Besides never scalding the milk, the central thing to keep in mind for this recipe is to keep experimenting and perfecting it. That's one aspect I enjoy--that each batch is slightly different than before. I usually add a one or two of a rotating list of seafood together with the clams: shrimp, crab, scallops, smoked salmon, etc. (Freshly caught seafood is particularly good, but make sure you have selected the right kind of clams if you've dug them yourself. Sadly...the Ericksons are not the best clam diggers.)
I also recommend making it correctly the first couple times before trying to concoct a healthy version. After all, this isn't a side dish, it's the meal. We almost never use real cream, for instance, but it does greatly improve the texture and flavor.
almost five pounds of cut and peeled potatoes
4-6 small cans of clams or 1 of the large can
half a stick of butter
2 diced onions
about a quart of whipping creme
1-2 cups of 1% or 2%
*have available instant mashed potatoes
Seasoning (to taste)
basil (fresh preferred)
At the same time your boiling the potatoes, begin to saute the cut onions in a skillet with some butter. Once the potatoes are sufficiently tender, remove from the heat. Cook the onions until they begin to become translucent. If the potatoes are too big, cut to smaller pieces. (You can cut them within the pot and save time.) Carefully, pour out a little more than half of the potato water. Add sautéed onions to potatoes, followed by the rest of the ingredients. Don't add the milk or whipping creme yet!
Once everything has come to a gentle boil, add the milk and whipping creme last. Keep stirring and lower the heat. This prevents the milk from scalding. If the consistency is not right, slowly stir in instant mashed potatoes. Keep in mind, however, that using too much can really ruin the chowder--especially for the next night.
Everyone (except me) in my household likes ice cold peas dropped on top of the chowder to help cool it down at serving time. I still believe that this is a great affront to the chowder gods. Consequently, you will not see peas in my chowder--unless, of course, my wife Kimberly has prepared it. :)
Suggested toppings: crumbled pepper bacon or oyster crackers.
Variations: try cooking the potatoes in half water / half homemade chicken broth.