New England Thick and Creamy Clam Chowder

ne-clam-chowderFinally a little fall weather and with the season the dinner menus change around here, great soups and stews to be had and we begin with a quick, hearty bowl of New England creamy clam chowder and for me, the Instant Pot was so darn quick once the ingredients are gathered, and with 15-20 minutes of cooking time you have a great pot of soup to enjoy, just top with oyster crackers, seasoned or plain, a bit of seafood seasoning and crumbled crispy pancetta.  While you can make chowder with fresh clams or frozen, canned are not so bad and certainly easier to come by in the grocery stores.  I usually have a giant can of Sea Watch clams that makes a huge pot so I opted for 3 smaller cans of Bar Harbor brand clams and a small bottle of clam juice for 3-4 servings of chowder.  Of course I just had to serve it SF Wharf style, in a bread bowl…I can’t wait to make a pot of our NC style chowder, much thinner than NE chowder.

3 cans (6.5 ounces each) chopped clams drained, reserve juice and set clams aside until time to add to the pot
1 bottle of clam juice, 5-6 ounces
3 strips of thick cut smoked bacon or pancetta, chopped (2 more if you want some for garnish)
1 leek halved and thinly sliced, white and light green parts
1 small shallot, minced
1/2 small sweet Vidalia onion, minced
1 large rib of celery, peeled and minced
1/2 cup Pinot Grigio or other mellow white wine
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup of heavy cream
additional cup of milk or half and half
3 small bay leaves,
3 sprigs fresh thyme
about a tablespoon minced parsley or toss in 3-4 sprigs
1/4 Phillips seafood seasoning
pinch of red pepper flakes
pinches little lemon zest for the pot and some for the roux
2 large russet potatoes, unpeeled large dice about 1/2 inch
* for electric pressure cooker, Instant Pot
Roux to thicken is simply one tablespoon each butter, flour and a pinch or two of lemon zest smoothed to a paste

Sauté bacon until crispy and remove what you need for garnish, toss in all of the veggies and herbs, sauté for 2 minutes, add wine and cook down for another 2 minutes.  Pour in the strained clam juice, the bottle of clam juice and bring to a gentle boil.  Add pepper and red pepper flakes to taste…wait to add salt if necessary.  Lock lid according to your pressure cooker instructions and cook at high pressure for 5 minutes, release pressure, stir in roux to thicken, add all of the cream and 1/2 cup milk or 1/2+1/2 to thin the chowder if too thick.  Toss in the clams and bring to low simmer (lid off) for 5-7 minutes.  Fish out bay leaves and herb sprigs before serving.  Salt and pepper to taste…
Optional garnishes:  Crispy pancetta or bacon, minced parsley, and plain or seasoned oyster crackers.