Every year our neighborhood has a small informal block party in late September. Some people in our town have block parties with all the bells and whistles, but what I love about ours is the simplicity. We close off the street to traffic and everyone has a job to do and each family is charged $15 for hamburgers, hot dogs and paper products. Each family must bring either an appetizer, salad or dessert, their beverage, and a chair. This gives little stress to any one person. For dessert we light a fire pit in the street and children toast Smores. What this get-together is all about is neighbors taking the time to actually sit for a few hours and get to know each better and catch up on our busy lives.
My annual contribution to this event has become a large pot of New England Clam Chowder. I have a basic recipe that gets tweaked every year. I use fresh chopped clams from my fish market and canned clam juice making this a manageable recipe. Since I just came back from a long weekend on Cape Cod where I ordered clam chowder with every meal, I am excited to share this with you.
Block Party New England Clam Chowder
Makes 5 quarts
1 1/2 pints of fresh chopped clams
2 1/2 cups of heavy cream
2 1/2 quarts clam juice
4 oz. salt pork, cubed 1/4 inch
4 cups of peeled Yukon gold potatoes cubed 1/4 inch
1/2 cup flour
2 cups chopped onions
2 cups chopped celery
1 bunch of fresh thyme tied with a string
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon salt or to taste.
2 tablespoons onion power
1 teaspoon ground celery seed
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley
In a large stock pot cook cubed salt pork until crispy. Discard salt pork and add celery, onions and cook over medium low heat until soft (5 minutes). Add 1/2 cup of flour and cook over low heat for 5 minutes stirring to coat vegetables. Add 2 1/2 quarts of clam juice, salt, pepper, onion powder, ground celery seed and bunch of thyme. Bring this highly seasoned broth to a boil stirring to combine. Add potatoes and cook for 15 minutes over low heat until potatoes are tender. Remove tied thyme. Stir in 2 1/2 cups of heavy cream and 1 1/2 cups of fresh chopped clams. Cook chowder over low heat for 5 minutes until warm. Do not over cook chowder at this point. Stir in fresh chopped parsley and serve with oyster crackers.