It may come as some surprise that Vermonters are quite fond of seafood. Despite being the only New England state without a coast, fish and other fruits of the sea sneak their way into our diet fairly frequently. One tasty, satisfying and economical way to enjoy it in the winter is with a hearty chowder (not “chowda” as our neighbors to the south and east might say). This is our take on Clam and Cod Chowder. It’s made even better with our Vermont Common Crackers — the perfect accompaniment!
6 pounds cherrystone clams, rinsed and scrubbed, or 1 (16-ounce) container frozen or fresh shucked clams, thawed (if frozen) and coarsely chopped
1 pound fresh cod fillets
2 (8-ounce) bottles clam juice
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 slices bacon (4 ounces) cut into ½-inch pieces
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
6 carrots, cut into small coins
4 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, unpeeled, cut into ½-inch pieces
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1 cup heavy cream
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Chopped fresh chives, for garnish
Vermont Common Crackers for serving
Preheat the oven to 350 F.
If using fresh clams, place the clams and the cod in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until the clams open. Remove from the oven and transfer to a large bowl along with any liquid that collected during the cooking process. Let the clams cool slightly, then pull the meat from the shells. Discard the shells and chop the meat into bite-size pieces. Refrigerate the clam meat and cod while you prepare the stock. (If you are using pre-shucked clams, bake the cod alone on a slightly oiled rimmed baking sheet for 10 to 12 minutes.)
Strain the liquid from cooking the clams and cod through a fine-mesh sieve set over a large bowl. Add the clam juice and enough water to measure 6 cups. Set the broth aside.
In a heavy 8-quart stockpot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until the fat has rendered and the bacon begins to brown, about 8 minutes. Add the onion and garlic and continue to stir until the onion is translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the carrots and celery and cook for 5 minutes. Add the clam broth, potatoes, thyme, and bay leaf. Return to medium heat and simmer until the potatoes are tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Stir in the heavy cream and gently reheat.
Discard the bay leaf and stir the cooked clam meat and cod. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Let sit for 10 minutes for the flavors to meld. When ready to serve, divide the chowder among bowls and garnish with chopped chives and Vermont Common Crackers.