If there's one thing New England knows how to do right, it's clam chowder. It's a steamy, creamy bowl of clam-filled comfort. If this doesn't soothe your troubles away and put you into a satisfied, sleepy stupor, we don't know what will.
SMOKED NEW ENGLAND CLAM CHOWDER
PREP TIME: 30 minutes
COOK TIME: About 2 1/2 hours, which includes 1 hour of smoking time
SERVES: 6 to 8
PELLET RECOMMENDATION: Oak
4 cans chopped clams (*you could also use fresh clams - see below)
2 cups heavy whipping cream
3 tablespoons butter
6 slices bacon, cut crosswise into 1/4 inch pieces
1 large onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
Coarse salt (kosher or sea) and freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
1 pound russet potatoes, peeled and diced
2 cups bottled clam juice, or more as needed
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
Instant mashed potato flakes (optional)
Oyster crackers, for serving
Hot sauce, for serving
Open the cans of clams, draining them but reserving the juice. (*Alternatively, you could use 2 to 2 1/2 lbs of fresh clams, shucking them and reserving their juices, but you would need to get an extra bottle of clam juice.)
Start the Traeger on Smoke with the lid open until the fire is established (4 to 5 minutes).
Chop the clams, if they are not already chopped, and spread in a single layer in a disposable foil pan or deep baking dish. Set the clams on the grill grate and smoke the clams for 30 minutes.
Add the cream and 1 cup of the reserved clam juice to the pan and smoke for an additional 30 minutes. Set aside.
Increase the temperature of the Traeger to 325 degrees. Put the butter and bacon in a large heavy saucepan or Dutch oven. Cook until the butter is melted and the bacon has begun to sizzle and render its fat.
Stir in the onion and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 to 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. (Don't forget that the bacon will also add its own saltiness.)
Stir in the flour and cook for 5 to 8 minutes; do not let the flour brown.
Add the potatoes, bottled clam juice, bay leaves, and fresh thyme. Allow the mixture to come to a boil and cook until the potatoes are tender. (The potatoes will take 12 to 15 minutes to cook once the liquid boils.)
Stir in the smoked clam and cream mixture and simmer for 5 minutes. If the chowder is too thin, stir in a small amount of instant mashed potato flakes. If it is too thick, add more clam juice until the right consistency is achieved.
Taste for seasoning, adding more salt and pepper if needed. Before serving, pull out the bay leaves and any thyme stems and stir in the parsley. Finish with oyster crackers and hot sauce.