Mrs. Large picked up a book for me while she was at the Silas Bronson library in Waterbury the other day, it's called "A History of Connecticut Food: A proud Tradition of Puddings, Clambakes, & Steamed Cheeseburgers". It was written by Eric D. Lehman & Amy Nawrocki, and published in 1992. It's a fascinating book that explores Connecticut's history with food, and it's also part cookbook.

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One thing that I found while reading it surprised me, because I had never heard of it before, - Connecticut Clam Chowder. According to "A History of Connecticut Food", the Connecticut Clear-Broth Clam Chowder originated in New London County, and it was a popular dish all along the Connecticut coastline.

I've always heard of the white, creamy New England Clam Chowder, the red, tomato Manhattan Clam Chowder, and the clear-broth based Rhode Island Clam Chowder, but that was it. Have we been ripped off in Connecticut? Did Rhode Island pound the weak chefs in New London County and steal their clear broth recipe and claim it as their own?

Getty Images/iStockphoto
Getty Images/iStockphoto

The book doesn't go into that, but they do give a Connecticut Clear-Broth Clam Chowder recipe. This recipe is reportedly similar to the chowder at the Seahorse Tavern in Noank, which has unfortunately closed permanently since the book's publication. Here's the recipe, courtesy of "A History of Connecticut Food":

Connecticut Clear-Broth Clam Chowder

  • 1/2 -1 cup salt pork, diced
  • 2-3 celery stalks, diced
  • 1 large leek, white and pale green parts, diced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 3 cups clam juice - canned clams or bottled
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups potatoes, diced
  • 1 1/2 cups quahog clams, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme
  • salt pepper
  • 2 teaspoons fresh parsley, chopped

Cook the salt pork in a large pot over medium heat, render the fat. Remove pork cracklings and save. In the drippings, cook the celery, leek, and onion until soft, add clam juice and water, diced potatoes, clams, bay leaf, and thyme. Bring it all to a boil. Reduce heat and cook til it thickens, around 15 minutes. If it needs a bit of thickening, add a tablespoon of cornstarch to 2 tablespoons of water. salt and pepper to taste, remove from the heat and let it cool for a moment, remove the bay leaf, and serve it with cracklings and chopped parsley.

I've looked at a couple of Rhode Island, Manhattan, and new England Chowder recipes, and they're all pretty similar. The difference that I can find between the Rhode Island and Connecticut clam chowder recipes is the Rhode Island recipes call for the use of white wine, and Connecticut uses water. All of the recipes use quahogs, salt pork, potatoes, and clam juice.

Interesting, I need to find a restaurant that does this Connecticut Clam Chowder, have you ever had it? Or know where we can?

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