Clam Chowder

I’ve made a few chowders in my day, but it’s been quite awhile. Mostly, they’ve been some sort of fish chowder, using fish such as northern pike, walleye and crappy. Although I do enjoy a good clam chowder, my cooking adventures have never included making one.

That may change soon. I just received a comment about my recent soup blog from Royal and Karen Rivard, who are vacationing in Fort Myers Beach, Fla. Royal said he’s tired of paying 5 bucks for a bowl of clam chowder soup, although it’s one of his my favorite soups. He asked if I had any idea of how to make a good chowder.

Well, I really haven’t attempted to make one but did find several recipes that he may want to try. If you have any suggestions, feel free to pass them on, too.

Rhode Island Clam Chowder
2 dozen clams
4 strips bacon, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 large onion, diced
2 ribs celery, diced
4 medium potatoes, peeled
8 cups water or stock or combination
1 bay leaf
1 to 2 teaspoons dried thyme or savory, to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
Scrub the clams thoroughly. Place in a pot with 1 cup of hot water and bring to a boil. Cover and remove from heat. Let stand until clams open easily (discard any that don’t). Remove clams from shells and dice the meat. Pour the liquid from the pot over the chopped clams and reserve in a bowl.
In the same pot, saute the bacon until crispy, then add the carrots, onion and celery and cook until the onions are translucent. Dice 3 of the potatoes and add one to the pot whole. Add the water, bay leaf, thyme and salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to medium and cook until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes. Remove whole potato, mash thoroughly and return to pot to thicken the soup. Return clams and broth to pan and warm through before serving.
Yield: Serves 8.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 143 calories, 10 percent of calories from fat, 1.6 grams fat (0.5 grams saturated, 0.5 grams monounsaturated), 18.4 milligrams cholesterol, 9 grams protein, 23.5 grams carbohydrates, 3.2 grams fiber, 117.4 milligrams sodium.

New England Clam Chowder
36 small hard-shelled clams, such as littlenecks, scrubbed well
1½ cups cold water
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 bacon slices, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
2 red potatoes, peeled, diced
1 cup half-and-half
Freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
Heat clams and cold water in a 4-quart saucepan to a boil over medium-high heat. Cover; steam until clams open, 5 to 10 minutes, checking frequently after 5 minutes. Transfer the clams to a bowl as they open; let cool. (Discard any clams that have not opened.) Reserve cooking liquid.
Remove clams from shells; coarsely chop. Carefully pour cooking liquid through a fine-mesh sieve into a small bowl, leaving any grit behind.
Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add bacon; cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, 4 to 5 minutes. Add onion; cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in potatoes and reserved cooking liquid; cover. Simmer until potatoes are tender, 5 to 7 minutes.
Stir in clams, half-and-half and pepper to taste; cook until heated through, about 1 minute. Do not boil. Stir in parsley.
Yield: Serves 4.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 307 calories, 44 percent of calories from fat, 15 grams fat (8 grams saturated), 101 milligrams cholesterol, 25 grams carbohydrates, 17 grams protein, 176 milligrams sodium, 2 grams fiber.

New Jersey Clam Chowder
2 russet potatoes (about 1 pound), peeled and diced (about 2½ cups)
Salt
6 slices bacon, cut into ¼-inch strips
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, chopped
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups bottled clam juice
2 cups milk
½ cup heavy cream
Pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon chopped fresh dill
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1½ cups chopped fresh or bottled clams
Place the potatoes in a large saucepan and add enough salted water to cover by 1 inch. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, or until almost done. Drain and set aside.
Meanwhile, in a separate saute pan, saute the bacon until almost crisp. Leave the rendered bacon fat and the bacon in the pan, add the garlic and onion and saute over medium heat for 2 minutes. Add the flour and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, being careful not to burn the flour.
Add the clam juice, milk, cream, pepper, dill and parsley and bring to a boil, stirring well. Add the potatoes and chopped clams and return to a boil for 1 minute. Ladle into warm serving bowls.
Yield: Serves 4.

New England Clam Chowder
2 to 3 strips bacon, diced
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cups milk
1 cup clam or fish broth or ½ cup clam juice and ½ cup water, or reserved canned clam liquid, thinned with water to make 1 cup
2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
1 bay leaf
½ teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves, or ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
1 to 1½ cups cream
2 6½-ounce cans clams with juice reserved for broth, or 1 to 1½ cups fresh cooked clams removed from their shells (about 3 to 4 dozen)
Salt, to taste (about ½ teaspoon)
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
In large pot over medium-low heat, cook bacon, stirring occasionally, until fat is rendered and bacon is nearly cooked through. Add onion and saute, stirring occasionally until translucent, about 5 to 7 minutes.
Add milk, clam broth, potatoes, bay leaf and thyme. Cover partially and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 20 to 25 minutes. Do not allow liquid to boil.
Add 1 cup cream and clams. If chowder is too think, add additional ½ cup of cream. Cook, uncovered, until clams are heated through, about 5 minutes.
Remove bay leaf. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in parsley.
Yield: Serves 8.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 783 calories, 34 percent of calories from fat, 29.3 grams fat (14.2 grams saturated, 51 grams protein, 85 grams carbohydrates, 7 grams fiber, 167 milligrams cholesterol, 3,551 milligrams sodium, 659 milligrams calcium.

Clammering for Clams

There’s nothing like a bowl of good clam chowder. My first taste of one was at Whitey’s in the mid-1970s, when I moved here to take a job with the newspaper. I think it was served on Fridays.

It was then that I developed an affinity for clams. I’d never really eaten them before but now do when the opportunity arises.

I particularily like pastas with clam sauce. Recently, Therese and I shared a dish of linguine with clam sauce at Mamma Maria’s in East Grand Forks. We also ordered an antipasta appetizer to go along with the entree, which allowed us to take some home for lunch the next day.

The antipasta was pretty good, although maybe a little heavy on the vinegar. However, the linguine with clam sauce was outstanding. It contained a generous amount of clams, which were not overcooked.

I’m thinking of making my own clam-pasta dish soon, perhaps to serve to some guests. Here is what I’ve decided to make.

White Clam Spaghetti Sauce
¼ cup olive oil
1 clove garlic, peeled, finely chopped
Pinch of red pepper flakes, or more to taste
1 6-ounce can chopped clams, undrained
¼ cup warm water
¼ cup chopped parsley, or more to taste
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon oregano
¼ teaspoon coarse black pepper
6 ounces spaghetti or linguine, cooked al dente according to package directions
Grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
In a skillet heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and saute until the garlic is fragrant, about 1 to 1½ minutes.
Remove the skillet from the heat and set it aside for about 2 minutes. Add the clams with their juices and the water. Return the skillet to medium heat and add the parsley, salt, oregano and black pepper. Continue cooking to heat the sauce.
Drain the spaghetti and place portions in individual pasta bowls. Pour the sauce over it and toss to lightly coat. Rearrange the clams to set atop the spaghetti and serve. Offer the Parmesan cheese on the side, if desired.
Yield: Serves 2 (generous main-dish portions).
Cook’s note: The recipe may be doubled or even tripled to serve more. Add garlic and parsley to your own taste.