RECIPE: Cottage City Kelp Clam Chowder

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This simple, yet delicious chowder has both clams and kelp seaweed and is a match made on Martha’s Vineyard. I adapted it from a recipe I first tried at Jessica Roddy’s Chilmark home, after she adapted it from a New York Times recipe by Sam Sifton.

3 to 4 dozen medium-sized clams; cherrystones work nicely

3 Tbsp. butter

2 medium onions, diced

4 medium Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into approx. ½–inch dice

¾ cup white wine

4 sprigs thyme

2 bay leaves

2 cups cream

1 cup chopped fresh (or fresh-frozen) Cottage City Kelp

Freshly ground black pepper

Chopped parsley (for garnish)

Oyster crackers, optional

Cook the clams in batches. Use a large wide-bottomed pan with a lid, and bring about 1½ cups of water to a boil. Add the clams in one layer, cover, and steam until the clams open (4 to 6 minutes for littlenecks or cherrystones). I lift the lid a few times and remove any opened clams to keep them as tender as possible. When all the clams in the first batch are open and removed, pour the clam broth into a measuring cup, leaving the last bit of sandy water in the pan. Rinse the pan and repeat, adding another 1½ cups of water until all the clams are cooked. Reserve 4 cups of clam broth. 

Let cool slightly and remove from the shell. Pour the reserved clam broth through a fine mesh strainer, coffee filter, or paper towel to catch any remaining sand.

Put a soup pot on medium-low and melt the better. Add the onions and cook, stirring frequently, until they are soft but not brown, about 10 minutes. Stir in potatoes and wine, and continue cooking until wine has nearly evaporated and the potatoes have just started to soften, about 5 minutes. Add 3 cups clam broth. Potatoes should be covered by the liquid, so add more clam juice, if needed. Add the thyme and bay leaves.

Partly cover the pot and simmer gently until potatoes are tender (make sure they are tender), approximately 10–15 minutes.

Meanwhile, roughly chop the clams (not finely chopped).

When potatoes are tender, add cream, and stir in chopped clams and chopped kelp. Add black pepper to taste. Let sit until ready to serve. Just before serving, remove the thyme sprigs and bay leaves, and heat gently but do not let chowder come to a boil. Garnish with chopped parsley. Serve with oyster crackers, if you have them.

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Catherine Walthers
Catherine Walthers
Catherine Walthers, Bluedot’s food editor, is a Martha’s Vineyard-based writer, culinary instructor, and private chef. A former journalist, she is the author of 4 cookbooks, including Kale, Glorious Kale, Soups + Sides, and Raising the Salad Bar. She wrote an environmental guidebook called A Greener Boston published by Chronicle Books in 1992. Follow her on Instagram @catherine_walthers.

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