Enjoy today’s guest blog, courtesy of our very own San Diego private chef Josh! Please visit his professional profile.
I friggin’ love clam chowder. I love most soups, but this one tends to be my first soup of the new football–I mean, fall season. Check out this rad poem in the Boston Evening Post from September 23,1751. This was the first printed recipe for a chowder.
First lay some Onions to keep the Pork from burning
Because in Chouder there can be not turning;
Then lay some Pork in slices very thin,
Thus you in Chouder always must begin.
Next lay some Fish cut crossways very nice
Then season well with Pepper, Salt, and Spice;
Parsley, Sweet-Marjoram, Savory, and Thyme,
Then Biscuit next which must be soak’d some Time.
Thus your Foundation laid, you will be able,
To raise a Chouder, high as Tower of Babel;
For by repeating o’er the Same again,
You may make a Chouder for a thousand men.
Last a Bottle of Claret, with Water eno; to smother ’em,
You’ll have a Mess which some call Omnium gather ’em.
I’m talkin’ about New England clam chowder, not the “soup” labeled from Manhattan that is nowhere near a chowder. I love the dish for many epicureal reasons, but I swear, sometimes I think it’s all in a name. How awesome is the word chowder. Say it! Say it with a North Eastern accent and it sounds even better! (I’m gonna name my next dog Chowdah.) Feelings of comfort and happiness are conjured with this word, but probably only if you’ve had a good bowl of it. I lived in the San Fransisco Bay area for several years; while I was there I spent a little time in the city looking for “The Best Clam Chowder.” Alas, my search was shortened by the disappointment of three consecutive LAME-O chowders. So, as the adage goes; “If you want something done right…better do it yourself.” Choices for the direction you want to steer your chowder are innumerable. Canned or fresh? Brothy or thick? Bacon or salt pork? Conformity to “tradition” or breaking the mold? Fatty Mcfat-fat cream or milk? The list goes on… Here are two recipes; one with fresh clams, a few extra ingredients and a couple extra steps. The second is made with canned clams, one pot, less time and with more ease. If cooking is not your thing, so what…do it…do it.
E-Z Clam Chowder
2 slices bacon, hacked up
1 medium onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
3-4 potatoes, peeled and diced
1/2tsp dried thyme
1 small can chopped clams in juice
1 5oz can clams, drained and rinsed
salt and pepper
1c cream or half ‘n half
1tsp dried dill *optional
1tsp dried or fresh parsley *optional
Heat a pot over medium heat, add the bacon to render some fat and brown. Add the next five ingredients along with a small pinch of salt and some fresh pepper. Saute until the onion is wilted, then stir in the flour o cook for a minute. Whisk in the chopped clams with juice being sure to smooth out any lumps of flour. Whisk in a couple cups of water in the same fashion, then add enough water or bottled clam juice to cover by 2 inches. Bring to a boil then turn down to a simmer for 10 minutes, or until the potatoes are cooked. Stir vigorously to mash up some of the potato, then add the remaining ingredients to heat through; taste for seasoning and serve.
Fresh Clam Chowder
4 slices bacon, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, diced small
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 bay leaf 20-30 littleneck clams, scrubbed well
4 sprigs fresh thyme, or 1/2tsp dried
1c white wine
1c clam broth
1-2c heavy cream
2 Idaho potatoes, peeled and diced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 stalk celery, diced small
1 tsp dried dill
1-2 T chopped Italian parsley
Heat a large pot over medium heat and add the bacon. Cook until the bacon renders most of its fat and strain off all but 1-2 tablespoons. Add the butter, onion, garlic, bay and thyme; cook until the vegetables are good and soft, 8 to 10 minutes. Meanwhile; in a large pan, bring the clam juice and wine to a boil. Add the clams; cover, and let steam for 3 minutes. Strain off the juice and reserve, then remove the clam meat from the shells and slightly chop the meat (unless the clams are small.) Toss the shells. Dust the sautéed vegetables with flour and stir to coat everything well. Whisk in the water until the flour is incorporated and smooth. Add the reserved clam broth and the potato. Bring to a boil, cover, and boil hard for about 7 minutes or until the potatoes break down. Add in the chopped clams, parsley, dill, celery and season with salt and pepper. Add the cream, bring up to heat and serve.