Friday, November 20, 2009

Brian's Clam Chowder

I'm back from my honeymoon in Cancun and have lots of pictures. I'll get to that a little later. I don't know if you know this, but I Love Clam Chowder. I have since I was little. Not the red Manhattan style, but the creamy, buttery-rich New England kind. As far as I'm concerned it's the only kind.

I've sampled my share. Here in Oregon, most restaurants serve a version on Fridays. Mo's on the beach is often touted as the best chowder out there, but no way, Jose. It uses frozen potatoes. You can buy it as a mix. Disqualified. My favorite in Portland is at Salty's on the Columbia. It is thick and clam-by and buttery. I like it with oyster crackers.

The one that blows them all away is my husband's recipe. He used to be a professional cook, so it's probably a conglomoration of recipes he's used in different workplaces.

He made it for me last weekend. I paid attention and took lots of notes. However, like many soups, it is different every time, depending on time and what ingredients. The last time we used fresh clams; this time it was canned. We use tarragon, but you don't have to. Lemon juice will suffice when champagne vinegar isn't available. Etc.

One thing I learned from Mo's is that a pat of butter melting atop a steamy bowl of clam chowder is a must. Try it.

Brian's Clam Chowder (makes about 4-5 quarts)

3 yellow onions, chopped
1 red onion, chopped
7 stalks celery, chopped fine
2 shallots, sliced
1 head garlic, cloves sliced thin
6-8 oz bacon, diced
1 lb fingerling potatoes, in one inch chunks
1 cup vegetable stock
4 cans chopped clams (6.5 oz cans)
1 bottle clam nectar (8 fl. oz bottle)
10 oz. can whole clams
2 bunches green onions
1 cup heavy cream
4 cups whole milk
2 tablespoons dried thyme
4 bay leaves
fresh tarragon
1 bunch Italian flat-leaf parsley
freshly ground pepper
pinch celery seed
pinch salt
juice from one lemon (or 2 tablespoons champagne vinegar)

In a large soup pot, head 1 teaspoon vegetable oil over medium heat. Add bacon and saute until fat is rendered. Drain fat and transfer bacon into another bowl and set aside.

Deglaze pot with stock and reduce a few minutes.  Add 1 tablespoon butter, then shallots and garlic.

Saute briefly, 1-2 minutes.  Add another tablespoon of butter, then onions and celery.

Saute over very low heat for 30 minutes, stirring frequently.

After 30 minutes, add potatoes and stir.  Add the chopped green onions.

Drain clams, reserving juice.  Add clams to soup.

Add bacon back to the pot, along with cream, milk, clam nectar from cans & bottle, bay leaves and thyme.  Stir well and cook over low heat.

Meanwhile, chop fresh tarragon.

Add tarragon, parsley, fresh ground pepper, celery seed, salt and lemon juice.  Stir and heat for about 30 minutes.  Stir often so a skin doesn't form.

Serve with celery leaves, crispy bacon and/or green onions as a garnish.  Eat!

Mmm, look at that.  All that is missing is a nice chunk of butter. 

Thanks, honey!

*note:  you may notice the pictures show two soup pots.  That's because we made this batch in two pots, adding half the ingredients to each pot.  Maybe it's time to get a great big stockpot.

This is my 100th Post!  Whoo hoo!

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