Wednesday, April 15, 2009
New England Clam Chowder for Harried, Landlocked Cooks
When my parents moved from the east coast to the south side of Chicago, a recipe for clam chowder came with them. There was, however, a problem; fresh clams were not available in our landlocked neighborhood. My mother - God bless her - considered the midwest to be an outpost in the Sahara. Like it or not, she had to rely on canned clams and broth and she was able, after fits and starts, to make a PDG chowder. Over the years my recipe for clam chowder has changed from the one made by my mother. I've had help from the New York Times, Cook's Illustrated, Fine Cooking and an old Julia Child recipe for fish chowder. There's a bit of them all in today's recipe which uses canned clams. Why canned clams? They are readily available, inexpensive and easy to work with. They make it possible for a busy cook to produce a chowder in about 30 minutes and sometimes that's important. I can't tell you how important that's been at certain junctures in my life. This recipe also allows the use of canned clam broth. I must be honest here. We have shrimp several times a month. Rather than discard the shells I freeze them until I have enough of them to make a lovely fish broth that I can store in 1 cup containers. I use homemade broth whenever I can and while it produces an extraordinary depth of flavor, bottled clam broth will also produce a lovely chowder. I'm including a recipe for quick shrimp broth as well as my recipe for chowder. Both are easy to do. I hope you'll give them a try.
New England Clam Chowder
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 ounces (about 4 slices) thick cut bacon, cut in 1/4-inch dice
2 cups diced yellow onion
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups shrimp stock
2 (8-oz.) bottles clam broth + 1 cup water
4 (6.5-oz.) cans drained chopped clams, juices reserved
3 Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut in 3/4-inch dice
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1 cup heavy cream or half-and-half
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
1) Heat vegetable oil in a soup kettle over medium heat. Add bacon and saute until crisp and brown, about 5 minutes. Add onions and saute until softened, about 5 minutes longer. Sprinkle with flour and stir until lightly colored. Slowly stir in broth, reserved clam broth and water if using. Add potatoes, bay leaf and thyme; simmer until potatoes are fork tender, about 10 minutes.
2) Add clams, cream, and parsley. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and serve. Yield: 4-6 servings.
Shells from 3 pounds shrimp
5 cups water
6 black peppercorns
1/4 cup coarsely chopped onions
2 ribs celery coarsely chopped
1 bay leaf
1) Place all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer for 20 minutes and strain.
2) Freeze in labeled 1 cup containers. Yield: 4 cups.
I'm submitting this recipe to Regional Recipes, a food blogging event created by Darlene of Blazing Hot Wok, in which a different culture and cuisine is explored each month. JS and TS of Eating Club Vancouver are hosting this month's event which spotlights America.