Thursday, November 30, 2006

Clam Chowder Recipe

In Maine, lobster and clams go together like beer and buffalo wings or Oreos and milk.
It's hard for us to have one without the other. In the summer, we love a mess of steamers (steamed clams) followed by a nice boiled lobster (we can have the steamed vs. boiled debate later).

We've had lobster on the brain all this week (tomorrow being Trap Day ), but we don't have a hankering for an actual lobster tonight. Then there's the fact that we're stuck in a soup rut and the only logical conclusion is that it's a great night for Clam Chowder.

We'll serve it with a Sour Dough Bread (Flying Pig being a wonderful local bakery), a salad and the lovely Red Truck wine.

The recipe I'm making tonight is from one of my new favorite cookbooks Recipes From a Very Small Island, written by Linda and Martha Greenlaw.

Being from away, I initially shied away from making clam chowder at home--the thought of shucking a clam intimidated me. It's very easy and if you follow the method in the first paragraph of the recipe, it's extremely easy.

Lastly the question of whether a thick chowder is better than a milky chowder is another debate that happens between Mainahs, but we like both kinds.

Tonight, we're opting for thinner, and this recipe is divine.

Barter Creek Clam Chowder

1.5 lbs soft-shelled clams, well cleaned (scrubbed and rinsed off)
3 strips bacon, coursely chopped
1 large sweet onion (Vidalia if available)
4 medium sized potatoes, peeled and diced
2 cups milk
12 oz can evaporated milk
1 stick unsalted butter
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
salt and pepper to taste

Steam the clams in half a cup of water until they begin to open (5-8 minutes). Shuck the clams, discard the neck skin (the icky black stuff on the neck--it will just peel off) and if necessary, cut the clams into smaller pieces.

In a large stock pot, cook the bacon over medium heat until crisp (about 10 minutes). Remove bacon with slotted spoon, leaving fat in the bottom of the pot. Add the onion and cook over medium heat until the onion begins to soften (about 5 minutes). Add the potatoes and enough water to cover. Bring to a simmer, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook until the potatoes are tender (about 15 minutes).

Add the milk, evaporated milk, butter and clams with any juices that you've reserved. Simmer over low heat until the butter melts and the clams are fully cooked (about 5 minutes). Add the bacon and parsley and season with the salt and pepper.

You can serve it immediately or cool and refrigerate overnight. If you are going to reheat, slow warming on the stove top works much better than the microwave.

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