Monday, May 16, 2016

Delicious Dish : My Best Clam Chowder


Okay, so I fibbed.  It's not completely MY best clam chowder recipe but I did made several modifications after this month's book club for Orphan Train (by Christina Baker Kline)  to make it worthy of the chowders I remember back home in Southern California (you can find the original recipe here). 

 ...and I know what you're thinking.  Clam chowder? Whoa there.  Red light. That's where some of your eyes go glossy and you head over to another recipe.

I get it.

Any new recipe that has seafood or meat has my heart pounding and all sorts nervous too.  I'm more of a banana-zucchini bread/oatmeal chocolate chip/pumpkin pie kind of girl myself.

But maybe you're trying to get out of your comfort zone, away from your old boring recipes, or even getting more of an adventurous palate...there's every reason to make this chowder.  It's not "fishy" at all (if you have an aversion to seafood) and it is an insanely easy recipe that no one can screw up...except if you don't follow the most important golden rule below:



***IMPORTANT! Make sure you add clams just before serving.  The longer they "cook" the tougher they get.  Leftovers are still yummy but expect the clams to be chewy if microwaved for too long the following day.






My Best Clam Chowder


3 (6.5 oz) cans minced clams
6 strips bacon (use drained fat to cook vegetables for flavor)
1 clove fresh garlic (pressed)
1 c minced onion
1 c diced celery
2 c cubed potatoes
1 c diced carrots
3/4 c butter
3/4 c corn starch
1 quart half-and-half cream
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
ground black pepper to taste
shredded cheddar cheese and crumbled bacon bits for garnish

Directions


Prep: 25 min |  Cook: 25 | Ready in: 50 minutes

Cook bacon in a large skillet (or your preferred method) until browned.  My husband and I have perfected ours in our toaster oven to get it perfectly crisp without it being overdone or chewy.


We cook ours at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes and flip the bacon over halfway through cooking.


Remove bacon, chop into pieces and set aside.  Drain the bacon grease into a large skillet.




Add the diced onions, celery, potatoes, pressed garlic and carrots to the skillet with the bacon grease and drain the clam juice from the clams over the vegetables and reserve the clams for later.


Add just enough water to the skillet to cover everything and cook over medium heat until vegetables are tender.

**NOTE**  If you want a stronger clam flavor, substitute some of the water with the clam juice of an additional 2-3 cans of clams.



As the vegetables are cooking, melt the butter over medium heat in another heavy saucepan. 

***Check out my beautiful Staub cocotte that I got for an early Mother's Day gift from my husband.  It's so amazing.  They are made in France and each pot is unique as they destroy the mold and start over with each new piece.  

Unlike a Le Cruset, the inside is a black matte enamel (you don't see the staining and resists scratches) and the lid has a self basting system that has spikes over the whole inside that ensures a continuous rainfall so the moisture is evenly distributed when cooking.  The lid is 9 times more effective than a conventional one!   There's something about having a quality piece of cookware that makes me want to cook all day long.




 Whisk in the cornstarch until smooth.




 Whisk in cream and stir constantly until thick and smooth.


Stir in vegetables and clam juice and heat through but do not boil.   It's amazing how quickly it thickens up.  If the consistency isn't to your liking, add a little milk to thin it out.



Just before serving add the minced/chopped clams (remember these get tough if you add them too early!), red wine vinegar, and stir in the crumbled bacon bits (save a little for garnish)






Salt and pepper to taste, add your shredded cheese and bacon bits (and green onion if you'd like), and serve your beautiful creation  in your California Starbucks mug (if you have one) and envision yourself sitting with a warm, content belly full of chowder and an insane view of a gorgeous sunset on the beach (only one more week for me!).  :)






Happy dreaming & happy cooking!

xo,








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