It’s officially Springtime at the RGB. The Dutch irises have returned, roses are in bloom, and the weather is sunny.
Life is good.
After San Francisco, Clam Chowder was all I could think about.
But I wasn’t going for Manhattan. I wasn’t even going for New England.
I was going for what I grew up with on the Oregon coast (from Rockaway Beach to Waldport to Florence). As a wee one, I remember slopping through the squishy mud, piling into the station wagon and making the rainy drive with my family down to the old, weather-beaten fish house. “Splash, splash splash…” the backside of the house tilted into the ocean. I always ran inside to be first in line… just in case the house was about to run out.
You see… this little fish house only made what they had on-hand. And every day was a different story. If the tide was wrong or the weather wasn’t right, you were just crap out of luck.
But on a good day… on a good day, you were treated with a large, piping bowl of the world’s best chowder. Not thick and floury like the ones you get in a can, but thin, yet creamy, and brimming with clams, potatoes and parsley. And if you got the right window seat (I always did), you could see the half-moon bay from which the clams came. If you were convincing enough, you could rope your parents into getting you out there at the next low tide to hunt for some.
If you could imagine a small child sitting by the window, so small her feet didn’t touch the ground, carefully filling her spoon and shutting out the world, that was me. I engineered into every spoonful a bite of clam, potato, and parsley. It was a science, it was heaven, and I’d do anything to have that again.
What’s in your favorite chowder?
Thin, creamy chowder filled with clams, potatoes, onions, celery and thyme. Finished with a touch of cream, a sprinkle of parsley and a pat of butter.
- • 3 pounds Littleneck clams
- • 4 slices bacon, cut in half
- • 1 large onion (yield 1 ½ cups chopped)
- • 3 stalks celery (yield 1 ½ cup chopped)
- • 3 cloves garlic
- • Optional: 2 – 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- • Optional: ¼ cup French vermouth
- • Handful fresh thyme (yield 3-4 sprigs)
- • 1 bay leaf
- • 2 small russet potatoes (yield 4-5 ounces)
- • ½ cup heavy cream
- • ½ cup whole milk
- • Kosher salt, as needed
- • Parsley, for garnish
- Set large colander over a 2-qt. prep bowl in the sink.
- In a 4-qt. casserole pot, bring two cups of water to a boil; then add clams in. Almost cover the pot and let clams steam for 2 minutes. While you’re waiting for clams to open, begin to chop onion and celery. I like to finely dice my onion and celery so they’re more evenly distributed in the soup.
- Once the clams are open (this doesn’t take long, so watch the pot, and make sure the foam water doesn’t spill over), pour into colander in sink to collect the clams in the colander and the juice in the prep. bowl. There should be about 3 cups of juice. If you’re short, add a little water. If you’re over, don’t worry; you can reduce it later by evaporating more liquid off the pot.
- Using the same 4-qt. casserole pot, cook the bacon. You might have to do this in two batches because the surface area of the pot might be a little snug for all 4 slices at once.
- While you’re cooking the bacon, finish chopping the onion and celery. Then, rinse and dice the potatoes into small-bite pieces. I like somewhere between quarter- and a half-inch cubes.
- Once the bacon is cooked, set aside on paper-towel lined plate. Remove all but about 2 tbsp. of bacon grease from the pot. Reheat and sauté onion and celery.
- White this is sautéing, mince garlic and throw it in the pot.
- Optional: stir in flour with wooden spoon after onion and celery are translucent and soft, about 7 minutes.
- Optional: Splash in French vermouth about 3 minutes after stirring in flour. Let evaporate.
- Add in thyme and bay leaf.
- Once the vegetables are tender (about 5-10 minutes, depending on the size of your chopped produce), add in the clam juice.
- Heat for about 20 minutes. You’re done when the thyme loses its bright green color.
- While the soup is cooking, clean and chop parsley leaves for use as garnish.
- While the soup is cooking, you can also use this time to either move onto another recipe, or clean the kitchen. If cleaning, you should have a nice, clean kitchen by the time the soup is ready. You’ll probably have time to set the table, too.
- Add in clams, bacon and cream. Let heat for one minute, but don’t let boil.
- Remove from heat. At this point, you may either remove thyme stems and bay leaves and serve immediately, or let it rest for about 45 minutes while you go onto something else. I find the flavors are better mingled when they’ve sat together for awhile.
Nutrition content per serving: 374 calories, 28g carbs, 10g protein, 24g fat, 3.5g fiber
Cost per serving: $3.52
Source: Rustic Garden Bistro