Sitting on a restaurant patio one chilly evening last week, I ordered New England clam chowder. What came out, I was told, was the very last cup, and it seemed so. Thick enough that a spoon planted vertically stayed upright for 3 minutes — until I became impatient watching, not because the spoon keeled over — the chowder clearly had been reducing on the stove or in the steam table all day.
Thick chowders appeal to me, at least in part because the variation on classic New England that was the house soup at my father’s Schenectady restaurant during my childhood and teenage years, The Oxbow Inn, was plenty thick, though not spoon-standable. I made gallons of it every Saturday for the couple of years during high school that I cooked weekend lunches and prided myself on achieving a hearty thickness.