Gimme the Chowda! The Clam Chowda!

Growing up, we always had two kinds of soups in the house. Well, I’m sure there were more than two, but I would only eat two. Chicken noodle soup for sick days and clam chowder for rainy days.

Mom. Stop thinking about the email you are about to write me about how this childhood memory is inaccurate. It’s my memory. It’s my blog. It’s accurate.

Thanks to Tuesday’s downpour, clam chowder in a bread bowl was a no brainer.

I have to admit, I don’t know much about clams, or oysters, or mussels, or abalone, or... Yah, that’s all I got. Due, to my lack of knowledge on all clam like things, I had to rely on step-by-step instruction from the fish guy at Whole Foods as well as my cookbooks. Turns out, it’s no big deal. Let me save you the trouble and tell you what is up.

First, buy the clams. Duh. Secondly, when you get them home make sure the shells are clean. I was advised to scrub them, but I don’t have a clam scrubbing brush and using the dish scrubber just made me feel silly. So, you will probably be fine with a good rinse and no scrub.

To cook the clams, boil the clams in 2 cups of slightly salted water covered for 5 minutes and 5 more uncovered. When they all open up, they are done. If they don’t open up, they are dead and you need to throw them out.

There you go. That’s all there is to it. Go make some clams.

While you’re at it, you should probably hallow out a sourdough loaf and toss together a garden salad.

Yah… that’s perfect.

Love and Beer Floats

4 pounds cherrystone clams, scrubbed
2 large red-skinned potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 slice lean center-cut bacon, chopped
1 medium onion, diced
1 stalk celery, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
1 cup fat-free half-and-half
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
4 teaspoons unsalted butter, sliced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
1/2 teaspoon paprika

Put the clams and 2 cups water in a pot. Cover, bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook 5 minutes. Uncover and continue to cook until the clams open, 5 to 10 minutes (discard any that do not open); transfer the clams to a bowl. Pour the liquid into a large measuring cup. (You should have 3 cups liquid; add water if needed.) Wipe out the pot.
Pour the liquid back into the pot through a paper towel-lined sieve. Add the potatoes, cover and simmer until tender, about 15 minutes. Remove one-third of the potatoes. Continue to cook the remaining potatoes, covered, until soft, about 10 more minutes. Puree in batches in a blender until smooth. Return the soup to the pot.
Cook the bacon in a skillet over medium heat until crisp, about 5 minutes. Add the onion and celery and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, thyme and bay leaves and cook, stirring, about 3 more minutes. Add the bacon mixture and reserved potatoes to the soup. Cover and cook over low heat, about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, remove the clams from their shells and roughly chop. Stir the clam meat and half-and-half into the soup; remove from the heat, cover and set aside, 20 to 30 minutes.
Discard the bay leaves. Season the soup with salt and pepper and reheat. Serve topped with a slice of butter, parsley, chives and paprika.