A true taste of the sea, Rhode Island-style clam chowder is made with a clear, light broth that lets the flavor of fresh clams shine through. For the best value and yield, look for very fresh, medium to large hard-shell clams (known as quahogs in New England). The hefty bellies enrich the soup, and when cooked gently and chopped, the tougher, muscley bits lend the dish a pleasant chew.
- Kosher salt
- 4 lb. cherrystone clams (about 20 large)
- 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced (1 Tbsp.)
- 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 medium russet potatoes, cut into ⅓-inch pieces (2¼ cups)
- 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped (2¼ cups)
- 2 large stalks celery, finely chopped (1 cup)
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 1 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh dill
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Purge the clams to remove any excess sand: In a large bowl of generously salted cold water, add the clams and set aside at room temperature for 15 minutes.
- Transfer the clams to a large pot, leaving the sand behind in the bowl. Add the garlic and 2 cups fresh cold water to the pot, cover, and cook over the highest heat possible until steam escapes from the edges of the lid and the clams begin to open, 3–6 minutes (start checking after 3 minutes). Use tongs to transfer the clams to a large bowl as they open, allowing up to 15 minutes; discard any that don’t open. In a fine-mesh strainer set over a heat-resistant liquid-measuring cup, strain the cooking liquid, discarding any solids. Add enough water to bring the amount to 8 cups; set aside.
- Rinse out the pot and return to medium heat. When the pot is dry and hot, add the oil. When the oil shimmers, add the potatoes, onion, celery, and bay leaf; cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is translucent and softened, 10–11 minutes. Add the parsley and dill; continue cooking 2 minutes more. Add the reserved cooking liquid, then bring to a strong simmer and cook until the vegetables are tender and the broth has reduced slightly, 20–22 minutes.
- Meanwhile, remove the clams from their shells, and add any accumulated juices to the pot. Chop the clams into ½-inch pieces. Immediately before serving, stir in the clams and turn off the heat. Season to taste with pepper and additional salt. Serve hot.