Tuesday, October 14, 2008

New England-style clam chowder; bread sticks

When I was at my seafood store last week I spotted containers of chowder clams in the freezer. It gave me an immediate hankering for clam chowder. As is my usual method, I consulted numerous recipes and narrowed them down to one. What drew me to it was the inclusion of fish broth and clam juice, both of which we had. I basically made a half recipe as the original was to feed 8.

The recipe is from Jane Brody’s “Good Seafood Cookbook.” Back in the day, we adhered to a low fat diet. We don’t do that anymore. My cholesterol was barely within bounds in spite of our diet. The solution in the end was medication – Zocor. In 6 months my overall number dropped from 310 to 181 or thereabouts.

As I constructed the chowder in my mind I had to make some changes. For one thing I was not about to add 3 cups of water, how tasteless could that be. And I was not about to use evaporated milk. Half and half with chicken broth was the way to go.

I paid no attention to her clam quantity. She called for fresh clams or canned. Why not frozen? I had a quart container of clams and used them all. Clearly, for lower fat purposes, her choice of Canadian bacon was appropriate. I used real bacon.

Jane wanted corn kernels, I had frozen peas. My shrimp stock didn’t have a lot of taste, so I bumped up the amount of broth. Beyond these qualifications, I followed the assembly guide fairly closely.

It came together quickly and was superb. More good news: there’s leftovers for today’s lunch.

New England-style clam chowder
1 quart chowder clams, thawed, liquor reserved
3 slices bacon, cut into 1” pieces
¾ cup chopped onion
¼ cup chopped scallions
½ cup chopped celery
1 large clove garlic, minced or pressed
1 12 oz. bottle clam juice
1 cup shrimp or fish stock
2 cups chicken
1 lb red potatoes, cut into ¾” dice
1 cup peas, thawed
1/3 cup chopped parsley
½ tsp dried thyme
½ tsp sweet paprika
white pepper and salt, to taste
2 tbsp cornstarch, dissolved in water
1 tbsp butter
¾ cup half and half

In a large pot, cook the bacon until crisp and set aside on paper towels. Pour off all but 1 tbsp of the grease. Reheat the pan over medium-high heat and cook the onion, celery, garlic and scallions for 5 minutes.

Add the clam juice, reserved liquor, shrimp stock, chicken broth, thyme, salt and pepper, along with the potatoes. Cook until the potatoes are tender, 12-14 minutes.

With the liquid at a simmer, stir in the dissolved corn starch. Stir until thickening takes place. Add the half and half, butter, and clams and bring back to a simmer. Cook for 1 minute, remove from heat, check seasonings, and let the chowder stand for a couple of minutes.

Serve with puff pastry bread sticks (recipe below) in heated bowls.

Puff pastry bread sticks
1 sheet puff pastry
Parmesan or romano cheese
white pepper

Preheat the oven to 400°.

Thaw the pastry sheet and unfold on a cutting board. Brush lightly with olive oil. Grate cheese to taste over the top and also several pinches of white pepper. Slice into 9 strips in the direction of the fold.

Place on an ungreased baking sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes until golden brown. Let stand on a cooking rack for 5 minutes before serving.

For a free excerpt of my book, “A Year of Food,” in which I opine, report, cook, muse and philosophize about everything that passed my lips for an entire year, write to me at: scrout1944@msn.com.

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