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Monday, November 16, 2009

Clam Chowder



I love soup. When it's cold and snowy outside, I just have to make it. My inspiration for making clam chowder came from these beautiful Manila clams I got at Costco for $3.29 / lb when they  opened up the fresh seafood counter. There were about 3 pounds in the bag. You can use canned clams if you like. Just make sure to rinse them a couple of times.

I then I began my recipe search. I do not like the gloppy, tasteless chowder with chewy clams that you get at  many restaurants, or from a can. I want lots of chunky potatoes, carrots, and celery and sweet, tender clams in a thick, savory, saucy base. I don't mind if it's not white.
As with all good soups, it starts with good stock. I am obsessed with stock. It makes everything better, except chocolate cake. But, I didn't have any fish stock on hand, nor did I have any clam juice. And there was no way I was going out in the snow to get any. But I did have some frozen leftover lobster shells from the last time we had lobster. And, I had several frozen Talapia fillets. So, I pulled out the big stock pot, and threw in the lobster shells, 1 rough chopped onion, 2 stalks celery, 2 carrots, a palmful of whole peppercorns, 1 frozen Talapia fillet, 1 head of garlic, cut in half,  a handful of parsley, and 4 bay leaves. Filled the pot with water, brought it to a simmer, then went and watched a movie while it simmered.
You could also use 1/2 clam juice and 1/2 chicken stock.

About 3 hours later, I came back to my soup. I continued to simmer the stock while I prepped the clams. If you have a nested pasta pot, the kind that the colander fits inside the solid pot, use that. It's easy to lift out the solids, leaving the stock in the pot.
Rinse clams thoroughly in a colander. Clams can be sandy.


Then soak them for about 15 minutes in a solution of salt, about 1/4 cup, and cornmeal, about 1/4 cup. It's supposed to draw out the sand. Rinse them off.











Then re-soak in a new batch of cold, salted and corn mealed (I don't think that's a word), water. Give it a good swish. (That's not my hand, really). Rinse again in cold water.

Let the clams hang out in clean, cold water while you prep the veg. You'll need 2 leeks, 1 onion, 2 big carrots, 4 stalks celery, including the leaves,(the inner stalks are tender, have less strings, and more leaves),1 red bell pepper, 8 red potatoes, and 2 green onions. Get out some all purpose flour, about 1/3 cup, a few sprigs of fresh thyme, a few sprigs of fresh parsley,  1/2 stick butter, and about 5 slices bacon.

When dealing with a bunch of veg to prep, I find it helpful to fill up your clean sink with cold water, then toss the veg right in.


Take them out and place them on a clean towel.

Start the prep.

Prep the leeks. Cut off the dark green parts, and slice off the bottoms.


Cut them in half.

Swish them around in a sink full of cold water . Get the sand out.


Dry them off, and slice up.

Peel the carrots, celery, red pepper, and potatoes. You don't have to completely peel the potatoes, just get off the ugly stuff. Using the Miracle Peeler, I peeled all this in less than 10 minutes. Chop everything into bite size pieces, except the onion. Mince that more finely.
See how everything is prepped and ready? That's "Misenplace", french for "everything in place". I like things that way. Everything in it's place.

OK. Veg ready. Let's fry up some bacon. Chop it up.

Put it in a Dutch oven over medium/high heat. Add 1 tsp butter to the pot to keep it from sticking.

When it's nice and crispy, take it out of the pot and drain it on a paper towel. Note: Keep all males out of the kitchen, as the bacon will disappear, and you'll have to fry up some more. Or, just fry up a few more slices and put them in the living room with a football game or Star Trek on the TV. Problem solved.

Now, add the onions, carrots, celery, and leeks to the same pot. And for the love of  Mike, do not clean out the pot! Season up the veg with Kosher salt and pepper.

Cook them over medium heat for about 15 minutes, adding peppers during last 5 minutes. You want them somewhat tender, but not brown.  Remove from pot and put in a bowl.
Now add 2 Tbls butter to empty pot. Melt it.

Add 1/3 cup flour to butter and whisk it in. Cook for about 3 minutes. You want to get out that "raw flour" taste without browning the roux.

My camera froze up here, so I'll have to describe the next few steps. After butter and flour have cooked for about 3 minutes, add 1/2 cup white wine, whisking vigorously. You just want enough wine to de-glaze the pot and get all the yummies stuck to the side into the soup.  The flour mixture will thicken almost into a solid like state. Now it's time to pour in about 8 cups of the fish stock that's been simmering all this time. Whisk until smooth. Return all veg to the pot.


Take some kitchen string and tie the parsley and thyme together. You could also wrap them up in cheesecloth and tie it closed, but who really keeps a good supply of cheesecloth on hand? By the way, this is called a "bouquet garni" in cooking french. Otherwise known as, "herbs tied up in string".

Throw the herb bundle in the pot. Add about 4 bay leaves and sir it around.


Cook the soup over medium/high heat until it comes to a boil. You won't know how thick the broth will be until it comes to a boil.

Reduce to simmer.Stir.  Let that hang out on simmer while you cook the clams.Put them in a big, deep skillet. Add enough fish stock to come up to about halfway. We're steaming here, not boiling.

Cover them up with a tight fitting lid, and turn the heat up to "high".

When the clams start to pop open, about 10 minutes, take the lid off. With tongs in hand, remove all open clams immediately, and put them in a bowl. Do not abandon the clams! Stand at the stove and remove each and every one as soon as they pop open. Overcooked clams are tough clams. Discard any that stay closed.
After clams are done and in a bowl, remove the meat from the shell. You can use a paring knife, but these clams were so tender, I just fished them out with my fingers. There is a muscle that stays attached to the shell. Don't try to get that out.

This really goes faster than you might think. Put all clam meat aside. Chop if pieces are large.
Let's get back to the soup. Stick a fork in a carrot, or, taste one. If it is tender, the soup is just about done.
Add about 1 cup heavy cream to soup.




Whisk it in.


Do not boil. If the soup isn't thick enough, as mine wasn't, make a "buerre mane". Pronounced, "Burr Manyay", french for  "butter and flour mixed into a paste".
Put 2 Tbls soft butter into a dish.

Add 2 Tbls flour. Mix it up with a fork.

Stir until it's a very smooth paste.

Add it to hot soup. Stir. If the consistency is thick enough, add the bacon and green onions to the pot.

Just prior to serving, taste the soup. Re-season as necessary. Fish out the herb bundle.

Now it's time to add the clams. Clams should never be cooked more than once. Just heat them through in the soup broth.
This soup is done! Serve with a nice Sourdough bread, toasted with butter.

Finish with some chopped fresh parsley.
If, by chance the soup is still not thick enough, take about 1/2 cup of the potatoes, and some broth, out of the pot. (Don't worry if you have some veg in there).  Buzz it up with an immersion blender, or in a blender. Add back to soup. If you keep adding Buerre mane, the soup will have a floury, pasty, flavor. Not delish.
Enjoy in front of the fire.



1 comment:

  1. Oh gosh C. It looks so yummy. Now to try and find a few hours to recreate it myself.

    ReplyDelete

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About Me

Colorado Springs, Colorado, United States
I'm a home cook that can put some good tasting food on the table, most of the time. My family knows dinner is ready when the fire alarm goes off.