Like Father, Like Son

When I was first married I relied on a few recipes and made them over and over until they were exactly to our preference. This stocked me with a collection of dishes that I had a comfort level with and could make with relative ease and on short notice. New England Clam Chowder was one of them. In fact, I haven’t tried a new version in over 10 years and when I broke the news to my husband that a new clam chowder was on the horizon, I had to pull out the “remember that Thanksgiving” card. The one where a week before we found ourselves in a hushed, very uncharacteristic hostile disagreement (surprisingly fine dining establishments frown on public displays of aggression) over why I was “tempting” disaster and trying an alternate turkey preparation. Ultimately, I went ahead and made the turkey my way (was there any question) and he graciously proclaimed it was the best he’d ever had. So, armed with this historical victory I tempted disaster once again.

My father-in-law was in town for a brief visit and turns out that like his son, he also has an affinity for clam chowder. Ina Garten boasts a silky, homey version that intrigued me because of its simplicity. It was different from our usual in that it didn’t have the smoky bacon flavor or juicy kernels of sweet corn, but different can be good and in this case great. We were treated with simple straightforward flavors that really deferred to the clams. I love recipes that exhibit restraint and work to maximize the flavor of the ingredients …..letting them standout versus becoming part of a muddled mess. Ina’s chowder delivered on this tenet and could only be enhanced by serving it with these darling mini soup biscuits. Just crush or crumble into your bowl and start digging for clams!

East Hampton Clam Chowder

East Hampton Clam Chowder

Ina Garten’s East Hampton Clam Chowder.

Slightly modified to preference. Don’t be tempted to take shortcuts and use store-bought chicken stock or dried thyme. It’s the limited ingredients and their quality that makes this soup so wonderful.


  • 12 TBSP (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, divided
  • 2 cups chopped yellow onion (about 1 large)
  • 2 cups medium-diced celery (about 4 stalks)
  • 2 cups medium-diced carrots (about 6 carrots)
  • 4 cups medium-diced boiling potatoes
  • 2 tsp minced fresh thyme
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 quart clam juice
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup homemade chicken broth
  • 2 cups half-and-half, room temperature
  • 3 cups clams


  1. Melt ½ stick butter in a large heavy-bottomed stockpot. I used a 6.75 quart Le Creuset Dutch oven. Throw in the onions and cook over medium-low heat until translucent (7-10 minutes).
  2. Add the celery, carrots, potatoes, thyme, salt and pepper and cook for another 10 minutes. Stir occasionally.
  3. Add the clam juice, bring to a boil, and simmer, uncovered, until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes.
  4. In a small saucepan, make the roux. This isn’t technical; it just means you are cooking the flour so you don’t get a raw flour flavor in your soup. Melt the remaining stick of butter and whisk in the flour. Cook over very low heat for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. It will transform into a beautiful golden hue. Whisk in a cup of the warm broth (if it is too hot it might become lumpy) and then add it to the soup. Simmer for a few minutes until the broth is thickened.
  5. Add the half and half and clams and gently reheat if you are using canned clams. If you have fresh clams, just simmer for a few minutes to cook them through.
  6. Taste for seasonings.


1. You have three options for the 3 cups of clams.

If you are fortunate to live near a fish market you will be able to get these already shucked. If not, most groceries sell fresh clams that you can shuck yourself. If you go either of these routes it will be about 1 ½ lbs shucked chopped fresh chowder clams. You can use cherrystone or littleneck if you can’t find chowder/quahog clams. Finally, you can also use canned baby clams in water, which is what I ended up doing. I used three 10 oz cans which yielded exactly 3 cups; I was able to use the water to supplement my clam juice needs (it gives you about 1 ½ cups).

2. After opting for canned clams, I had persistent craving for fresh ones…..not to mention I’m partial to how enticing a few shells look bobbing in the soup. So, while the vegetables are simmering, steam some extra clams if you have time.

To prepare, first inspect the clams to be certain they are edible. They should give off a mild scent and the shells should be tightly closed. If the shell remains open after you give it a tap, discard the clam.

Soak the clams in the sink to clean while you prepare a brine to remove grit. Mix 1/3 cup of kosher salt (iodine will kill the clams) with a gallon of water and soak the clams in the mixture for about 15 minutes. Pour the clams into a strainer, rinse with cold water and scrub the shells.

Place the cleaned clams in a large pot with a cup of white wine, a few springs of thyme, and 2 bay leaves. Cover and turn the heat to high. Steam the clams for 3-10 minutes. As they pop remove them from the pot. If after 10 minutes some still haven’t opened, discard them. Watch your clams carefully; if you overcook them they will taste like rubber bands.

Put a few atop each bowl so the soup can seep in and coat the beauties. I put the remainder of the clams in a big bowl family style so everyone could pluck them out at will. And if you really want to give your guests (or yourself) a treat pour the cooking liquid through a strainer lined with cheesecloth. It will have developed into a light, delicate briny broth perfect for dunking bread. I reheat it so it’s slightly warmer than room temperature.

Mini Soup Biscuits

Adapted from the blog The Cooking of Joy.


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 TBSP baking powder
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, diced
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • 1 egg
  • Sea salt


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Work quickly in order to keep the temperature of your dough down. Combine dry ingredients in food processor and pulse a few times to combine.
  3. Add butter and pulse until it resembles a coarse meal.
  4. Add milk and briefly process until it starts to come together.
  5. Dump on to a floured surface and knead (only a little) to bring the dough together.
  6. Form into a round ball and chill for about 30 minutes.
  7. Divide the dough in half (leave the other half in the refrigerator) and roll to 1/8” thickness on a floured work surface.
  8. Prick the dough all over with a fork and cut the biscuits out with a small cookie cutter.
  9. Brush with egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 TBSP water) and sprinkle with sea salt.
  10. Place the biscuits on the baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes or until light brown.
  11. If you are not going to enjoy them right away store in an airtight container once cool. Before enjoying, toast under the broiler for about 3 minutes on a baking sheet to crisp up.




  1. I am only catching up to your blogs chronologically, hence the reply almost 2 years after you posted this one. With my children all grown and living in other parts of the country, I no longer cook myself, so I love reading your blogs for the sense stimulation and more often than not, the memories they spark. (Food and Proust are on a bicycle built for two, are they not?) Reading it, I remembered years ago beginning an antiquing foray with a good friend of mine, an illustrator who lives in NYC. We were going to the massive open field antique market in Brimfield, NJ. This blog reminded me of how we started the journey—at the Oyster Bar under Grand Central, with a large bowl of clam chowder, before boarding the train on our adventure. I think the Oyster Bar uses Atlantic surf clams, if memory serves. In any case, it hit the spot. It was my mother-in-law, by the way, who introduced me years ago to the delicate wonder of clams, as long as I’m on Memory Lane. Thanks for posting this!

    • Ericka says:

      Hi Michael, I could not be more pleased that some of my stories have been able to transport you to forgotten times. That is exactly why I started this blog….to chronicle memories and keep them from slipping away.


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