream
1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Oyster crackers, for serving
1. Bring a large stockpot full of salted water to a boil. Add the potatoes and boil until tender, about 13 minutes. Drain the potatoes and let them cool slightly, then dice and set aside.
2. In a small saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium-low heat. Whisk in the flour and cook, whisking frequently, until thickened, about 4 minutes. Set the roux aside.
3. Fill a large stockpot with enough water to come ½ inch up the side. Add the clams and cover the pot. Turn the heat to high and cook until the clams open, about 12 to 14 minutes. Remove the clams from the pot and strain the remaining liquid. Reserve the clams and strained liquid separately. Let the clams cool for a few minutes, then pull the clams from their shells and dice into small cubes. Place the diced clams in a bowl, cover with foil and set aside.
4. In a large stockpot, melt 4 tablespoons of the butter over medium-low heat. Add the salt pork and cook until brown and crispy, about 4 minutes. Stir in the celery, onion and garlic and cook until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes.
5. Meanwhile, heat the cream in a medium saucepan over medium heat until just below a boil.
6. Add the parsley, thyme and reserved clam broth to the onion mixture and bring to a boil. Gradually whisk the roux into the broth mixture. Once all the roux is added, stir in the hot cream. Bring the chowder to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Remove the salt pork and season to taste with salt, pepper and cayenne pepper. Stir in the reserved potatoes and clams and serve hot with oyster crackers.