Monday, August 18, 2008


When I'm back East, I inevitably wind up spending time looking at old photographs. Through a random twist of fate, most of my family's memorabilia wound up in storage at my place in Jamestown. So each year when I visit, I get lost for an hour or so, sorting through the boxes, and thinking that I really should try to organize the stuff. It's an activity that also leads me to spend time thinking about my place in the big picture and the factors that led to my particular Weltanschauung. For example, although I've lived in Utah in relative contentment for twenty years, I can't really say I feel at home there: there's no ocean. I need to live in a place where restaurants put malt vinegar on the table, not fry sauce.

Yesterday I came across my father's clam chowder recipe in the accumulated junk out in the back house. My father, William Wells Terry, was a member of the class of 1930 at Yale University and at a reunion during the 1970s, he ran into Howard Johnson Jr. It isn't clear to me if Mr. Johnson was a member of my dad's class, or maybe a year or two ahead or behind him, but somehow my father got Howard talking and came home with his recipe for Boston Clam Chowder. This isn't the recipe they used for the canned stuff sold through the restaurants, but rather Howard's personal recipe.

During the 70's and 80's my father would make a batch of chowder for family events. These cooking episodes always took place between midnight and dawn and involved every pan in our kitchen. My mother would wake up later to a couple of hours of steady clean up. But the chowder was good. I've transcribed the recipe below, leaving out a lot of my father's marginalia. It's particularly good with Royal Lunch Milk Crackers

Boston Clam Chowder

1 doz. quahogs, opened raw, (black stomachs removed)
1/4 lb. (2 big or 3 small) onions
1/2 lb. potatoes
1/4 lb. butter
1/2 cup flour
1 quart milk
1 chicken broth cube

Drain clams and juice with a coarse strainer over large pan.
After draining, put clam liquid through fine strainer and reserve.
Peel onions, chop into small pieces.
Put onions & clams together through meat grinder.
Using a double boiler, cook ground clams and onions until tender. Moderate heat; do not burn.
To dilute fairly thick ground onions & clams, dissolve chicken broth cube in one cup boiling water and add to onions & clams. If still too thick, add a little clam juice.
Cook this mixture slowly for about an hour or more. When onions are soft, the mixture is done.
Peel potatoes - slice and dice into 1/2" cubes and start cooking in separate pan. Cook until potatoes are soft.
Pour 1 quart of milk into the large chowder pot which will hold the final chowder Put on very slow heat and try to get cold milk hot very gradually (be sure not to scald milk.
In a small pan, melt 1/4 lb. butter. Mix 1/2 cup flour into butter as it starts to bubble. Simmer for about 10 minutes.
Add butter + flour sauce and stir well into milk.
Put clams + onions into pot with hot milk and mixed sauce.
Stir well - add a little reserve clam juice.
Put only potatoes (reserving potato water) into chowder pot and stir in well.
Add reserve clam juice and reserve potato water, cook on very low heat until white round spots appear on surface.
Now you have Boston Clam Chowder! Taste it after white spots appear - Cool before refrigerating. - It will be a bit thicker and better second day.


Charlie said...

What if a pour soul has no access to quahogs?

Charlie said...

poor soul, that is