My god, has it been colder than a witch's tit or what lately? I know it's been colder than past Sacramento winters because I've actually been wearing SOCKS the past two weeks and I rarely wear socks (I absolutely abhor the feeling of my feet being encased). However, it's been a choice of wearing socks and being uncomfortable and grouchy or having numb toes and blue feet...so there you have it, socks win. Dammit! Anyhow, to keep warm I've also been eating a LOT of soup. Soup, it's the ultimate comfort food and there's so many different kinds-- smooth butternut squash, heart warming chicken noodle, zingy tom yum...the list is endless. What's your favorite kind to dig into on chilly nights? For me, it's homemade mushroom soup- the thick velvety kind that dances on your tongue with a luxurious, earthy flavor. I could eat it everyday! For Kidlet #1, it's clam chowder in a bread bowl. He goes absolutely bonkers for the briny-creamy concoction. He'll even eat the watery canned stuff in a pinch (gack!)...so I thought I'd surprise him with a batch for dinner last night. Now I know there's all kinds of low-cal, low-fat, skinny-minny recipes out there for clam chowder. I've tried a few...and quite honestly, they suck. I say- if you're gonna make some chowder, go balls out and use butter, cream and potatoes. You can even use fresh clams but if you're like me, you're a bit lazy on weeknights and canned will suffice. Anyhow, give yourself a reprieve from the almond milk and tofu and be decadent for one evening. Vive la chowder!
(Chowda purists be warned though- this is not the traditional chowder most likely immortalized in the memories of your youth spent summering in New England; however, it is a hearty, aromatic, delicious taste of the sea nonetheless, so give it a try. )
Creamy Clam Chowder
1/2 lb. sliced bacon
1 large sweet onion, diced
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 lb. of Honey Gold potatoes, quartered or 3 Yukon Gold potatoes, cubed
1 cup carrots, peeled and chopped
1 leek, chopped (white and light green parts only)
2 cobs fresh corn, zippered
3 cloves fresh garlic, minced
3 cans (10 oz. undrained) whole baby clams
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons rice flour (you can use AP flour if you must)
1 cup whole milk
1 cups cream
3 teaspoons Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon thyme
4 sourdough bowls (optional)
1. In a pan, cook your bacon. Let it crisp up (about 3-4 minutes). Remove bacon with a slotted spoon or tongs and set on a paper-towel, leave the bacon grease in the pan.
2. In the pan (with the bacon grease), add in the onion and leek. Saute for about 7-8 minutes over medium heat, until onions are soft and semi-translucent. Stir frequently. Add in garlic. Cook for about another 1-2 minutes. Transfer ingredients to a large soup pot, set aside.
3. In pan, melt 3 tablespoons of butter. Add your jumble of celery, potatoes, carrots and corn. Cook for about 10 minutes on medium-high heat. Transfer ingredients to soup pot.
4. Open all three cans of clams. Drain liquid into a measuring cup and save. Place clams in a bowl and place in fridge.
5. Place soup pot on burner over medium-high heat. Add 2 cups of clam juice. Stir. Allow to cook for 15-20 minutes.
6. Add in clams, salt, pepper, thyme and bay leaf. Slowly add in milk and cream. Stir until sauce comes to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and allow to cook another 15 minutes. Chowder will thicken.
[7. If you like your chowder on the slightly thicker side: In a pan or small pot, whisk together 3 tablespoons of rice flour with 3 tablespoons butter. Once it's bubbling, add a large ladle of chowder to the flour and butter mixture (aka roux). Mix together well then add it back into the pot of chowder. Turn the heat up and allow it to come to a boil, then again reduce to a simmer.]
8. Hollow out your sourdough bowls. (I like to keep the dough I pull out, it's great for dipping into the soup.) Chop your bacon slices into 1/4-inch pieces.
9. Stir soup occasionally. Adjust seasonings if needed. Make sure potatoes are knife-tender. Discard bay leaf.
10. Ladle into sourdough bowls. Sprinkle with bacon bits. Garnish with cracked pepper or chopped fresh parsley (optional). Serve hot.