James Cagney’s New England Clam Chowder

My image

New England clam chowder sounded like a good way to finish a grey and wintery February day…especially as it was James Cagney’s Clam Chowder enjoyed with a Cagney flick. Cagney’s 1958 recipe specified that a generous three-dozen shucked, raw, soft-shell clams be boiled in the first step. This yielded a tasty broth, but some rather chewy clams. We’ve adapted/augmented the soup recipe to include more clam juice, and, to hold off on cooking the clams ’til the very end of the recipe for a more-tender result. You’ll appreciate that this is a nice, buttery, brothy chowder, not pasty or thick.

Makes 8 servings


  • 3 dozen shucked raw, clams and their liquid
  • 1 1/2 cups water, salted with 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 red potatoes, thinly sliced with skins on
  • 1/4 lb. diced salt pork, or, bacon
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 1 small bottle (8 oz.) clam juice
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 tsp dried savory
  • 1/4 tsp fresh thyme
  • 3 cups milk or light cream
  • Snipped parsley
  • 1 Tbsp butter


  1. Mince clams and drain liquid, reserving separately. (i.e.-Set liquid aside. Set clams aside separately.)
  2. In large soup pot, cook two thin-sliced potatoes in 1 1/2 cups salted water until tender.
  3. Cook bacon in a skillet. Add bacon to pot.
  4. In bacon fat remaining in skillet, cook onion until soft. Add onion to soup pot along with bottle of clam juice and reserved clam liquid. Add salt, pepper and herbs. Heat to boiling. Lower heat to simmer. Simmer five minutes.
  5. Add three cups milk or cream. Heat through. Once hot, add reserved clams and heat just until clams are cooked, but still tender. Serve chowder in bowls garnished with small bit of butter and snipped parsley on top of each.

Share Your Thoughts

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

65 + = 74