Corn and Little Neck Chowder with Sausage

PHOTOS BY MICHAEL PIAZZA / STYLED BY CATRINE KELTY

CORN AND LITTLENECK CHOWDER WITH BASIL, SAUSAGE AND PARMIGIANO
SERVES 4

If you love chowder but don’t dig the pig, you can easily adapt this recipe to make it pescatarian. Just use olive oil or butter to sauté the vegetables, adding a pinch or two of smoked paprika or smoked sea salt to replace the bacon. Swap the pork sausages for seafood ones, or just omit them altogether.

First, cook the clams:

CLAMS AND CLAM BROTH

2 onions, sliced 2 bay leaves
1 carrot, chopped
A few sprigs of fresh thyme
48 littleneck clams, scrubbed well with a clean brush
(I keep one at my sink that never touches soap but cleans things like clam shells, dirty carrots or potatoes and brushes off sandy mushrooms—it’s a lifesaver)
1 lemon, halved 2 cups white wine
2 cups water

Add the first 4 ingredients to a large stockpot and layer clams on the top of the aromatics, squeeze in the juice of the lemon halves and tuck them into the mix, then pour in the liquid. Cover and bring the liquid to a boil, then lift the lid and check to see if the clams are opening. Using tongs, remove the clams as soon as they open, reserving them in a large bowl. (Since you will be reheating the clams, make sure to remove them as soon as they begin to open so as not to overcook them later; if you just want to eat these clams straight from the pot, or toss them with hot linguine, let them cook a touch longer before removing them from the heat.)

Once all the clams have opened, simmer the liquid in the stockpot an additional 5–10 minutes while the clams cool enough to handle. Pull the clam meat from the shells, reserving 12 of them in their shells for garnish, and set aside. Strain the liquid through a fine sieve lined with a coffee filter to remove any sand, then reserve, chilling everything in the fridge if not using straightaway.

Clams and broth can be cooked up to 1 day ahead.

CHOWDER

4 ounces minced smoky bacon
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 leek, white part only, well-cleaned and minced
½ cup minced onion
4 ribs celery, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
Pinch chili flakes, optional
1 tablespoon minced parsley
2 ears corn, kernels cut from the cob
4 red or white scallions, sliced
½ cup sliced fresh basil
36 cooked littlenecks, shelled and coarsely chopped

2½ cups reserved clam broth
½ cup crème fraîche
2 sweet Italian pork sausages, skins pricked with the tines
of a fork to prevent bursting
 Extra-virgin olive oil
12 cooked littlenecks in the shell, reserved for garnish Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano, for garnish

In a heavy saucepan or Dutch oven cook the bacon without additional oil until it has released its fat and is beginning to crisp but not browning, then add the butter, leek, onion, celery, garlic, chili flakes (if using) and parsley. Stir to combine, season with salt and pepper, then sauté over medium heat until the onion and celery are translucent and tender, about 5–8 minutes. Stir in the corn kernels, scallions, chopped clams and clam broth. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low, stir in the crème fraîche and cover to let the flavors mingle, about 5–10 minutes. Do not let boil!

Meanwhile, cook the sausages in a little olive oil until well browned and cooked through. Slice on the bias into ½-inch slices.

When ready to serve, stir in most of the basil. Serve each person a portion of chowder in a shallow bowl garnished with 3 whole clams and the sliced sausages divided evenly between bowls and garnish with the remaining basil and some freshly grated Parmigiano. Be sure to serve with plenty of cracked black pepper at the table, hot sauce and loaves of crusty bread for dipping.

Sarah Blackburn is a home cook, recipe developer, vegetable gardener and managing editor of Edible Boston. She can be reached at sarah@edibleboston.com