There is just nothing quite like a hot bowl of soup on a cold day, and clam chowder is easily in my top three favorites. Oddly enough, I have never made it! Clam chowder has always seemed like one of those soups that will take a ton of time to make; it’s a restaurant meal, not an at-home dish. Well, as usual, Claire Hoenke is blowing my mind. Turns out clam chowder is actually not hard to make at all. I’ll give it a try if you will, too. Claire, teach us your chowdery ways.
Last month, I told you all about my undying love for autumn. For part two of my love song, I have set my sights on dinner. By now, the weather around here has actually started to turn ever so slightly cool. I have switched my air conditioning off, and in the mornings, I wake up and pull my blankets tighter around my chin against the cold night air. By the time I’m ready to leave the house for work, I’m already thinking about soul-warming comfort foods.
But it’s a work day! There’s no time to braise short ribs or a brisket. I need to come up with something I can make inside of an hour; over the course of the morning, my mind has zeroed in on soup. Stews, chowders, and broths start rippling through my brain, and already the thought of a steaming bowl of soup has my mouth watering. I run a mental checklist of recipe components against my pantry’s current inventory, and after work, I make a brief stop at the grocery store.
It’s going to be clam chowder tonight, and I could not be happier.
My clam chowder is adapted from the Culinary Institute of America’s recipe, and both my husband and I count it among our favorite things to eat; at this point I have made it so many times, I can basically do it in my sleep. I also have a tendency to keep bottles of clam juice in the house, just in case of a clam chowder emergency, and tonight is just such an emergency! I pick up some bread and cream and rush home to pull out the rest of my ingredients. Less than an hour later, I am sitting down at the table with my husband and a hot bowl of soup, and we both float off on a chowdery cloud. This recipe is so easy, and so luxuriously comforting, I have decided that I just have to share it.
- 1 to 1 ½ pound canned or frozen baby clams, juices reserved
- 2 8oz. bottles clam juice
- 2 or 3 bacon slices, minced
- 1 large onion, diced
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon thyme leaves, chopped
- 1 pound potatoes, peeled, diced
- 3 cups heavy cream
- 6 tablespoons dry sherry, or to taste
- Salt, to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Hot sauce (such as Tabasco), to taste
- Worcestershire sauce, to taste
- Optional loaf of bread or soup crackers
Start out by draining the juices from the clams. In my case, I did have one 10 oz can of clams, but that’s not really enough, so I also pulled a bag of Trader Joe’s cooked frozen langostino tails out of my freezer and let them thaw in the sink for a few minutes. Really, any seafood will do in a pinch, and if you’re lucky enough to live close to a Trader Joe’s, you can usually find some fun options in their frozen section. Add the bottled clam juice together with the drained juices, and it should equal at least 3 cups. Mince the clams and set them aside for now. At this point in the cooking process in my house, the cats have moved into the kitchen with me and are swirling around my ankles begging for bits of whatever is producing that delightful smell. I do not give in to their demands.
Chop up the raw bacon and throw it into a 6 or 8 quart soup pot set over medium heat. You want to let the bacon bits render slowly, for about 8 minutes until they are almost crispy. While the bacon is cooking, chop up the onion. When the bacon is ready, add the onion and cook it, stirring occasionally, until it is translucent. Add in the flour and turn the heat down to low, stirring with a wooden spoon for about 2 minutes. Then, slowly add in the clam juice. Use your spoon or a whisk to get all the crispy bits up off the bottom of the pan, and then cook the juice at a simmer, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.
While the juices simmer and thicken, peel and dice your potatoes. I like my soup to be super chunky, so I use 4 medium to large sized Yukon golds. When the clam juice is about the thickness of heavy cream, add the potatoes to your pot, along with the chopped thyme and the bay leaf. Cook the potatoes until they are tender, which should be about 15 minutes, depending on the size of your dice.
Meanwhile, in a separate saucepan, combine the cream with the minced clams and simmer them together for about 5 minutes to cook the clams. If you have bread to go with the soup, this is the time to put it into the oven to warm up in time for dinner. If you are using any pre-cooked seafood items, chop them to bite size and add them to the soup pot in the last minute or so of the clams’ cooking time.
When the potatoes are tender and the clams are cooked, add the cream mixture to the soup pot and simmer for 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the sherry, and season to taste with Worcestershire, salt and pepper, and a good couple shakes of your favorite hot sauce. Take the bread out of the oven and get ready to feast. I guess a side salad would be good here, if only to round out the meal, but I just can’t be fussed to bother with it on soup night. Luckily, this recipe yields about 2 quarts, so there is enough for seconds!
I think it’s pretty important to have a couple of can’t-fail recipes in your back pocket, and this is one of my favorites. It combines all good things into an even better thing, and it cooks up quickly without much fuss. It’s perfect for a chilly evening, and we’re fixing to get quite a few of those in the near future. Do yourself a favor and just add clam juice and canned clams to your next grocery list and you’ll be a believer too!
Printer friendly recipe: Clam Chowder