Thomas Keller’s Clam Chowder

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Thomas Keller’s Clam Chowder  Recipe |

San Francisco Bay Area has been sunny and warm around 60F and I kind of forgot that some of readers are experiencing cold winter.  Before spring comes along, I want to share some winter recipes that I enjoy.  One of our favorite western soup is clam chowder.  There is something magical about warm delicious clam chowder served in a bread bowl.  It’s a hit or miss at most restaurants when we order it but more often than not, every restaurant proclaims that their clam chowder is the “award winning”.

Thomas Keller's Clam Chowder II

The recipe we want to share with you today comes from Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home cookbook.  We adapted a little bit so you can still consider it’s his soup rather than mine.  It takes some time to prepare as it requires tedious steps, however, don’t worry as it is all worth it at the end when  you have this chowder.  The key is make sure you use fresh clams instead of frozen or canned clams.

Thomas Keller's Clam Chowder III

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Thomas Keller’s Clam Chowder
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: Serves 6-8
  • 3 pounds littleneck clams
  • Olive oil
  • 6-7 slices of thick wood smoked bacon, cut into 1 inch slices.
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped onions
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped leeks (white and light green parts only)
  • Sea salt
  • 4 large potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 Sachet (10 peppercorns, 1 bay leaf, 2 thyme sprigs, and 1 smashed garlic cloves)
  • 3 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 3 cups heavy cream (I’d use light cream in the future. Light, not lite.)
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 4 shallots, chopped
  • 2 thyme sprigs
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 3 Tbsp finely chopped chives
  1. Degrit the clam.
  2. Prepare Sachet. Wrap seasonings in cheesecloth and tied up with cooking twine.
  3. Heat some olive oil in an 8 to 10 quart stockpot over medium heat. Add the bacon, reduce the heat to low, and let the fat render for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring from time to time; the bacon should color but not crisp. Using a slotted spoon, remove the bacon from the pan.
  4. Add the garlic, onion, and leeks to the pan and stir to coat with bacon fat.
  5. After leeks are coated with oil, sprinkle with salt, cover with Otoshibuta (drop lid) (I was surprised to see his recipe requires this Japanese technique!), and cook very slowly for 30 to 35 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Remove and discard lid.
  6. Put the potatoes, sachet, and 2 tsp salt in a large saucepan, add cold water to cover, bring to a simmer, and cook until the potatoes are just tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and spread on a tray to cool; discard the sachet.
  7. When the vegetables are tender, increase the heat to medium and add the butter. Once the butter has melted, stir in the flour to coat the vegetables and cook for 2-3 minutes to take away the raw flour taste.
  8. When flour is coated with vegetables, whisk in the milk and cream, season to taste with salt and pepper, and bring to a very low simmer.
  9. Melt the 2 Tbsp butter in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and thyme sprigs, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring, for about 1 minute, until the shallots are tender. Add the wine, bring to a boil, and cook for 2 minutes to evaporate some of the alcohol.
  10. Add the clams, cover the pan, and cook for about 4 minutes, removing the clams as they open.
  11. Strain all the clam liquid through a fine-mesh conical strainer into a bowl. Shell the clams and set aside.
  12. Gently stir clam liquid to taste into the soup (avoid any sand that may have settled in the bottom of the bowl.) Season the chowder with salt and pepper to taste.
  13. Gently stir in the clams and potatoes.
  14. Spread the bacon in a small frying pan and crisp over medium-high heat. Garnish the soup with the bacon and the chives.
Adapted from "Clam Chowder with Bacon" in Ad Hoc at Home by Thomas Keller.


Now you must be ready to hear the winners of my {1st Blogiversary Giveaway}!  I always get so nervous picking up winners, so this time I asked my husband to click the mouse.  I wish all of you were the winners!

1st Blogiversary Amazon Gift Card Giveaway

$50 Amazon Gift Card or Cash via PayPal

 It’s Elena!  Congratulations!

$25 Amazon Gift Card or Cash via PayPal

 It’s Zee!  Congratulations!

$25 Amazon Gift Card or Cash via PayPal

It’s Janice!  Congratulations!

Thank you everyone for entering this giveaway!

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  1. Happy Blogiversary!! congrats to the winners. I love that you posted this recipe we had dinner this weekend at a local seafood joint and my daughter had a HUGE bowl of clam chowder. She loved ti and has requested it every day.. happy to find this on my late night blog reading, lol!! your a life saver.. have a great week!

  2. My husband loves clam chowder but I never make it because I don’t like clams. However, whenever we go out to eat he always orders it (even if it’s the middle of the summer!) Yours does look great. If I ever want to make a meal special for just him, I’ll keep this in mind. I’ve never heard of using foil to soften veggies, but I think I’ll try that later this week when I make soup.

