Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Clam Chowder

While it hasn't been a particularly cold Winter it is one of the dampest I can remember. Damp, wet cold is so much worse than it's-been-snowing-for-months-and-there's-an-arctic-chill-in-the-air cold. Damp cold feels colder than it actually is and makes you feel less than Canadian when you realize it's only -1 and yet you're complaining about how so, so cold it is.

But really I'm here to talk about chowder. Clam chowder to be precise, which is just as good on a cold, damp day as it is on a cold snowy one. Did you know that January is National Soup Month? Not sure when this was decided or by whom but I'm always up to make soup. It happens to be one of my favourite things to do on the weekend. (The excitement this breeds around the house, as you can imagine, is palpable.)

Clam chowder is one of those soups that I only crave once or maybe twice a year. I'll give in to this craving by buying a can of something processed at the grocery store and will be thoroughly disappointed in the results. This year when the craving hit I decided to do what I should have done years ago and make my own chowder. I used a recipe from Bon Appetit for Quick New England Clam and Corn Chowder. I was very pleased with this soup. Of course the first ingredient is bacon (6 thick slices, to be precise) so I was already on-side from step one.

This clam chowder uses canned clams which aren't hard to come by if you know where to look (i.e. in the aisle with canned salmon, tuna, etc.). Canned clams threw David for a bit when he saw them on the grocery list. Although to be honest much about my grocery list throws him off. We spend a lot of time texting when he is at the grocery store. Pictures are exchanged to identify troublesome fruits and vegetables masquerading under pseudonyms he doesn't recognize. I also sometimes add 'helpful' stream of consciousness side-notes that need explaining. Lately we've taken to doing a run-down of the grocery list before he leaves the house so he can ask questions or get clarification about things. Like parsnips. He can never remember what parsnips are, so now I just write 'white carrots' on the list. Don't get him started on the whole rutabaga versus turnip thing either. The meat section is just as dangerous since there seems to be five hundred different ways to describe what are in fact five basic cuts of beef.

All this to say David was very proud of himself that he managed to pull off canned clams without having to text me or take pictures of various cans of fish and send them to me for approval. (We're those people in the grocery store who you wonder about because they seem to be having an intense exchange with someone on their cell phone or taking seemingly random pictures of food.)

The clams and juice (wherever you happen to find them) are combined with lots of good stuff to make this quick chowder - onion, carrot, rosemary, cubed potato and corn. Plus whole milk. Often when making soup I'll substitute 2% milk when whole milk is called for but not for clam chowder. Some soups need (deserve?) the full fat flavour of whole milk to be authentic. Clam chowder is one of them. So.

Slice up the bacon and fry it in your pot until it is crisp then remove it and set aside. You're going to use the bacon fat to sauté your onions, carrots and herbs plus the crisp bacon bits are going to get scattered overtop of your finished chowder. Some flour is added to the pot of sautéed vegetables/herbs before you pour in the milk (I assume to thicken your broth). In go the clams, the potato chunks and the corn. Simmer, simmer, simmer until the potatoes are tender which is about ten minutes. Ladle your soup into bowls and don't forget to garnish with the reserved bacon!

Great fresh from the pot and great warmed up the next day. A nice, simple chowder recipe that is so much better than heating up something from a can.

New England Clam Chowder from Epicurious


6 thick bacon slices, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces

1 large onion, chopped

2 large carrots, peeled, chopped

1 1/4 teaspoons dried thyme

3/4 teaspoon crushed dried rosemary

3 tablespoons all purpose flour

4 cups whole milk

1 8-ounce unpeeled white-skinned potato, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

3 6 1/2-ounce cans chopped clams in juice

1 8 3/4-ounce can corn kernels, drained

Chopped fresh parsley


Cook bacon in large saucepan over medium heat until crisp. Transfer bacon to paper towels to drain. Pour out all but 3 tablespoons drippings from pan. Add next 4 ingredients to pan; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sauté until vegetables are crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle flour over; stir 1 to 2 minutes. Gradually add milk to pan, stirring constantly. Bring to boil; reduce heat to medium and cook until slightly thickened, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Add potatoes, clams with juice, and drained corn. Bring to boil; reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until potatoes are tender, stirring often, about 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Divide soup among bowls, sprinkle with bacon and parsley, and serve.

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