Most people order New England clam chowder at chowder houses or diners because dealing with fresh clams at home seems too intimidating and mysterious. We’ve made it easy by skipping the process of steaming fresh clams to get the clam juice and meat for the soup, subbing in more convenient and equally tasty canned clams and jarred clam juice. Just sauté onions, bacon, garlic, and thyme, sprinkle with a little flour, add the clam juice and some potatoes, then finish with cream and the clam meat to get a thick chowder that’s ready in an hour. If you want to use fresh clams, we’ve got a recipe for that, too.
2 (6-1/2-ounce) cans minced clams, with their juices
2 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/4 stick)
1 cup small-dice yellow onion (about 1/2 medium onion)
1 poundrusset potatoes (about 2 medium), peeled and cut into medium dice
1/3 cupheavy cream
Freshly ground black pepper
Set a fine-mesh strainer over a medium bowl. Pour the clams through the strainer and transfer them to a small bowl. Set the clams and strained juice aside.
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until the fat has rendered from the bacon and the onion has softened, about 8 minutes.
Add the garlic and thyme and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Sprinkle in the flour and cook, stirring occasionally, until the raw flavor has cooked off, about 2 minutes.
While stirring constantly, slowly add the reserved strained clam juice and bottled clam juice. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally and making sure to scrape the bottom and sides of the pan. Reduce the heat to medium low, add the potatoes, and bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are knife tender, about 15 minutes.
Stir in the cream and reserved clams and return to a simmer. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.