  3. now this looks like an award winning chowder for sure :) def looks like a lot of effort but id say its worth it looking at it makes me drool!!!

    you’re so funny – how you get your husband to click the mouse for the winner 😉

  4. Oooh….yum!!!! Five stars!!! Love clam chowder and I’ve only had it once in Monterey…:p
    The recipes I’ve seen always use canned clams which u can’t find here….this recipe sounds fantastic….will have to try this one day!!!! Looks spectacular! :)

  5. Happy Blogiversary Nami and congrats to all the winners! I love clam chowder and just made some this weekend, but I used canned clams.. wow.. you did it from scratch all the way! Way to go! The chowder looks absolutely beautiful!! Well done. Love the presentation as well. :) Have a great week!~ Ramona

  6. I love that you don’t shy away from recipes that take more time and preparation than most. My husband loves clam chowder and I know I would get the wife of the year award for this one. I’m not a clam fan but I would totally destroy that bread bowl, well maybe two of them (ha- ha). Loving your pictures as always.

  7. I made a clam chowder for the new year breakfast a few days ago and this one is a must to try too!
    Tq for sharing this recipe nami… as always, ur helpful stepbystep pic and menthod is something that I always miss when haven’t “knock” at ur blog-door-bell :)
    Tq and congratz to the winner! 😉

  8. Clam chower is my hubby’s favorite and your version of Thomas Keller’s recipe looks like a “must make!” Thanks for hostessing this giveaway, Nami — congrats to the winners!

  9. Congratulations to the winners :) Thanks for running the giveaway Nami, so sweet, and wonderful recipe too. I couldn’t find it mentioned anywhere, unless I’m being dumb, but did you serve it in a bread roll at the end? So pretty (and clean! No washing up! :D)

  10. uhh this looks awesome! The bread so crusty, the chowder so creamy, u did the impossible, u made me crave to try this out, even dough I dont like clams. Gorgeous presentation nami! Congrats to the winners. I want to win one day too XD!

  11. I’d give anything to be able to get fresh clams here! But living in the high desert, I’d have to dig pretty deep. :) I would love your clam chowder but my mother would LOVE it! When we did a trip to San Francisco her goal was to find the best clam chowder. That’s all she ate the whole trip! Your chowder does sounds like the best! And then you go and serve it in a bread bowl – you can’t get any better than that! Congratulations to all the winners!

  12. Nami, you’ve given me an overwhelming urge to visit San Fran again when I see this. Looks beautifully delicious and that bread is perfection for the presentation: the bubbles almost look like welks stuck to it.
    Well done to the winners!

  13. Sounds like a nice recipe. Chowders do warm you up well. I think you can consider this your award winning recipe:)
    Is that beer? Did you drink the whole bottle? Beer and chowder is nice together. Last time I had chowder was in a pub with many beers.

  14. Eri

    Congratulations to the winners!
    Nami your pictures are beautiful, this bread bowl reminds me of Prague, I used to have this kind of soup bowls there… Nice memories.. I love your step by step photos too! Have a great week!

  15. Sandra's Easy Cooking

    Even though I am not fan of clams I would still try it! It looks very appealing and delicious, and presentation is defiantly something that would impress any guest! Nicely done Nami! Congrats to all winners!!!

  16. I have had clam chowder on my mind lately so your pictures have me wanting to reach into the monitor to pull that bread bowl closer to me. You are right–it’s hit and miss in restaurants. Most of the time, the clam flavor gets lost in all the cream. If it’s Thomas Keller’s recipe, though, I’m sure this is a winner. Have a great week, Nami!

  17. Congratulations to all the winners but I think we’re winners too with this recipe to look forward to. I love clam chowder!!! And one of these days I WILL make this soup. :)

  18. Mika

    You know I love clam chowder, however this year’s winter has been pretty warm and don’t feel like having one… For me, this is a dish for a cold winter!

  19. Nami, this chowder sounds terrific! I have heard so many times about the famous clam chowder, but I have never been to the US, so no chance of tasting it and somehow I have never tried making it. I’m also surprised to see the Japanese lid here! The cooking world is so small :-)
    Serving it in bread is such a wonderful idea, especially when presented and photographed by you 😉
    Cognratulations to the lucky winners!

  20. This looks sooooo delicious – soup in bread is always amazing on a grey day. I love the little exacting classically Keller touches in this recipe – like the spice sachet. Clam chowder taken to the next level…

  21. Don’t you love how the recipes from Thomas Keller’s “simple” cookbook still take pages? Regardless, your chowder looks amazingly good and I love that you’ve put it in a bread bowl, which is the BEST way to serve it. It looks perfect!

  22. Janice

    This looks so delicious! I love clam chowder and having it in a bread bowl just takes it to another level.

    Thanks again for the giveaway, Nami. I’m so excited to be so lucky!

