fbpx

Traditional Clam Bisque and Tomato Clam Bisque

Soup Recipes

Traditional clam bisque and tomato clam bisque

People who like clams generally speaking you’ll fall into one of two categories: clam lovers and clam likers. Clam lovers can be summarized in four words: the brinier the better. They love raw clams on the half shell, steamers dipped in clam broth and the clammiest clam dishes you can possibly make. If that describes you, you’ll absolutely love the first clam bisque recipe below for a traditional clam bisque. It’s got that ultra-briny flavor that hardcore clam enthusiasts crave (which by the way, includes myself).

Clam likers are those that like clams but don’t necessarily love the ultra-briny stuff. They veer more towards dishes that tone down the saltier side of clams, things like clam chowder, stuffed clams, clam cakes, and so forth. If that describes you, you’ll love the second recipe below for a tomato clam bisque.

A Soup for the Sea Gods

Now you might not even be aware that there is such a thing as clam bisque. It is one of those old time soups you rarely see anymore. The only place you’ll really find it is in the dusty pages of old New England seafood cookbooks. Why it faded away I don’t know. But what I do know is that a clam bisque is a thing of almost mystical beauty, one of those soups that I imagine would be served to satisfy the deities of ancient seafaring civilizations.

Similar to a lobster bisque, which enhances the flavor of lobster, clam bisque also concentrates and intensifies the salty, herbaceous flavor of fresh clams. Therein lies its seductive allure.

There are two reasons for this. The first is the clam liquor inside the clam shells which contains the briny essence that clam lovers adore. Every clam bisque (or any clam soup) recipe starts out by steaming whole clams in a little water. When the shells open they infuse the water with their liquor. This is known as clam broth or clam juice. Clam lovers sometimes call this heavenly broth the “nectar of the sea.”

clam broth which is the foundation for clam bisque

The second reason clam bisque is so delicious is the clams themselves. Sounds obvious but there’s a secret…

The Secret to Making an EPIC Clam Bisque

This is a secret that either nobody knows (because nobody makes clam bisque anymore) or a secret closely guarded by chefs. But even chefs may not be aware of it because not even chefs make clam bisque anymore. Let’s face it, when it comes to seafood soups, you rarely see anything other than clam chowder and lobster bisque on menus.

In the classic Provincetown Seafood Cookbook, which features dozens of rare old time recipes, author and chef Howard Mitcham writes of his clam bisque recipe, “Now it’s almost sacrilegious to ask you to do this, but this soup has to be clear and light colored, so-o-o split the bellies of the clams and rinse out the contents. (I’ll never ask you to insult a clam like this again).”

At the very least, Mitcham humorously acknowledges that removing the clam bellies will sacrifice flavor. And that is the secret.

Do NOT remove the clam bellies!

Yes, pureeing whole clams into a bisque will slightly darken the color and prevent if from being a clear soup. Personally, I don’t give a rats behind about this! There is SO MUCH FLAVOR in those clam bellies! Why discard them? It also takes more work to split all those clams and remove the bellies.

Chefs do it because it makes the soup look more appetizing. After all, paying customers don’t want unappetizing looking food. But this blog is for home cooks, not for chefs in restaurants and I’m telling you with absolute certainty that the flavor of a clam bisque with whole clams is superior to one with the bellies removed. It is for this very reason that I actually prefer clam bisque to lobster bisque. 

The Not-so Secret to Making a Really Good Clam Bisque

Listen, I’m not saying you MUST only use whole clams. I’ve made clam bisque both with whole clams and clams that have their bellies removed. For the latter, that typically means canned clams. Sometimes a local fishmonger will have fresh clam meat by the pound which is often stripped of clam bellies. That’s always a better option that canned clams. But you know what? Canned clams still make a really good clam bisque. Is it epic? No. But not everything needs to be epic. You can make either of the recipes below with canned clams. It will certainly save you some time and money which I understand is not insignificant for most people these days.

If you want to substitute canned clams for the recipes below, simply strain the clams from the juice and reserve the juice. You’ll get about 1/2 cup of clams per can which is about the equivalent of 12 whole steamed littleneck clams. You’ll need to purchase some additional bottled clam juice to measure the 3 total cups of clam broth in the recipes. Bar Harbor brand clam juice is outstanding.

Enjoy!

Traditional Clam Bisque (For Clam Lovers)

Traditional clam bisque and tomato clam bisque

Traditional Clam Bisque

Traditional clam bisque is a simple, straight up, no frills version that highlights the briny quality of fresh quahog clams. All you need is clams, onions, scallions and cream. 

