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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Warm Your Cold, Cold Heart Clam Chowder

If I have to choose between New England clam chowder and Manhattan clam chowder, I will always go with New England. If there were a great battle over 'Creamy vs. Tomato-y', I will raise my spoon in defense of Creamy every single time. I have issues with tomato heartburn, so it's not exactly a fair battle. But most of the New England clam chowder that I have eaten in various restaurants almost always lack something...clams. Why do they never put enough clams in the soup? I may as well be eating potato soup! When I eat clam chowder, I want some serious clams in my bowl! Otherwise, what is the point of eating clam chowder?

The very best New England Clam Chowder I have ever had was on my honeymoon (many, many moons ago) at a little kiosk next to the Jaws attraction at Universal Studios in Orlando Florida. The day was rainy, overcast and chilly - it was in November.  We had been walking around the park all morning under a fine mist of rain, determined not to let the weather ruin our day. I saw the sign for the kiosk and then the smell hit me. I had to have some! Hot, steamy soup on a cold and rainy day sounded perfect...and it was.  I'm sure the soup tasted better because of the weather, but it made me feel better and warmed me from the inside out. It was served inside a little bread cone that you held like an ice cream cone, which made sense (so you can hold it easier while walking around the park).

Looking back now, I see the irony of eating clam chowder near the Jaws ride...

I wanted that clam chowder...so I made this very similar version with a few tweaks and no bread cone (although I did make bread bowls) since I can't sashay on down to Universal Studios on a whim (or craving). This version did the trick and satisfied the craving oh so well...

New England Clam Chowder

makes a ton - serves 8-10

6 cans of clams with juice (I prefer whole to chopped or minced, but you go with what you like)
1/2 pound of thick sliced bacon, diced fine
1 cup onion, diced
5 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
3 cups water
1 bottle of clam juice
3-1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 cups half-n-half
2 cups milk
4 tsp cornstarch
Parsley, chopped
Oyster crackers for serving
Bread bowls

In large dutch oven or heavy stockpot, cook bacon and onion until browned. Add clams and their liquid, potatoes, water, clam juice, salt and pepper. Stir; cover and cook over medium low heat for 3 hours.

Combine the half-n-half, milk and cornstarch and add to pot. Stir to combine. Cover and cook over medium low heat for another hour. Stir in chopped parsley.

Serve in bread bowls with oyster crackers and an extra sprinkling of parsley.

A variation I have in my mind to try with this is to substitute the diced potatoes with shredded has brown potatoes. If I can find it at the grocery store, I think I will also toss in a 3-4 ounce can of smoked baby clams (which I have eaten straight out of the can before...yum!)

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