As with fried chicken or barbecue in the South, the finer points of making clear-broth clam chowder inspire intense debate among Rhode Islanders. The question of whether it’s best to chop, mince, or grind the clams can prompt arguments so impassioned, a full-blown melée complete with quahogs pinging off foreheads isn’t out of the question. Purists insist salt pork is the only acceptable fat. Others thwart tradition and use vegetable oil, bacon, or butter. Varying opinions about the proper size of potato cubes abound. A dash or two of Worcestershire sauce is hailed by some, disdained by others. And in certain quarters, the mere mention of fresh herbs can trigger a level of scorn usually reserved for Yankees fans in this decidedly Red Sox-obsessed state. You decide.–Laurie Jones
Rhode Island Clam Chowder Recipe
Hands-On Time: 35 minutes | Total Time: 1 hour, 25 minutes | Serves 6 to 8
- 10 to 12 quahogs in the shell
- 1/4 pound salt pork, cut into 1/2-inch dice
- 1/2 cup onions, cut into 1/4-inch dice
- 3 pounds all-purpose potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch to 3/4-inch dice
- 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1. Scrub the quahogs and rinse clean under cold running water. Discard any that aren’t tightly closed. Put the quahogs in a stockpot and cover with 6 cups of cool water. Bring to a simmer over medium- to medium-high heat. Cover the pot and cook just until the quahogs open, about 8 to 10 minutes. Don’t overcook. Immediately remove the quahogs from the pot.
- 2. When cool enough to touch, remove the cooked quahog meat from the shells and chop it into 1/8-inch dice. Set aside.
- 3. Cover the stockpot and place over low heat to keep the broth-infused water warm while you prepare the remaining ingredients.
- 4. In a skillet, cook the salt pork over medium heat until the fat renders and the meat is browned and crisp. Remove and set aside. Add the onions to the skillet and saute until they’re translucent but not colored.
- 5. When the onions are cooked, scrape them, along with any brown bits stuck to the skillet, into the clam broth. If necessary, deglaze the frying pan with a ladle of broth and then pour the liquid back into the stockpot.
- 6. Bring the broth to a gentle boil over medium-high heat and add the potatoes. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in the salt pork. Season with the pepper and the Worcestershire sauce.
- 7. Add the cooked quahogs and heat through for a minute. Taste and correct seasonings. Serve immediately. Or, if you prefer, let cool, cover, and refrigerate. Reheat the next day.
Rhode Island Clam Chowder Recipe © 2006 Linda Beaulieu. Photo © 2006 Emily Sandor. All rights reserved.