Monday, May 16, 2011

A Spoonful of the Sea

I am a Southern girl at heart, but my family is from the North. I grew up on my grandparents' clam chowder and have always loved all things seafood. Every Fourth of July, my grandparents make a giant batch of fresh clam chowder. It seems odd because soup is hot, but clam chowder is a summer staple in New England.

If you've ever had that goopy, thick, tasteless clam chowder out of a can, forget it. Gross. Homemade clam chowder is TOTALLY different. Clam chowder with fresh clams is about as good as it gets.

I've never attempted to make it before because I thought it was a) too difficult, b) too expensive, and c) unhealthy. However, I was happily surprised to find that none of my preconceived notions were true. I found this clam chowder featured in the May 2011 issue of Cooking Light. I immediately knew I wanted to try it, and a lazy Saturday afternoon seemed like the perfect time. I modified the recipe a bit, and it was the most amazingly delicious soup ever.

My grandparents make a delicious and simple version with milk, potatoes, and clams. This version kicks it up with wine, onions, celery, bacon, chives, thyme, and a hint of red pepper. It tastes like a spoonful of the sea (in a good way!). The flavor is super deep and complex - rich, spicy, creamy, salty, and utterly yummy.

Clam Chowder
Adapted from Cooking Light, May 2011

1 1/2 cups onion, divided (I used a combo of red onion & shallots)
1/2 cup unoaked chardonnay
3 pounds littleneck clams (We bought them at Whole Foods, and they were super fresh and not too expensive... you buy the clams live in the shells... they're right there in the seafood case)
1 (8 oz.) bottle of clam juice (find at any grocery store next to the canned tuna)
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon butter
2 slices bacon, chopped
3 cups diced red potato
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
3 tablespoons flour
1/3 cup water
3/4 cup reduced fat 2% milk
3/4 cup half & half
2 tablespoons chopped chives
1 tablespoon fresh thyme

1. Rinse clams under water and scrub lightly.

2. Combine 1/2 cup onion, wine, clams, clam juice, and bay leaf in a dutch oven and bring to a boil. Cover and steam 2-4 minutes or until clams open.
3. While clams are steaming, chop remaining onion, potatoes, and celery.
4. Use tongs to remove clams from cooking liquid. They should be open. If any clams are not open, discard them. I threw away about 4 clams out of 3 pounds. Aren't they just beautiful??? 5. Strain cooking liquid through a sieve and save just the liquid in a bowl. That's liquid gold, baby. Don't let one drop of flavor get away.
6. Let clams cool slightly and remove meat with your hands. Discard shells and chop clam meat into large bite-sized chunks.

7. Add butter to dutch oven and brown bacon until crisp. 8. Add potatoes, celery, onion, and red pepper flakes to pan. Saute for about 3 minutes. The veggies won't be totally tender at this point, but don't worry... they will cook fully in the liquid later.

9. Add flour and cook for one minute. 9. Add reserved clam/wine liquid to pan plus 1/3 cup water. Bring to a boil. Lower heat, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
10. Add chopped clams, chives, thyme, half & half, and milk to the pan. Stir to combine and warm through. Remove from heat.

11. Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with chives, if desired. Serve with crusty bread and imagine you're eating on a dock in Maine.

Enjoy your bowl of chowda!!!!


1 comment:

Allison Leedie said...

Katie, tonight is our anniversary and in honor of getting married on Cape Cod, I'm making them. Thanks for sharing! - Leedie

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