Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Clam Chowder

Go into any seafood restaurant or any steak house, and you are sure to see clam chowder offered on the menu. is typical of most regional specialties in that there is no one - instead there are many varieties all containing the same base ingredients. The basic ingredients of a clam chowder are clams, onions and potatoes, and bacon or ham, giving the soup its distinctive smoky flavor. For a rich New England clam chowder, milk is often replaced with cream. In Manhattan clam chowder, however, there is neither milk nor cream, but plenty of fresh vegetables.

My favorite restaurant for clam chowder is San Francisco's Hog Island Oyster Company, which serves a whole array of oysters prepared in various ways, and clams either steamed or in a chowder, and the freshest salads you could ever taste. All of the vegetables are grown locally, and the menu changes according to whatever is in season.

Their clam chowder is different to many in that they leave the clams in the shells and serve them in a creamy broth, rather than chopping the clams and cooking them in a thick sauce. If you want to make chowder yourself, here is my version of this style of clam chowder.

Ingredients (serves 4)
  • 6 lb manila clams, soaked and scrubbed clean
  • 6 rashers bacon
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 medium carrots, diced
  • 2 medium celery stalks, diced
  • 3 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 3 cups clam broth
  • 4 cups cream or half and half
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 4 sprigs of thyme
  • salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  1. Scrub the clams thoroughly under running water, and leave to soak for several hours to remove any sand.
  2. Heat a 6-quart pot over a medium heat. Fry the bacon for about 5 minutes and then add the garlic and diced vegetables to the pan. Stir gently for about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the clams and the thyme to the vegetable mixture, then add 3 cups of the clam broth and 1 cup of wine, season with salt and pepper.
  4. Cook gently until the clams open, discarding any that do not.
  5. Add the cream to the mixture and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer, stirring frequently.
  6. All the ingredients should be cooked through, but the potatoes should be in tact and the chowder should be neither too runny nor too dry.
Serve with a crispy sourdough roll, a fresh salad, and a glass of white wine or a chilled wheat beer, and it's truly heaven!

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