Crabby Clam Chowder

Crabby Clam Chowder

Crabby Clam Chowder. It sounds like the signature soup at some seaside dive in Maryland, or Rhode Island (or California, or Vancouver, or…). “Come to The Crabby Clam for the Best Chowder by Sam.”

I can just see the billboard on the boardwalk. It would be a great big colorful drawing of Sam the Clam wearing a chef’s hat and a t‑shirt that says SAM. Of course Sam would have crab claws too. Crab claws pinching a big soup ladle, filled with yellow cartoon chowder.

You’re laughing I can tell. But as silly as it sounds that billboard would be effective. Places like The Crabby Clam always become institutions in touristy port towns. So much so that they wouldn’t have changed the billboard since 1953. Most the of the wait staff will have been working there practically as long. If you’ve got a winning formula, why change it– right?

Don’t get me wrong, I love restaurants like this (everyone does). Unfortunately I rarely love their chowder (or anything else on the menu). Places like the imaginary Crabby Clam may be beloved, but they almost never have good food. The chowder may be passable, and the fried clams might be strangely addicting. But good is not quite the right word.

When I want good chowder, I make it at home. My recipe for Crabby Clam Chowder is good. It’s made from freshly shucked summer corn, live clams and the best lump crab I can afford. The Crabby Clam would have to sell my Crabby Clam Chowder for at least $25 a mug. Don’t even ask me to compute the cost of a bowl of this stuff. Because prices like these will never fly on that part of the boardwalk.

Just for the record. I almost called this soup Clammy Crab Chowder. I had a whole other story involving the gastric distress of a nervous groom I once knew. So just be thankful I went with the name Crabby Clam Chowder. GREG

corn in huskfresh clamsCrabby Clam Chowder

Corn Chowder with Crab and Clams 

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 6Published
Corn Chowder with Crab and Clams


  • 3 tablespoon olive oil (divided)
  • 1 medium onion (diced)
  • 1 celery stalk (halved lengthwise and diced)
  • 4 clove garlic (peeled and minced, divided)
  • 1 teaspoon minced thyme leaves
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • kosher salt (as needed)
  • freshly cracked black pepper (as needed)
  • 4 cup clam juice (may substitute water)
  • 1 Idaho russet potato (peeled and cut into ½‑inch dice)
  • 36 live, fresh clams in shell
  • ½ cup white wine
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 cup half-and-half (may substitute milk or cream )
  • 3 ears fresh corn (shucked, cleaned, kernels cut from cob)
  • 8 ounce lump crab (optional)
  • chopped flat leaf parsley (as needed for garnish)


Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a medium Dutch oven, add onion, celery and half of the garlic. Cook, stirring often, until the vegetables soften but have not yet begun to color, about 5 minutes. Stir in thyme, cayenne and flour and cook, stirring the whole time, about 1 minute. Season generously with salt and pepper.

Raise the heat to medium-high and pour in the clam juice. Allow it to come to a boil, then add diced potatoes. Cook until tender, about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. You’ll notice the liquid thicken considerably, this is fine, just don’t allow it to burn or stick.

Meanwhile, wash the clams thoroughly and remove any grit. They should have no odor. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a large saucepan (with a lid) over medium heat. Add the remaining garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the wine and cook for a couple of minutes to combine the flavors. Add the clams and water, cover the pan and steam the clams until they open, about 8 to 10 minutes. Discard any clams that do not open and remove the opened clams to large bowl. Choose 2 of the prettiest looking clams in their shells per serving; set these aside. Remove the the meat from the remaining clams and roughly chop it. Discard empty shells.

When the potatoes in the Dutch oven are fork tender, reduce the heat to medium-low, add the half-and-half, corn kernels, lump crab (if using), and chopped clams. Gently simmer, without boiling, until the chowder has thickened and consistently creamy, about 5 minutes. Serve the warm soup in warm mugs or bowls garnished with the clams still in their shell and parsley.