Core Sound Clam and Sweet Potato Chowder
Reprinted with permission from Saltbox Seafood Joint Cookbook (The University of North Carolina Press, 2019).
Yield: 8 servings
24 cherrystone (medium) clams, rinsed well and scrubbed clean
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/4 pound slab bacon or salt pork, diced
2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
2 medium leeks, tops removed, halved and cleaned, then sliced into half moons
3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into medium dice
1/2 cup dry white wine (such as pinot grigio or sauvignon blanc)
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
2 cups heavy cream
freshly cracked black pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
Set a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, pour in 4 cups water, and add clams. Cover and cook until clams have opened, 10 to 15 minutes. Note: Discard any clams that fail to open after 15 to 20 minutes.
Strain clam broth through a sieve lined with 2 layers paper towels and set aside. Remove clam meat from shells and set aside.
Rinse out pot, set on stove over medium-low heat, and melt butter. Add slab bacon or salt pork and cook, stirring occasionally, until fat has rendered and pork has started to brown. Remove pork with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Add garlic and leeks to fat and cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables are soft but not brown, about 10 minutes. Stir in potatoes and wine and cook until wine has evaporated and potatoes have started to soften, about 5 minutes. Add just enough clam broth to cover potatoes, approximately 3 cups, reserving the rest for another use. Add thyme and bay leaf. Simmer, partially covered, until potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes more.
Meanwhile, chop clams into pieces about the size of the diced pork.
When potatoes are tender, stir in cream, chopped clams and cooked pork. Season with black pepper. Bring chowder to a simmer then remove pot from heat. Discard thyme and bay leaf. Allow chowder to cure for about 10 minutes, reheating it to barely simmering before serving. Portion into deep bowls and garnish with chopped parsley.
Flavors pairing suggestion: Kupelwieser Pinot Grigio