Friday, February 3, 2012

Clam Chowder

Chowda Time!

I ate a whole lotta Campbell's soup growing up.  Beef & barley, chicken noodle, cream of mushroom (oh how I love thee), but I think my favorite had to be clam chowder.  Oh was it creamy! Oh was it salty! Oh was it...oh it was everything!

Not everyone felt the same way, like that asshole in kindergarten who said my beloved clam chowder, which I had brought to school in a thermos, looked like throw-up.  Clearly his childhood was not enriched by the wonders and breadth of the canned soup aisle. Asshole.

Trying to revive some of that ol' chowda memories (sans Mr. Asshole), I went to the grocery store and spent one bazillion dollars on littleneck clams.  It ended up being worth it because the flavor was amazing and better than when I had used chopped claims in the past (either canned or frozen), but I certainly do not turn my nose up at chopped clams and highly recommend them if you don't want to use fresh clams.

I remember you, asshole, and lemme tell you this clam chowder is good.

Adapted from Epicurious

  • 40 small clams, such as littlenecks (about 2 inches in diameter--my grocery store sold about 45 in a bag that cost, again, about a bazillion dollars)
    • If you're using chopped clams (frozen or canned), you'll need about 1 1/2 cups
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 8 oz bottled clam juice (or you could just use water, for a total of 1 1/2 cups water)
  • 3 bacon slices, cut into 1/4" dice (you could do 2 slices, you could do 4--3 seemed about right for the amount of clams I had and how much bacon flavor I wanted)
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 russet potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1/4" dice
  • 1 TBS butter
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 2 TBS finely chopped parsley
Serves 4 to 6

First, rinse and scrub your clams well to get rid of loose dirt and grit hanging onto the shells.  Discard any clams with broken shells (a little chip here and there is fine, but a few of mine looked like they had been mauled).

Place clams in pot (mine was 4 quarts) with water and clam juice (or all water, if you're not using clam juice).

Turn heat to medium high and cover pot so clams can steam for about 5 to 8 minutes, stirring every once in a while.  Remove clams to a separate bowl as they open--that started happening for me about the 5-minute mark and kept going. It was like a game--you pick out one, and then lo and behold another one opens! This was very fun for me, which should tell you something about my life.

Pickin' out clams--this one was a gaper.

THROW AWAY the ones that don't open--they have spoiled and may cause serious gastrointestinal stress if you eat them.  Lemme tell you about the last time I had a bad clam.  Well maybe I won't.  Okay I'll say this--you know those juice cleanses they talk about? Save some money and just eat a bad clam.

All innocuous-looking but this guy really just wants to invite you to an evening with the toilet.

Turn off the heat.  When clams are cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the shells and build your little pile of oceanic wonder.  Then roughly chop them.


Pour cooking liquid through a fine-meshed sieve lined with a paper towel or cheesecloth into a bowl.  Don't pour all the way--leave the grit behind.  Clean out the pot well--we'll use it again in the final product.

See? Grit, I tell ya.

Prep your bacon, onion and potatoes.  

Hm, my bacon looks more like 1/2" dice. Ne'er you mind.

Melt butter in the cleaned pot over medium heat, and add the bacon.

Cook, stirring, until golden brown, then add the onion and cook (still stirring) until softened.  This whole process will probably take about 8 to 10 minutes.

Put the potatoes in the pot, along with the reserved clam liquid.  If you are using chopped clams, I would start with about 2 cups of clam juice and 1/2 cup of water and go from there.

Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook until the potatoes are tender.  The original recipe said 3 minutes, but I must have created some husky pieces of potato because it took more like 10 minutes.

Stir in clams, half and half, parsley and black pepper.  You will likely not need any salt, although no one's prohibiting you from adding it.

Ladle into bowls and serve.  We ate ours with some toasted sourdough bread.  This isn't super thick like the kind you get out of a can--although you could do a little cornstarch slurry or use a roux to thicken. And that would be more effort. Power to you.