On St Patrick’s Day there's always a temptation of heading to an Irish pub, grabbing a pint of Guinness and chowing down on some cabbage and potatoes when March 17 rolls around.

But there’s another beloved Irish dish that’s equally perfect: Molly Malone's Cockle and Mussel Chowder.

It's warming, it's cozy, it's like a big hug in a bowl and everyone loves it. Traditionally it’s a creamy chowder uses cockles and mussels as the name implies although clams can be used if cockles aren’t available along with smoked bacon, leeks, carrots and potatoes.

And yes, there once was a real girl named Molly Malone who sang and sold her shellfish in Dublin’s fair city.


  • 2 tablespoons sunflower oil
  • 4 ounces smoked bacon, diced
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 4 ounces leek, trimmed and very finely diced
  • 4 ounces carrot, very finely diced
  • 10 ounces potato (about 1 medium), peeled and finely diced
  • 2 1/4 pounds mixed Taylor clams and mussels
  • 1 1/4 cups dry white wine
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup light or heavy cream
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh parsley


  1. Heat the sunflower oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat.
  2. Add the bacon and sauté for about 1 minute, until crisp and golden.
  3. Add the butter in the pan and melt.
  4. Then add the leek, carrot and potato.
  5. Reduce the heat to low and sauté gently for 4 to 5 minutes, until soft but not browned.
  6. Meanwhile, prepare the cockles and mussels.
  7. Scrub the shells clean and discard any that remain open when you tap them against a hard surface. Remove the beard — the little fibrous tuft — from each mussel.
  8. Bring the wine to a boil in a large saucepan and add the cockles and mussels.
  9. Cover with a tight-fitting lid.
  10. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally, until the shells have opened.
  11. Remove from the heat, drain the shellfish in a colander (reserving the cooking juices).
  12. Return the shellfish to the empty pan to keep warm.
  13. Place a fine sieve over a measuring cup and strain the cooking liquid.
  14. You should have at least 2 1/2 cups; if not, add water to make up that quantity.
  15. Add the pan juices and the milk to the bacon and vegetable mixture and bring to a boil.
  16. Decrease the heat and simmer for 6 to 8 minutes, until the potato is tender.
  17. Add the cream and simmer for another 2 to 3 minutes, until the soup is reduced and thickened slightly. Season with salt and pepper.
  18. Meanwhile, remove half of the cockles and mussels from their shells.
  19. Add them, with the remaining cockles and mussels still in their shells, to the chowder.
  20. Stir in the parsley and serve at once and think of Ireland.