OKAY. Remember how last week I was desperate for clam chowder?
WELL. After a disappointingly short expedition to the grocery store (I was thinking clam-finding would be a bit more of an adventure, but apparently my meat/seafood counter is better stocked than I thought it was…WHATEVER) I emerged victorious! (…with clams!)
SO. I made clam chowder. And YES, there will be lots of words in all capital letters in this post. Because CLAM CHOWDER is THE MOST EXCITING THING EVER.
Also, I took about a zillion pictures. Because like I mentioned earlier, my parents got me a SUPER AWESOME 50mm macro lens for Christmas and I am totally.obsessed.with.it.
Also, big news – Life As a Strawberry is now on Instagram! And y’all should follow me. You’ll get super-interesting snapshots of my life as seen from my couch. But there will ALSO be witty commentary (which I know you all love). So check it out!
But enough of that. Today is all about CLAM CHOWDER! And how you should make it. Immediately. And how I am about to go back to the grocery store and buy a million more clams so I can make this again tomorrow.
New England Clam Chowder
served 2 people who like to eat a lot of soup
2 Pounds Fresh Clams
6 cups water
4 slices thick-cut bacon, sliced into 1/3-inch thick pieces
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
4 large red potatoes, diced
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 bay leaves
5 sprigs fresh thyme
2 Tbsp. butter
3 Tbsp. flour
2 and 1/2 cups reserved clam broth
1 cup milk (I use skim)
1 and 1/2 cups half-and-half
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped (optional, for garnish)
1. Check to make sure all of your clams are still alive – live clams’ shells are tightly closed and won’t have cracked open. If any of your fresh clams have open shells, throw them out! Next, run each clam under running water and scrub them with your hands or a small loofah to remove any grit and sediment.
2. Place the cleaned clams into a large stockpot and add the water. Cover and bring to a simmer. Cook for 15-20 minutes or until clams have steamed open and the water has taken on their flavor to form a clam stock. When clams are cooked, pull them out of the water with a slotted spoon and place them in a separate bowl. Continue to boil the water you cooked the clams in, uncovered, while you prep the other soup ingredients. This will reduce some of the water and concentrate the clam flavor.
3. Pull cooked clams out of their shells and chop. Set aside.
4. In a large pot (I’m in LOVE with my Le Creuset for soup-making. Seriously) cook bacon over medium heat. I like my bacon super crispy, so I let it go for about 10 minutes. Pull it out whenever it’s at the crispy-ness point you like best! Place bacon on a paper towel, but leave the grease in the pan over medium-high heat! (I didn’t say this was a HEALTHY soup…) You’ll use the bacon pieces later to garnish the soup.
5. Add onion, garlic, salt and pepper, potatoes, and celery to the bacon fat (YUM) and cook for 3-4 minutes until onions are translucent.
6. Tie bay leaves and thyme sprigs together with kitchen twine to make a bouquet garni. Add this bundle to the pot.
7. Add butter to pot and stir until it’s melted. Then add flour and stir to make a roux – this will help thicken the soup. Cook for one minute.
8. Remove clam broth from the heat. Check it for grit and sediment – if you’ve done a good job scrubbing the clams, the broth will be free of any dirt. If there’s any sand or grit floating around, though, strain the stock through a fine strainer to remove it before you proceed. Ladle 1 cup of it into the soup pot and stir to break up any chunks of flour that might be hiding. When you’ve mixed everything well, add the remaining 1 and 1/2 cups of stock. Keep the leftover stock in the fridge for another day or discard it.
9. Add chopped clams to the pot. Then add milk and bring soup to a simmer. Simmer for 25-35 minutes or until soup has thickened considerably. (I sometimes leave the soup on the stove all afternoon – just add more clam stock every hour or so to keep the soup from reducing too much and burning!)
10. Add half-and-half to soup and stir to combine. Return soup to a simmer and cook for an additional 10-15 minutes until soup is thick and creamy and delicious-looking. Remove soup from heat and ladle into serving bowls. Top with crispy bacon and parsley and serve immediately.