THE GUINEY FAMILY CHOWDER - Alex Guiney, NYTW Business Manager
"Well, here it is: the legendary Guiney Family Chowder. This recipe is handed down through generations, with additional New England saltiness an a touch of faux-Irish acidity. Someone usually knocks this together in a massive chowder pot the day before a big family gathering, as you can feed a ton of people for relatively low cost, (Tip: serve it in coffee mugs for ease of use while walking around shouting at relations during the holidays). Please also enjoy the jokes, which are my dad's as they were told to him by his dad."
- Many Clams Finding the right quality clams can sometimes be a challenge, depending on how far from the coast you are. This is the Cape Cod version, so I use a combination of steamers (soft shelled clams) and any good hard shelled clams like quahogs or cherrystones. Do the best you can and get the best quality clams you can find.
- 1 piece Fatty pork, like pancetta or bacon - most traditional is salt pork ("fatback")
- 2 large Vidalia or Sweet Onions
- 4-6 White Potatoes - ideally Yukon Golds, but, as in the old country, spuds are spuds at the end of the day
- Ground Pepper
- Less than one quart Whole Milk
- Saltines or Chowder Crackers, to serve
Steam many clams and save the resulting clam broth. Strain broth through a cheesecloth or other fine mesh strainer to remove sand and impurities, and put aside.
Take clams out of shells, and - if using steamers - strip the "foreskin" from neck and put aside. Chop larger clams to size - ideally, 2-4 clam pieces would fit on a regular soup spoon. I sometimes supplement the steamed with good quality frozen clams, chopped. The key is to have lots and lots of clams.
Chop a piece of fatty pork into small cubs and sauté over medium heat until the fat is drawn out. Discard the pork pieces.
Chop 2 large Vidalia or other sweet onions and sauté in pork fat until translucent. Do not brown!
Peel and cube potatoes. Par boil for a few minutes (not too much since they will simmer for a few hours in the chowder.)
Combine clams, clam broth, potatoes, onions and some ground pepper in a chowder pot and simmer for several hours over low flame. Stir occasionally.
Five minutes before serving, add whole milk. Do not allow the chowder to boil as it will curdle the milk. If you are serving the chowder all day, keep the flame very low and stir to prevent boiling. Season to taste and serve with chowder crackers or Saltines.
The result is a traditional New England clam chowder. It is often best to let it sit off the flame for a day before serving. As with many soups, this really improves the flavor, and don't forget to season and taste as you go. Note that some faux NE clam chowders use cream (rather than milk) or thickeners like corn starch. Don't go there. A traditional NE chowder is simple, thin and loaded with clams. If every spoonful does not catch clams, you have not used enough clams and need to start again. Note also that this recipe is distinct from "Manhattan" clam chowder, which uses a tomato base and is an abomination.
Last tip: If you haven't already started cooking, you're not eating chowder today.