Makes 6-8 servings.
Besides oysters, Hog Island also grows Manila clams, a small sweet clam that is good both raw and cooked. Hog Island selected to raise this clam especially for their acclaimed clam chowder, served at their San Francisco and Napa oyster bars.
When developing Hog Island’s chowder recipe, co-founder John Finger gave the chef strict instructions to use only fresh clams — and no flour to thicken it. “Where I grew up, nobody puts flour in the chowder,” he said. The result is a fresh-tasting, creamy broth surrounding a mass of tiny sweet clams.
1/2 pound high quality bacon, sliced
1/2 small stalk celery, thinly sliced
2 large leek, white part only, thinly sliced on the diagonal
1 large carrot, peeled and thinly sliced
3 sprigs fresh thyme
2 Tbsp. butter
8-10 medium-size Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-size cubes
6 pounds small, raw Hog Island® Manila clams in the shell, rinsed
1 quart heavy cream
Salt and pepper
Parsley for garnish
First, place clams in a colander in the kitchen sink and rinse thoroughly under running water. Pick through and discard clams with broken or open shells. Allow clams to drain in the sink while you prepare your stock.
In a large stockpot bring about 5-6 cups of water to a boil (no salt) and cook the potatoes until al dente, or just before fork-tender.
While the potatoes are boiling, in a second heavy-bottom pot, melt the butter with the thyme. Render the bacon in the butter and thyme (over low heat, careful not to burn); once bacon is rendered add leeks and celery, cook until vegetables are translucent. Add carrots and cook until bendable without breaking. Add the potatoes and 4 cups of potato water, set aside. The base can be made (up to one day) ahead and kept chilled.
Portion your clams out per single, or double serving (~3/4 lb per serving). Working in batches, place the serving(s) of clams in a heavy bottomed saute pan over medium heat. Ladle one cup of the chowder base on top and cover the pan, simmer for about 5 minutes, or until the majority of clams open. Skim through and pick out any clams that have not opened. (Don’t skip this step — unopened clams may spoil the chowder).
Add in 1/2-cup cream per serving and bring the chowder to a simmer (1-2 minutes). If it is too thick, add in more of the potato water. When the chowder is bubbling in the middle, it is ready to serve. Pour individual servings into warm soup bowls. Garnish with cracked pepper and chopped parsley and serve with warm crusty french bread to soak up the broth. Place extra empty bowls on the table for discarding clamshells. Enjoy!