  23. I couldn’t agree more.. Clam Chowder is one of my comfort soup, and using fresh clams is key. Gosh you are so talented Nami, and I have been enjoying all your posts. You know what, I will want to cook this for my family. Maybe I won’t be able to serve it in a bread but I guess I can improvise. Thanks for all the step-by-step photo. That helps! Thank you for your sweet compliments, as that really makes my day!! Hugggssss

  24. This looks labor-intensive but well worth it. Living in what I think of as the land of clam chowder, I’m not sure I’ll ever do all the work of making one since so many restaurants here make it so well. But your pictures have made me hungry for some!

  25. Chandani

    The chowder looks great Nami and the snow got back here today after few weeks of warm temp. I can certainly use some winter recipe.

  26. Oh my gosh, I was just reliving the delights of the seafood chowder I’ve recently had for my birthday dinner and now, your clam chowder obviously won, hands down!:)

  27. Eileen

    I linked to your site through blogher. Looking forward to trying your asian pork chop recipe. I also check out your link to Keller’s clam chowder. Looks great, but time consuming. Definitely a weekend endeavor. I took a series of classes at the French culinary institute years ago and they taught us the technique of tin foil over the food with the whole in the center, actually they used parchment paper. Forgot what the french chefs called that technique. I have not employed that idea since taking those classes, but now I am going to think about it and maybe buy a japenese wooden one for ease. Your blog looks great and I love japenese food. Looking forward to checking in on your recipes again.

  28. Your chowder sounds perfect. Congratulations on your blogging anniversary!!!! That’s awesome. I did not realize you have only been blogging for a year. I love your site.

  29. おはようございます!


  30. Hi Nami,
    Chowder looks perfect! Congrats to all the winner!
    I know I am late but anyway friends can wish anytime A very happy 2012 to you and all your loved ones!
    Love always.

  31. This looks wonderful and so comforting, nice job. I am happy to be in a warmer climate, we are back in the 70’s and hope to reach 80 this weekend. It always helps with the sun shinning as much as it does around here in the winter.

  32. Such an awesome recipe, this is one of my fave soups. My travels in the summer often took me more to the American east coast so I had a lot of chowder there. I did however have an average claw chowder in a bread bowl in San Fran on the Pier lol.

  33. Nami, this looks incredible! I have a huge addiction to sourdough bread and LOVE clam chowder in a bread bowl. Yum! Pinned it :) The temp has finally dropped for us Nor Cal folks. It’s pretty darn cold out there today and this is looking perfect for lunch.

  34. Nami, you always impress me with your cooking skills…I love clam chowder, but always used the can clams…
    Yours look great…and awesome pictures.
    Have a great week :-)

  35. LOVE Thomas Keller and his recipes…man is a genius! I’m dying to go to The French Laundry in Napa. I’ve eaten at Bouchon Bistro though, which was pretty amazing. You did a wonderful job with his soup…looks divine, Nami! x

  36. I adore clam chowder and this looks like a beautiful version. I always love when you share recipes from Ad Hoc at Home! Such a beautiful book. It got VERY chilly last night in the mountains and I know you guys are getting some colder weather too…..this soup is just in time. :)

  37. Oooh you just reminded me of how much I adore clam chowder! If I’m rich one day, I really wanna visit one of Thomas Keller’s high-end restaurants. But until then (which will def never happen), I’ll just make his homey, creamy soup!

    Congrats to the winners!

  38. Clam Chowder, yum yum yum! I had no idea there are so many steps to making this, though I am sure the end result is well worth the efforts, but for some reason I get real nervous cooking clams and any seafood that’s not a fish (plus I don’t see fresh clams often), so this is something we just have to order in a restaurant…

    Sure brings back good memories of our trip from last year, San Francisco how do I love you!!!

  39. Dear Nami,

    Clam chowder creamy style is definitely one of my all time favourites in winter. Love the way you have presented it and topping it with bacon and chives is a must!!! Well done, you have taken this simple recipe up a few notches with your creativity!

  40. Oh my goodness, I love clam chowder. I love the sourdough bowl! You know I love to do the tourist thing and eat the bread bowl chowder at the wharf. I never even considered making my own! But your pictures make it look SO scrumptious! I bet it was super delicious!

  41. Sook

    Congrats to the winners! Lucky! I’ve won two things before but never got them in the mail. Kinda crappy, I know. Why would they even hold giveaways if they weren’t even going to ship them to me? Anyway, the chowder looks divine, Nami. I wish I could have a bowl of that!

  42. Lovely! I’ve never had soup in a bread bowl but I think that’s probably the best way to serve it and hahaha you wont need to dip the bread in the soup anymore just eat the whole bowl once you’ve had the soup ~

  43. Nami – This looks so delicious! I love clam chowder and have the book, Ad Hoc at Home. I am not sure what’s my excuse for not making this. Your photos are beautiful as always!

  44. Natalie

    Hey Nami!
    I love that you used a bread bowl for the clam chowder =) One of my favorite ways to have soup! Now I am craving chowder and I live in Miami. Hot soup on a hot day shouldn’t be so bad? Have a great one Nami!