Clam Chowder with Bacon: One Expensive Soup

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For Christmas, I received Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc at Home. It's a big, heavy book, with good-looking food photos, and strange-looking Keller photos. It made my mouth water.

I have been meaning to make clam chowder for some time, and when I saw the recipe in this book, I was sold. It had bacon. I must have read and re-read the recipe four or five times before I grasped his sequence of events. This should have been my warning. I did not think clam chowder would be this complicated. But it was, and took most of the day to make.

First, I started off at Fish King market, clearing out their clam section. Five pounds of clams later (feeling ambitious, I decided to make more than the recipe), I was at Trader Joe's buying enough cream and milk to drown in, along with applewood smoked bacon. Then I got home and pulled out my 8 quart dutch oven. The one I can barely lift. Three hours later, I was exhausted, broke, but I had made clam chowder and awaited the arrival of our friends.

The soup was rich and creamy. There's no water here, only cream, whole milk and clam juice. It was decadent and delicious. So good, I don't want to eat clam chowder again for many months.

Below is a list of ingredients. I don't have the patience to type out his whole page of instructions. So hopefully the many pictures below will do the trick. If not, you should just buy the book. It's worth it.
Clam Chowder with Bacon
from Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home

8 ounces applewood smoked slab bacon
Canola oil
2 cups coarsely chopped leeks (white and light green parts only)
2 cups coarsely chopped onions
5 garlic cloves
Kosher salt
2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch dice
1 Sachet (10 peppercorns, 1 bay leaf, 2 thyme sprigs, 1 smashed garlic cloves, all tied up in cheesecloth)

4 pounds littleneck or Manila clams
1 1/4 cups kosher salt
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) unsalted butter
1/3 cup chopped shallots
2 thyme sprigs
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc

4 1/2 tablespoons (2 1/4 ounces) unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups whole milk
3 cups heavy cream
3 tablespoons finely chopped chives


  1. I have heard the addition of sand from clams can improve the flavor and texture of chowder. I can only guess that it wasn't mentioned in the recipe because Keller wanted to keep that secret to himself.