Thursday, September 30, 2010
From the kichen of One Perfect Bite...In a perfect world garlic would be peeled and minced as needed, chicken stock would bubble gently on the stove, and kitchen shortcuts would be unheard of. I've been blessed with a near perfect life but it's spent in an imperfect world, so shortcuts abound in my kitchen. I not proud of them, mind you, but they are a real part of my life and there are nights that dinner would never make it to the table without them. I share them when I think they might be helpful, but for the most part they are my secrets and I reveal them in the same way you peel an onion, a layer at a time. Having said that, I suspect it won't surprise you to learn that I smile when the pros talk about shucking oysters or picking crab. I think it's important to know how to do those things, but, in the great scheme of things, I don't think it's necessary to actually do them. My bad attitude extends to clams as well. For years, I refused to make chowders with anything other than fresh clams and I'd pay premium prices to have them opened and chopped. My fishmonger loved to see me and my wallet coming. I still prefer to use fresh clams, but several years ago the warehouse stores started carrying restaurant-size cans of chopped clams and I have had them in my pantry ever since. They really are an acceptable alternative to fresh clams in dips, spreads, fritters and chowders. One of the problems that empty nesters encounter is the quantity of food that is produced when standard recipes are followed. Chowder is no exception. Several years ago Cook's Illustrated developed a chowder that used canned clams and was scaled to feed two people. It's a treasure of a recipe and if you enjoy chowder I hope you'll give it a try. A careful reading of the recipe will show it can easily be scaled up or down. I've made it for eight and I've made it for one. It works every time. There are a few things I want to share with you. I use 1/3 cup of drained, chopped clams for each can the recipe calls for. I use 1/4 cup finely chopped onion for each person I'll be feeding. One of the current oddities in recipe development is the push to list ingredients for some by weight rather than measure, while still calling for ballpark-general measures like half an onion or juice of a lime in others. What size onion? What size lime? I digress. This is a really nice recipe and those of you who try it will love it. The chowder is best made with heavy cream but it is workable with light cream or half-and-half. Here's the recipe.
Clam Chowder for Two...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite, courtesy of Cook's Illustrated
2 (6.5-ounce) cans minced clams
1 (8-ounce) bottle clam juice
Water , if necessary
2 slices thick-cut bacon (about 2 ounces), cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1/2 onion , chopped fine
1 clove minced garlic
1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
2 large red potatoes (about 3/4 pound), scrubbed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 large bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme or 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 - 3/4 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley leaves
1) Drain clams, reserving juices. Add bottled clam juice to reserved clam juice to measure 2-1/2 cups (if short, add enough water to make up difference).
2) Cook bacon in a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat until beginning to crisp, about 5 minutes. Stir in onion and cook until onion has softened and bacon is crisp, about 5 minutes.
3) Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in flour and coat vegetables, about 1 minute. Gradually whisk in clam broth. Stir in potatoes, bay leaf, and thyme. Bring to a simmer and cook until potatoes are tender, about 15 to 20 minutes.
4) Stir in clams, cream, and parsley. Return to a simmer briefly, then remove from heat. Discard bay leaf, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Yield: 2 servings.
You might also enjoy these recipes:
Ginger and Clam Soup - RasaMalaysia
Linguine and Clams and Garlic White Wine Sauce - The Red Spoon
Cuban Clam Fritters with Cilantro Mayonnaise - Lazaro Cooks
Steamed Clams in a Beer, Lemon and Garlic Sauce - Boston Whine and Dine
Spicy Asian-Style Noodles with Clams - Very Culinary
Clams and Mussels in Tomato Broth - Magiandobene