Clam Chouder


4 slices bacon, diced

1 tablespoon butter, or as needed

1/4 cup diced onion

2 cups cubed, red skin-on potatoes

1 (8 ounce) bottle clam juice, divided

1/4 cup diced celery 1/4 cup diced carrots

1/4 cup diced mushrooms

1 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup butter

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 cups whole milk

1 pint half-and-half

1 cup heavy whipping cream, or to taste

2 bay leaves 1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon dried dill weed

2 (6.5 ounce) cans minced clams

6 leaves spinach, or more to taste

salt and ground black pepper to taste

1. Place bacon in a large, heavy saucepan and cook over medium-high heat, turning occasionally, until evenly browned, about 10 minutes. Drain bacon slices on paper towels. Pour bacon drippings into bowl and reserve.

2. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in the same saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook and stir onions in hot butter until soft, 5 to 8 minutes. Add potatoes, 1/2 the bottle of clam juice, celery, carrots, mushrooms, 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper, and 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to medium-low, cover the saucepan, and cook until vegetables are just tender, about 15 minutes.

3. Melt 1/2 cup butter in a large pot over medium heat. Whisk flour into melted butter until smooth. Whisk milk, half-and-half, and cream into flour mixture until smooth and slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Stir vegetable mixture, bay leaves, thyme, and dill into cream mixture. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until vegetables are tender and chowder is hot, 15 minutes.

4. Stir minced clams, spinach leaves, and reserved bacon drippings into chowder. Cook until clams are heated through, 3 to 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
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