Monday, October 1, 2012

The Recipe: New England Clam Chowdah

Check out this recipe on my new and improved website:

I used to think of Boston as a quaint, historic town with nice people who just had a funny accent (though I was born with a fairly standard American accent, so anything other than my own dialect sounds exciting and funny to me. That means you, Washingtonians who say "beg" instead of "bag"). However, after a recent trip to Boston and my encounter with a group of Massholes (yep, it's a thing) at Fenway Park, I was left with a slightly less positive view. Honestly, guys, just because the Angels' center fielder is named Trout, it does not mean that you have to make the same fish pun for the entire game. Even the high schoolers I teach know that a joke loses its impact after the third time. Anyway, the point of this story is that Boston is in need of some redemption from these less-than-gentlemen. To do so I will make a delicious New England Clam Chowdah and spell it as it should be pronounced, and in true Walking Cookbook style, I will do it without consulting the recipe.

I found my recipe on the Williams-Sonoma website. A few things that stood out to me in this particular recipe were the use of fresh clams instead of canned and the use of thyme (the one remaining indoor plant that I haven't completely killed-- someone help me learn to garden, please!) Some may grumble at me for omitting the bacon/pancetta/salt pork. Sorry, folks, but I just don't eat it. Add some in if you wish by first cooking it up in a pan, dumping out half of the grease, and proceeding with the preparation of the soup. Either way, I guarantee it will be some wicked awesome soup.

I'll be serving the Chowdah with some delicious bread and a salad to lighten up the meal. We'll top it off with a fruity dessert. After all that decadent cream, we will need something less weighty.

I have a dream of eating this soup out of a bread bowl--
we'll see if I can find some baby loaves
The Recipe: New England Clam Chowdah, adapted from Williams-Sonoma
Yield: 8 servings

  • 1 container frozen chopped clams, thawed
  • 3 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 lbs. yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 2 tbsp. all purpose flour
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tsp. worchestershire sauce
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1 tbsp. fresh chopped chives
  • red pepper flakes, to taste
  • Strain the juices of the clams through a fine-mesh sieve lined with cheesecloth into a bowl. Add enough water to the juices to total 5 cups. 
  • Set aside the clam meat.
  • Over medium heat, melt the butter in the pan. 
  • Add the onion, celery, garlic and thyme and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft, 3 to 5 minutes. 
  • Add the flour and cook for 1 minute more. 
  • Add the potatoes, bay leaves and clam juice-water mixture and bring to a boil. 
  • Reduce the heat and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. 
  • Stir in the cream, Worcestershire, salt, black pepper and cayenne. 
  • Using a fork, lightly mash the potatoes against the side of the pot to thicken the soup. 
  • Add the clams and cook for 2 minutes. 
  • Remove the bay leaves and discard. 
  • Ladle the soup into warmed bowls or bread bowls and garnish with the chives and red pepper flakes.
Time to memorize: 3 days

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