Clambakes are a regular part of summer parties in Maine. Alexandra and Eliot Angle usually make this smoky, creamy chowder with the leftovers, but it can easily be prepared with shucked, store-bought clams and served as a clambake starter.
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1/4 pound thickly sliced bacon (5 slices)
1 cup bottled clam juice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 bay leaf
40 cherrystone clams (about 8 pounds), scrubbed and rinsed
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 medium onions, very coarsely chopped
3 ears of corn, kernels cut off the cobs
2 1/4 pounds baking potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
5 cups whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
Salt and freshly ground pepper
How to Make It
In a medium skillet, cook the bacon over moderate heat until crisp, about 8 minutes. Transfer the bacon to paper towels to drain; reserve the bacon fat in the skillet. Crumble the bacon coarsely.
In a stockpot, combine the clam juice, wine and bay leaf and bring to a boil. Add the clams, cover and simmer over moderately high heat until the clams open, about 8 minutes. Transfer the clams to a large bowl and discard any unopened ones.
Strain the clam broth through a fine-mesh sieve set over a medium bowl. Rinse out the stockpot. Remove the clams from their shells and coarsely chop them.
In the stockpot, melt the butter with 1 tablespoon of the reserved bacon fat. Add the onions and cook over moderate heat until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the corn and potatoes and cook, stirring often, until the potatoes begin to soften, about 6 minutes. Add the clam broth, cover and simmer until the corn and potatoes are very tender, about 10 minutes. Add the chopped clams, milk and cream and bring to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper. Ladle the chowder into bowls, sprinkle with the bacon and serve.
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