A Chowder to Warm Herman's Heart
Yield: 4 servingsHere's how to make it, that most basic and unmilky of all chowders.
Ingredients:4 to 6 dozen steamers, or manilla or small littleneck clams, scrubbed and then shucked over a bowl
2 slices salt pork, cut into small pieces (about 1/4 cup)
1 cup cracker crumbs (from unsalted crackers such as Carr's Water Crackers), crushed with a rolling pin
4 teaspoons unsalted butter
1. Strain the clam juice. Measure the clams and their liquid and add enough water to measure 4 cups total.
2. In a large saucepan cook the pork over low heat until the fat is rendered and the pork is browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the clams and liquid. Bring to a gentle boil, stirring over medium heat. Cook until the clams are tender, about 5 minutes.
3. Spread a layer of cracker crumbs in the bottom of four warm bowls. Cut the butter into small pieces and divide it evenly among the bowls. Season the chowder with cayenne to taste. With a slotted spoon, distribute the clams evenly among the bowls. Ladle the boiling liquid over the clams.
Note: Try this trick for easy clam shucking: Spread the clams on a baking sheet and put it in the freezer just long enough for the shells to begin opening. Then use a clam knife to separate the shells.