Sunday, February 26, 2012

New England Style Clam Chowder

Although I have always harbored a secret appreciation for Clam Chowder (and only the creamy New England style where the funny-looking clam pieces are hidden in a wonderfully rich and comforting broth filled with tender chunks of potatoes), I had never attempted to make such an intimidating sounding soup.

I've never gotten to enjoy it on Fisherman's Wharf in San Fransisco nor actually tasted it in authentic New England.  That said, I actually really liked the canned version and I have had it in a bread bowl at Disneyland and California Adventure theme park, so that's a pretty authentic experience right there. totally kidding. 

I was inspired to try my hand at making my own when the Superbowl came around.  I had really clever ideas of making New England (Patriots) Clam Chowder and then something New York-esque (pizza? bagels? coneys?  I didn't get that far).  Although I wasn't so on top of things then, I felt this recipe was still share-worthy.  It's still pretty wintery outside and now, being in the beginning of Lent and seafood specials abounding, perhaps there is an interest in some meat-free recipes? 

In making this soup, I also discovered something extremely interesting (strange).  Both of my boys could not get enough of the chopped clams.  Right from the can.  They were going to town on them and practically downed a whole can before I could stop them.  Who knew?  I'm not sure I recommend their favorite way to enjoy clams, but I whole-heartedly endorse this recipe. 

Serve with the accompanying recipe for sourdough croutons or be really authentic and pick up some bread bowls (you can definitely find them available at Panera Bread Company). 

New England Style Clam Chowder
2 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, finely diced
2 celery stalks, finely diced
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
3 (6 oz) cans chopped clams in juice (I ended up with less because of my two little clam-addicts)
1 cup 1/2 and 1/2 (or heavy cream if you're feeling particularly indulgent)
2 bay leaves
1 pound potatoes (Russet for a softer texture, red potatoes for a firmer texture)
salt and pepper to taste
2-3 tablespoons cornstarch, if needed
2-3 additional tablespoons half and half, if needed

Sourdough Croutons
2-3 tablespoons butter
2 cups 1" cubes of sourdough bread
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
salt and pepper to taste

Heat butter in a large pot over medium high heat.  Add onions and celery and saute until softened, stirring often.  Stir in the flour and cook for an additional minute, stirring constantly.  Stir in the stock and clam juice (reserve clams for later), bay leaves and potatoes.  Bring to a simmer, stirring constantly (the mixture will thicken), then reduce heat to medium-low, and cook, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are tender (about 20 minutes).  Stir in the clams and half and half and gently reheat.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  If soup is not thick enough, whisk together cornstarch and remaining half and half and stir into soup.  Stir until thickened.  Serve immediately, garnished with sourdough croutons or in a bread bowl! : )

For Croutons:
Melt butter in a large skillet.  Toss bread cubes in butter until brown and toasted, about 2-3 minutes. Add parsley and season with salt and pepper. 

Recipe slightly adapted from: Food Network's Dave Lieberman

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