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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

Ingredients:
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
.........or........
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

Directions:
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.

Shrimp Broth

Ingredients:

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

Directions:
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.

20 comments :

Julia said...

Now-a-days, you can get pretty descent frozen fish - which works well in chowders. And I don't think the texture suffers appreciably in this format.

I love that you make your own shrimp stock. Looks great!

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

One of the first things I cooked and was over joyed with was clam chowder using canned clams - land locked St Louis then.
Fresh clams are divine but canned in chowder works wonderfully too.

girlichef said...

Funny Mary...living in the midwest, I'm weary of using "ocean-fare"...because I like my seafood as fresh as possible. But, one thing I love to make is clam chowder, because bottled clam juice and canned clams are things I actually love (strange?)! Your chowder looks delicious...you've started me thinking chowder....

Martha said...

The only clam chowder we had was with canned clams -- shellfish are not too prevelant on the prairie! But I will certainly keep your recipe for the shrimp broth. I've never done that and it's nice to make something from something that would go to waste.

My Carolina Kitchen said...

I'm betting the shrimp stock makes all the difference in the world in the taste of your chowder. It's amazing how much taste there is in those little shells.
We love New England chowder the best in our family although I like a good Manhattan chowder from time to time. Have always used canned clams because, like your mother, fresh ones aren't usually available here. Great post.
Sam

Susan said...

Love clam chowder. This looks PDG, as you sat ;)

Donna-FFW said...

It is pouring and chilly here in NJ right now, this soup would be perfect for today! Looks fantastic!

Netts Nook said...

I love clam chowder it is hard not to have fresh I love your idea. Thanks for sharing.

Natashya said...

I have never cooked with clams, canned or fresh. I have been thinking that I should save my shrimp shells for stocks and you have convinced me.
I bookmarked this recipe to try, looks yummy and fairly easy - thanks!

Lisa said...

This is so perfect if you can't get fresh clams!

Cathy said...

Your chowder looks so delicious and inviting. Its one of my favorite soups. Saving shrimp shells for stock is a great idea. I do it with veggies and leftover chicken so will add a third bag to my freezer for shrimp.

Katherine Aucoin said...

I feel your Mother's pain coming from the Gulf Coast to the mountains. I am longing to try and make clam chowder and all of your recipes always look and sound so fabulous.

I make shrimp stock out of shrimp shells too. If they only sold shrimp with the heads on here. Adding the shrimp heads when making stock mades the stock so much richer.

Pam said...

Oh Mary...it looks and sounds divine. I love the big chunks of clams - yum!

Ning said...

I agree that making our own stock is healthier and tastier. I am fortunate I live in this area where fresh seafood are aplenty. I confess I have not tried canned clams yet. But this is indeed a great time-saver.

Thank you for being so supportive and always the first to visit my new posts. I have not really been away. I had an accident a month ago, and I could not move a lot for a while. :) It is great to be back!

Mary said...

Ning, I hope all is now well. You have my email if you'd like to talk. Hugs....Mary

Bridgett said...

My husband loves clam chowder and I have yet to even make it. Yours looks amazing!

Lori said...

I LOVE clam chowder. My Mom makes a mean Manhattan Chowder so I dont even bother. I love to make New England chowder. I am one who likes the fork to almost stand up in it. Okay, not quite but close. Next time I will try yours Mary- it looks fabulous.

The Blonde Duck said...

This looks great! I've never had clam chowder!

Poet laurete, huh? Think they'd like an ode to PB and how I love thee?

noble pig said...

It's hard to imagine not being able to get fresh seafood.

I think in chowder canned works great!

Anna A. said...

Love the simplicity of this soup. It looks and sounds
Delicious. I will be checking out this blog
Soon!

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