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Bellevue, WA, 98007
United States

Strange Traditions

Going Small(er)

Strange Traditions

Marc Scattergood

Ok, maybe it's not strange, but it has always been funny to me. I have no idea why, but as long as I can remember growing up, we always had a big pot of New England Clam Chowder around the holidays. As far back as my memory goes, I can recall my mom in the kitchen in our 1905 rambler style house in rural Tillamook county every holiday, a big pot on the stove, and the smells of bacon, onions, clams, and cream all coming together to make what would stay a life long favorite winter comfort food for me. In particular, it always happened around the holidays. No idea why. It just did.

The tradition, at least in our household, goes on - even if my much loved mom is not here to enjoy it with us.

It doesn't much feel like winter in West Los Angeles county, though it almost feels like early fall finally. But hot or cold, rainy, snowy, or sunny, it's that time of year.

What does this have to do with going smaller? Well, nothing really, other than having some good soup recipes just means when you want something warm, comforting, and delicious, you don't need to order out to get it.

Clam Chowder Recipe

Got this recipe from my mom, not sure where she got it from. I cleaned up the instructions, and added a few of my own tweaks. On the seasoning, play with it. Add more or less. I often will add a bit of cayenne pepper as well during the boiling stage for extra bite.

On clams: I've tried to make this with fresh clams a few times. While it can add a really nice extra complexity to the flavor, it is a very subtle change, and a LOT of extra work, especially if you have to shell the clams yourself. If you buy really high quality canned or prepared clams from your seafood market, it tastes great - and will probably have less sand then if you buy unshelled.

Ingredients:

  • 2 dozen large clams (or 3 7oz minced clams)
  • 1/2 Pound Bacon
  • 2 cups clam juice
  • 2 cups water
  • 3 medium sized onions (peeled and chopped)
  • 4 large potatoes, chopped (peeled if you want)
  • I frequently add fresh celery, and this year, I also added a few fresh leeks to the pot. Add them at the same time you add the potatoes.
  • Bay Leaf
  • Savory Seasoning to taste
  • 1 tsp. finely ground white pepper
  • 2 tsp. salt (to taste - can take 3 or 4 tsp)
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 cups cream (heavy or regular)
  • 1 to 1.5 tsp xantham gum for thickening (flour or cornstarch are fine if you don't have a reason to avoid them)

Chop up the bacon as fine as you want it, and in a soup pot, render the bacon until crisp. Keep 1/3 cup of rendered fat in the same pot, save the rest for breakfast cooking or whatever. You can remove the bacon or leave it in the pot, depending on how crisp you want it. In the pot, cook the onions until soft.

Add the potatoes, water, clam juice, bay leaf, savory, white pepper, and salt. You can optionally add the bacon back in at this stage.  You can also optionally add the clams here, depending on how well cooked you like them. Bring the liquid to a full boil, and then reduce heat and let simmer for 20 to 30 minutes.

If you haven't yet, add the bacon and the clams to the pot, add the milk and cream, and then add your thickening agent very slowly, the whole time bringing the entire pot up to serving temperature of 170 degrees.  You can also add 3 tbsp of butter at this stage for added creaminess. Do not allow the chowder to boil, as it can scald the creams and ruin the flavor.

To serve, add finely chopped parsley and/or paprika.

Chowder will keep in the fridge for roughly a week, or freeze for up to two months.