Monday, October 31, 2011

Creamy Cape Cod Clam Chowder

A few years ago, in about mid May, Dad said that there was a cookbook he wanted.  With Father's Day just around the corner I made sure to pay attention as my Dad, like most Dad's, is sometimes difficult to buy for.  When he started discribing the cookbook it sounded like something we would all like, in fact after I bought it for him it took all I had to wait for Father's Day to flip through the culinary treasure!  The cookbook is called The Summer Shack Cookbook by Jasper White.  
After Dad had finally opened his gift and an appropriate amount of time had passed I quickly grabbed the cookbook, I know I have a problem when it comes to new cookbooks, and flagged all the recipes I wanted to try.  There were a bunch!  I get a little over zealous when it comes to all I want to try from a new cookbook but my friends don't seem to mind as they are all my guinea pigs!

Later that summer when we went down to Amelia Island for family vacation I asked Dad to make sure he brought this cookbook as I could think of at least ten recipes from it that would be that much better with the local, fresh seafood we would have at our disposal on the coast.  As has been previously stated, my favorite seafood dish is steamed clams.  We typically have them no less than 3 times when we are at the beach and each time it has broken my heart to throw out all of that savory broth in which the clams have been steamed.  Finally I had a solution to my heartbreak!  Isn't it great when sheer bliss and longing desire collide?  Get your head out of the gutter, I mean this strictly in a culinary way.  I pulled out The Summer Shack Cookbook, coupled with our heavenly broth (and to my complete surprise bacon and heavy cream) and was on my way to what I was sure would be incredible clam chowder!

Creamy Cape Cod Clam Chowder
The Summer Shack Cookbook, by Jasper White

10 pounds small quahogs or large cherry-stone clams (or if you are land locked like I am typically in Tennessee you can use 4 cans whole baby clams)
2 cups water
4 oz. meaty salt pork, rind removed and cut into small (1/3-inch) dice (I have used regular bacon and country ham before and both are great!)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 medium yellow onions (about 12 oz.) cut into 1/2-inch dice
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 stalks celery (4 oz.), cut into 1/3-inch dice
5 to 6 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed and chopped (1 tablespoon)
1 large dried bay leaf
2 pounds Yukon Gold, Maine, PEI, or other all-purpose potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2- to 3/4-inch dice
2 cups heavy cream
Freshly ground black pepper
Kosher or sea salt if needed
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
Note from Jasper White:
All chowders improve after they are made, so allow at least an hour from the time the chowder is cooked until it is served.  You can make the chowder 1 or 2 days in advance.  Reheat it slowly; never let it boil

If using fresh clams...
Scrub the clams and rinse well.  Place them in a large pot, add water, cover, and turn the heat to high.  Once you see a little steam escape from the pot, let the clams cook for about 5 minutes.  Remove the lid and quickly move the clams around in the pot so they will cook evenly, then cover and cook for 5 minutes more, or until clams open.  Pour off broth and reserve.  After it has settled a bit, strain the broth, leaving the bottom 1/2-inch of broth (and sediment) in the container.  You should have about 4 cups.  Remove the clams from the shells, place in a bowl, and refrigerate until cold.

If using canned clams, skip that part and start here...
Dice the clams into small (1/3- to 1/2-inch) pieces.  Reserve the clam juice.  Cover clams and refrigerate.  Rinse and dry the pot and hat over low heat.  Add the salt pork and cook until crispy and brown.  
Add the butter, onions, garlic, celery, thyme, and bay leaf and saute, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, for about 10 minutes, until the onions are softened but not browned.


Add the potatoes and 4 cups reserved clam broth (I didn't peel the potatoes but that is totally a personal preference....I like the skins).  
The broth should just barely cover the potatoes; if it doesn't, add more broth or water.  
Turn the heat to high, cover the pot, and boil vigorously for about 10 minutes, until the potatoes are soft on the outside but still firm in the center.  
Smash a few potatoes against the side of the pot and stir them into the chowder to lightly thicken it.
Remove the pot from the heat and stire in the cream and diced clams.  
Season with black pepper; you may not need salt 
(the clams usually add enough of their own).  
If you are serving the chowder within the hour, just let it sit ad "cure".  Otherwise, let cool to room temperature and refrigerate it; cover it after it has chilled.

When ready to serve, reheat the chowder slowly over medium heat; do not let boil.  Ladle into cups or bowls and sprinkle with the parsley.

Just for good meausure I threw in some oyster crackers!
And of course some baby pictures!
Emory is helping Dad in the kitchen!
Such a happy helper!

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