It was over Christmas break that Nathan succumbed to his super strong craving for New England Clam Chowder . . . homemade.
He typically limits himself to like once a winter, because when you add up the cost of the clams and the clam juice, it’s a lot for a meal that our picky little non-soup eaters won’t even touch. It’s an America’s Test Kitchen recipe, so you know it’s really good.
So I watched him prep for the soup, cut up the potatoes, slice the bacon (yes, I said BACON), and get ready to create the roux . . .
Much to my horror, my incredibly intelligent husband was about to pour all the liquid quickly into the pot with the bacon fat and flour. Sweet hell! Say it isn’t so!
“I mean . . . I saw they say to pour it in slowly, but I didn’t really think it mattered that much.”
Ummmm, it matters.
It made me realize that I need to be a lot more explicit in my directions on the blog. I am by no means an expert chef. I’m a home cook. But I’ve been a home cook for awhile, so there are some things that I’ve learned through trial and error. One of them is that when you are making a roux (a fat + flour = a thickening agent for a soup or a sauce, called a roux), you have to add the liquid that follows really slowly.
So, I showed him just how slowly it had to be added, and he was kind of shocked. I mean, I’m talking like a few tablespoons at a time, and when it’s done that way, it creates a beautiful thick and creamy base for your soup. And the clam chowder that he loves so much was even better than it normally was . . . just by that one simple step in the directions.
So for this New England Clam Chowder, I started off with the America’s Test Kitchen’s recipe and tweaked a few things. For one, I added celery. I just think clam chowder kind of has to have celery. Next, I did red potatoes instead of the Yukon that they recommend, because that’s just always the way we’ve made it and we love it. Finally, they call for clam juice as the base. It is absolutely true that it makes for a really delicious clamy soup, however, as I mentioned earlier, EXPENSIVE. So to cut cost a little, I replaced it with chicken stock. It was still insanely delicious. And a lot cheaper too. That said, if you want, take out the chicken stock and replace it with three 8 oz bottles of clam juice.
- 4 slices of thick cut bacon, diced into small pieces
- 3 cups of chicken stock (see note)
- 4 (6.5 oz) cans of chopped clams, liquid reserved (see step 2)
- 1 small onion, diced
- 3 stalks celery, diced
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1/3 cup all purpose flour
- 1 1/2 pounds red potatoes (about five medium) diced into 1/2 inch pieces
- 8 oz heavy cream
- 1/4 tsp dried thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 TBSPs well minced parsley
- salt and pepper
- In a large stew pot, cook the bacon over medium heat until crisp, stirring often.
- While the bacon is cooking, pour the 3 CUPS chicken stock into a four cup measuring cup. Add the liquid from the cans of clams to the chicken stock, making approximately 4 1/2 cups of liquid.
- Add the diced celery and onions, cooking until they are translucent and very soft.
- Add the minced garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds, being careful that the garlic doesn't burn.
- Stir in the flour, coating all of the veggies and the bacon. Continue cooking about a minute until the flour begins to brown.
- EXTREMELY gradually, pour in the clam juice/chicken stock mixture. Pour about two tablespoons at a time (no need to measure, this is just an estimate), whisking it into the flour veggie mixture. There should be no visible liquid between each pour. The veggies should look like a gummy mess. Continue this way until you use all the liquid, pouring more quickly at the end.
- Add the potatoes, thyme, and bay leaves and increase the heat to high and bring to a boil (you are looking for big bubbles at the surface). Then reduce to a simmer (the lowest you can go heat wise and still see bubbles) and continue cooking for 20 minutes or until the potatoes are soft.
- Stir in the cream and chopped clams, and let heat through for a minute. Remove from the heat stir in the fresh parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
The original recipe, by America's Test Kitchen, calls for 3 8oz bottles of clam juice. I decided to make the recipe just a little more cost efficient and use chicken stock, but if you want to go the extra mile use the clam juice. Both ways are awesome.