During a lazy and long sea-side getaway, you are familiar with your preferences for things like clam chowder. During the journey I’m now on my way to Northern California, the aha moment came when I drilled down into my chowder-eating soul and realized that there are 2 things I don’t like about the normal bowl: its gloppy texture, and its chewy, overcooked shell-less nuggets of clam meat.
The gloppy texture informs me there’s flour in there unnecessarily weighing down the remainder of the ingredients. And without a shell, the clams not just vanish into the thick marshy broth, they likewise raise suspicions of originating from a can.
This is a recipe I adapted from Hog Island Oyster, where I’ve been spending a lot of time lately since it’s spitting distance from where we stay. The base can be made ahead (up to one day) and kept chilled. The spiciness is optional, but I think adds another layer of flavor, and the chili paste colors the milky white broth beautifully. (I use Asian chili paste such as Thai Kitchen Roasted Red Chili Paste.) Add the clams at the very last minute, and you’ll taste the difference between a fresh bowl of clam chowder, and that other stuff. You may never go back.
Fresh Clam Chowder
Adapted from Hog Island Oysters.
4 pounds small, raw Manila clams in the shell
1 pound red potatoes (about 3 medium), chopped into 1/2-inch bite-size cubes
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1/2 pound pancetta, cubed or bacon, sliced
1 large red onion, thinly sliced
1 stalk celery, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 large carrots, peeled and thinly sliced into rounds
1 to 3 tablespoons chili paste, to taste
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 cups heavy cream
Freshly ground black pepper
Italian flat leaf parsley, for garnish
HAPPY HOLIDAY’S FROM THE FAILED DIETER
Place the clams in a colander and rinse thoroughly under cold running water. Discard any clams with open or broken shells. Enable the clams to drain in the sink while you prepare your stock base.
In a big stock pot, bring about 5 cups of water to a boil and cook the potatoes up until al dente, 4 to 5 minutes. Get rid of the potatoes with a slotted spoon, but do not drain pipes off the water.
Include the pancetta to the oil and thyme and cook, stirring often, about 5 minutes, making sure not to burn the bacon. Include the red onion, celery and garlic, and cook, stirring often, till the vegetables are clear, 4 to 5 minutes.
Keep this chowder base warm over low heat, or refrigerate for approximately 1 day. When prepared to end up the soup, warm the chowder base over low heat.
When ready to serve, cook the clams. Working in batches, location enough clams to fill but not crowd the bottom of a heavy-bottomed sauté pan over medium heat. Ladle 1 cup of the chowder base on leading and cover the pan. Simmer for about 4 minutes, or until the majority of clams open. Pick out any clams that have actually not opened. Transfer prepared clams to the pot with the chowder base, and continue cooking in batches until clams are all prepared.
Include the milk and cream to the pot and bring the chowder to a simmer. Ladle specific servings into large soup bowls.
Serve with broken black pepper and sliced parsley.