Tuesday, February 10, 2015

new england clam chowder

It's been a nice cold snap!  In general, I think that people in Nashville are sort of wimpy about the winter.  Growing up in Kansas gave us a very solid winter season - tons of snow, bright crisp days, the whole nine yards.  In fact, the year that Vicki was born, we had just had our final blizzard in Topeka a few days before she came . . . in April!  Winter in Nashville is not as severe (which is good, because the second there is ice on the road, everyone forgets how to drive), but it's also not as beautiful.  It's mostly gray, kind of rainy, and a little depressing.  But this latest cold front has been lovely.  Freezing air that smacks you in the face the second you walk outside.  Blue skies with nary a cloud in sight.

I actually love winter because I am always hot.  I sweat a lot.  Winter is the only season each year that I feel relatively comfortable all the time.  And it's the only time I really enjoy drinking hot beverages (aside from coffee, which really should be its own food group in my daily diet) like tea or cocoa, and eating lots of warming soups.

Clam chowder has always been a favorite of mine.  The creamy texture, chunks of potatoes, faint salty background from bacon, and bits of chewy clam - yum.  We made a pot last night and dipped sourdough rolls into it, although I know that oyster crackers are more traditional.  I meant to also make a massaged kale salad to go alongside, but I forgot.  And no one complained!  This is a very nourishing and nutritious soup:  homemade chicken stock for lots of minerals and collagen, clams for tons of iron (more per ounce than beef!), grass-fed milk and cream for fat-soluble vitamins.

I always use canned clams because we are landlocked and finding fresh clam is not worth the trouble or the price.  But if you are near the coast - by all means!  Use fresh clams.  You would need between 3 and 4 pounds of fresh unshelled clams to yield 13 oz of clam meat.  Just steam them until they open, allow them to cool, pick the meat and save the juice.

New England Clam Chowder
3 oz bacon or salt pork (we used cured jowl from our recent half-hog purchase), sliced into 1/4" pieces
1 onion, finely chopped
2 6.5 oz cans of chopped clams in clam juice
1 C chicken stock
2 1/2 C peeled, chopped potatoes (3-4 medium russets)
1 t Worcestershire sauce
1/4 t ground thyme
1 C milk
1 C cream
2 T flour (use sprouted if you prefer)
salt and pepper

Serves 4-6

Place bacon pieces in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Allow them to crisp and render until they are totally done.  Remove them to a plate and leave the fat in the pan.

While the bacon is cooking, open the cans of clams and drain them, reserving the juice.  Measure the juice and make sure you have one cup.  If not, add water or more chicken stock to make one cup.  Set clams and juice aside.

Place chopped onion in hot bacon fat.  Allow it to cook for 7-10 minutes, until totally soft.

Add clam juice, chicken stock, potatoes, Worcestershire sauce, and thyme to the pot.  Bring it up to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.  Cook until the potatoes are tender (15 - 20 minutes).

While the soup is simmering, whisk together milk, cream, and flour.

After potatoes are tender, add clams as well as the milk/cream/flour mixture.  Allow it to come up to a simmer.  The flour will begin to thicken the soup slightly.  Taste the soup and add salt and pepper as needed.

Serve with warm sourdough rolls or oyster crackers, and pass the bacon bits you saved from the beginning to top the bowls of soup!

[This post submitted to Fat Tuesday 2/10/15, Real Food Wednesday 2/11/15, and the HomeAcre Hop 2/12/15.]

No comments: