New England Clam Chowder

When I was a kid my taste in soup was sort of an aberration compared to my other culinary preferences. I had a pretty typical kid palate when it came to most things; I lived on peanut butter and jelly (I seemingly haven’t evolved much in that area), loved grilled cheese sandwiches, chicken nuggets, and all of the stereotypical things that most kids don’t venture far from. Now soup was a different story. Sure, I would happily eat a bowl of chicken noodle or tomato soup, but my true love was New England clam chowder. What?! How?! I still don’t understand it to this day, other than maybe reasoning that it was the abundance of potatoes and the creamy texture that I adored, but this soup love certainly didn’t jive with my unwillingness to try most other things. I can remember my mom and grandma both keeping their pantries stocked with cans of this and (gasp!) if either of them dare try to throw in a Manhattan clam chowder in the event that they ran out of New England, take cover. That was completely unacceptable to me and I would not eat it. My young little foodie heart belonged to New England clam chowder. And it has only taken me 25+ years to make a homemade version, ha!

The key to my finding a good homemade recipe was that it could not require the use of fresh clams. Living in Pittsburgh, the ability to easily buy fresh clams and not spend an arm and a leg for a pot of soup really just isn’t there. So I was thrilled when I found a work-around with the canned, minced clams and bottled clam juice. I was amazed at how fantastic this tasted, how close to my early memories of clam chowder it came, and of course (though not surprisingly) how superior it is to what comes out of a can.

I’m enjoying keeping up with the soup portion of my 2012 resolutions, having made a fresh batch last week (Chicken Noodle) and this week. The best part? Both of them are incredibly warm and hearty soups, and can be made in less than an hour.

What was your favorite soup when you were a kid?

One year ago: Peanut Butter Cup Bars
Two years ago: Maple-Oatmeal Scones
Four years ago: Classic White Bread

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New England Clam Chowder

Ingredients:

4 slices center-cut, thick-cut bacon (about 4 ounces), cut into ¼-inch pieces

1 large Spanish onion, chopped

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

4 cans (6½ ounces each) minced clams, drained and juice reserved

2 bottles (8 ounces each) clam juice

1 cup water

1½ pounds red potatoes (about 4 medium), scrubbed and cut into ½-inch dice

1 bay leaf

¼ teaspoon dried thyme

1 cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves

Salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste


Directions:

1. Fry the bacon in a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium-low heat until the fat renders and the bacon crisps, 5 to 7 minutes.


2. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes.


3. Add the flour and stir until lightly colored, about 1 minute. Gradually whisk in the reserved clam juice (from the cans), the bottled clam juice and the water.


4. Add the potatoes, bay leaf, and thyme and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 10 to 15 minutes.


5. Add the clams, cream, parsley, salt and pepper to taste; bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat, discard the bay leaf, and serve immediately.


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(Recipe adapted from The Best Soups and Stews)


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