Course Soup
Cuisine American
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Author Craig Fear

Ingredients

  • 3 dozen littleneck clams, rinsed and scrubbed clean or 3 canned clams
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 TBSPs unsalted butter
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 2-3 scallions
  • ¼ cup white rice
  • 3 cups clam broth
  • ¾ of reserved whole clam meats
  • ½ – 1 cup heavy cream
  • ¼ of reserved whole clam meats

Optional seasonings, to taste

  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Parsley
  • Chives
  • Pinch paprika

Instructions

  1. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a 5-6 quart stock pot and add clams. Steam for about 5 to 10 minutes. Stir clams once or twice to steam evenly. Remove from heat as soon as the shells open. Remove the clams and strain the broth through a fine mesh strainer. Set the broth aside and reserve. You should get about 2 ½ – 3 cups clam broth. Add additional water to measure 3 cups of broth total.
  2. Let the clams cool for a few minutes and then remove the clam meats from their shells. Set aside. You should get about 1 ½ cups clam meats.
  3. If using canned clams, simply strain the clams from the juice and reserve the juice. You’ll get about 1/2 cup per can. You’ll need to purchase some additional bottled clam juice to measure 3 total cups of clam broth.
  4. Melt butter over medium heat in a 5-6 quart stock pot and add onions and scallions and saute about 5-7 minutes until onions are translucent.
  5. Add clam broth and bring to a boil. Add white rice, cover and reduce heat to a steady boil. Simmer for 10-15 minutes until rice is cooked through.
  6. Remove the stockpot from the stove top. Take ¾ of the reserved clam meats, add to the stock pot and puree the bisque with a handheld immersion blender. Be very careful not to splatter hot soup!
  7. Add ½ cup of cream and stir in. Add additional ½ cup of cream, if desired.
  8. Ladle bisque into individual bowls and add a handful of the remaining ¼ whole clam meats to each bowl. Add optional seasonings, to taste.

Tomato Clam Bisque (For Clam Likers)

Traditional clam bisque and tomato clam bisque

Tomato Clam Bisque

This recipe highlights the harmony of briny clams and sweet, acidic tomatoes. It’s sort of a hybrid between a tomato-based chowder and a brothy tomato clam soup. 

Course Soup
Cuisine American
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Author Craig Fear

Ingredients

  • 3 dozen littleneck clams, scrubbed and rinsed clean or 3 cans canned clams
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 TBSPs unsalted butter
  • 1 large onion
  • 2-3 scallions
  • ¼ cup white rice
  • 2 cups clam broth
  • 1 14 ounce can tomatoes
  • 1 TBSP tomato paste
  • ¾ of reserved whole clam meats
  • ½ – 1 cup heavy cream
  • ¼ of reserved whole clam meats

Optional seasonings, to taste

Instructions

  1. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a 5-6 quart stock pot and add clams. Steam for about 5 to 10 minutes. Stir clams once or twice to steam evenly. Remove from heat as soon as the shells open. Remove the clams and strain the broth through a fine mesh strainer. Set the broth aside and reserve. 

  2. Let the clams cool for a few minutes and then remove the clam meats from their shells. Set aside. You should get about 1 ½ cups clam meats.
  3. If using canned clams, simply strain the clams from the juice and reserve the juice. You’ll get about 1/2 cup per can. You’ll need to purchase some additional bottled clam juice to measure 3 total cups of clam broth.
  4. Melt butter over medium heat in a 5-6 quart stock pot and add onions and scallions and saute about 5-7 minutes until onions are translucent.
  5. Add clam broth, tomatoes and tomato paste and bring to a boil. Add white rice, cover and reduce heat to a steady boil. Simmer for 10-15 minutes until rice is cooked through.
  6. Remove the stockpot from the stove top. Take ¾ of the reserved clam meats, add to the stock pot and puree the bisque with a handheld immersion blender. Be very careful not to splatter hot soup!
  7. Add ½ cup of cream and stir in. Add additional ½ cup of cream, if desired.
  8. Ladle bisque into individual bowls and add a handful of the remaining ¼ whole clam meats to each bowl. Add optional seasonings, to taste
Fearless Eating may receive commissions from purchases made through links in this article. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. More info here.
The traditional clam bisque recipe is for those who love the ultra-briny flavor of fresh clams. The tomato clam bisque recipe is for those who like clams but don\'t necessarily love the ultra-briny stuff. Regardless, there\'s a key secret to making a really great clam bisque! 

#bisque #clambisque #seafoodsoup #bisquerecipe
Follow

About the Author

Craig Fear is the creator of Fearless Eating and the author of three books, The 30-Day Heartburn Solution, Fearless Broths and Soups and The Thai Soup Secret. After years helping clients with digestive issues, Craig decided to pursue writing full-time. He intends to write many more books on broths and soups from around the world! Click here to learn more about Craig.

close

Learn to STOP Acid Reflux! 

And learn how an ancient, simple food is a much healthier and safer option to drugs.

  • The little-known root cause to heartburn that the pharmaceutical industry doesn’t want you to know.
  • Why popular OTC drugs cause long-term health problems such as bone loss and nutrient deficiencies.
  • check
    12 heartburn-busting recipes to get started!
Share15
Pin5
Tweet
Yum