Clam Chowder

James Beard

Author and Educator

Creamy New England-style chowder was the first soup James Beard ever ate, and he referred to it as his “oldest love." It can be made with Pacific Coast razor clams, the more common East Coast littlenecks, or, in a pinch, with a can of minced clams.


  • 1 quart clams
  • 1 cup white wine or water
  • 3 or 4 slices salt pork or bacon, cut in a small dice
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 cups light cream*
  • Thyme
  • Paprika
  • Parsley, chopped


Place clams in a saucepan with the wine or water. Cover and steam until they open. Pour off the liquid and strain it. Remove the clams from their shells and set aside. Be sure to discard any clams that do not open. If you prefer, you can use minced razor clams, fresh or canned. You will need about 1 1/2 cups of drained clams. Save the juice of course.

Sauté the salt pork or bacon in its own fat. Remove it when it is crisp and drain on paper towels. Lightly brown the onion in the remaining fat.

Cook the potatoes in boiling water to cover until just tender. Take them out and let the water cook down a bit. Combine the bacon, onion, potato, and potato water in a saucepan, and add the clam juice. Bring this to a boil and let it simmer for 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Gradually add the cream and when it has just come to a boiling point, add the clams. Let them heat through, but do not boil. Sprinkle with the merest pinch of finely rubbed thyme.

Serve in heated cups with a dash of paprika and a little chopped parsley.


4 servings