07 July, 2009

Clam Chowder

Every now and then I get a jones for New England clam chowder. Sometimes I order it at restaurants, but restaurant chowder is too often overthickened with gluey gums and wheat-starch pastes that lets the commercial commissary serve a "thick" chowder that is pretty damn thin when it comes to real ingredients like milk and potatoes and clams.

No, the best way is to make it yourself. It takes some time but the end result is so much better.

The recipe that follows is what I made this past weekend. We'd had a Fourth of July party and when all was said and done I had leftover corn on the cob and a bunch of baked potatoes. So instead of a straight clam chowder I made this kind of hybrid corn/clam/mushroom chowder that was outstanding.

Dave's Clam and Corn Chowder
Makes about 2 quarts

6 HUGE quahog clams
1 quart water
2 ears leftover corn on the cob
2 tablespoons bacon fat
1 large onion, chopped
1 rib celery, chopped
3 or 4 Baby Bella mushrooms, finely diced
1 sprig of fresh thyme, or 1/4 tsp dried
1 bay leaf
2 leftover baked potatoes
3 to 4 cups milk
2 tbsp butter
1/3 cup flour
Salt, pepper, and paprika to taste

Steam the quahogs in the quart of water just until they're opened. Reserve the clam broth. Remove the clam meats from the shells and chop them coarsely. Set the meat aside separately from the broth.

Cut the kernels from the ears of corn and then scrape the cob. Set the cut and scraped corn aside and discard the cobs.

Melt the bacon fat in a large heavy stockpot. Add the onion, celery, and mushroom and cook gently over medium-low heat until the onions are tender and amber, but not browned. Add the reserved clam broth to the pot with the thyme and bay leaf and simmer for a few minutes to bring out the flavor of the herbs. Add the corn to the pot and continue to simmer over low heat. Meanwhile, pare off the skin from the baked potatoes and cut the spuds into more-or-less half-inch cubes. Add the potatoes to the pot and turn off the heat.

With the heat off, stir in the milk and the clams and set the chowder aside for a few minutes.

In a small sautee pan, melt the 2 tablespoons of butter, and over low heat, work the 1/3 cup butter into the flour until the mixture is well-combined. This roux will be dry and crumbly. Cook it over low heat for a few minutes, stirring it frequently, to cook out the "raw flour" taste. Put the chowder back over the fire and slowly bring it up just to the simmering point. Don't boil it or the milk will curdle and separate out. With the chowder barely simmering, sprinkle in most of the roux, stirring all the while. Continue to cook and stir for three or four minutes until the chowder thickens slightly. It should be thinner than a gravy but still have some body. Add more roux if necessary but you might not need to use it all. Add salt, pepper, and good Hungarian paprika, seasoning to taste.

Omit the corn and, perhaps, the mushrooms for a more standard clam chowder.


Rebecca said...

Can you give us an idea of how much clam meat you generated from the 6 clams? 1 cup?

Dave said...

The clam meats were each about 2 and a half inches long, and there was a little less than a cup when they were all chopped.

Thanks for pointing that out.

NinBazi said...

I am going to try this sounds delicious thank you