Thursday, January 10, 2008

Soup of The Week: Simple Clam Chowder

Last week after grocery shopping by myself, I arrived home to find two children who were very willing to help me unpack groceries. They were very willing helpers, scrutinizing everything and putting things where they belonged. It was very comical though when they removed the cans of clams and the bottles of clam juice from the bag. Instantly the kids were horrified. Clam juice? Ew! Canned Clams? Yucky! I hope you're not going to make us eat those! So I tucked them into the pantry, waiting for another soup day to come into being.

Yesterday was the day. I got Zander busy with a computer game and headed to the kitchen myself to make a pot of Simple Clam Chowder. I was trying to do it covertly so that he didn't see the clam products on the counter. I'd had a head start from the day before. We had bacon with our waffles, and I saved a few strips of bacon, plus some of the grease for using for the chowder. Even if I'd had to brown the bacon though, this would have been a very quick chowder to put together. There were a few minutes of inactive time, and all I could do was hope that this chowder turned out. I'd only ever made clam chowder once, and that one was a crock-pot recipe, and used cans of cream of potato soup. I wasted no time in tasting it the second I thought it was done.

It was very good! I admit that a part of me was surprised at that. This was a Cooking Light recipe, and while Cooking Light is a source that I can usually count on, I really didn't expect this chowder to be that good. I expected it was going to need a few pinches of something to perk up the flavor. It didn't it was excellent on it's own, and was going to make a fantastic dinner. I dumped it into my crock pot to keep it warm until we got back from dance class, and when we got home, a fabulous aroma greeted us. Andy and I were very careful to call this just chowder to the kids. Any mention of the word clam, and they would have gone running, scared. Abigail dropped a few oyster crackers into her chowder, took a tentative taste, and then went to town. This girl inhaled her clam chowder! Zander, on the other hand, couldn't be swayed to take more than one bite. I was okay with that. Clam chowder is very distinctive, and if he didn't like it, no amount of persuading was going to get him to change his mind.

I'm thrilled with this recipe. Andy and I found last night that it really didn't need the crumbled bacon on top, it really stood on it's own two feet nicely. My only problem was that I had inadvertently picked up minced clams instead of chopped clams, and as a result, I missed some real bites of clam. The minced worked okay, but next time I think I'd like to use chopped. I'm looking forward to leftover Simple Clam Chowder for lunch, and I can gladly add another soup to my repertoire.

Simple Clam Chowder
from Cooking Light magazine.

2 bacon slices
2 cups chopped onion
1 1/4 cups chopped celery
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 garlic cloves -- minced
6 cans chopped clams -- (6 1/2-ounce) undrained
5 cups diced peeled baking potato (about 1 pound)
4 bottles clam juice -- (8-ounce)
1 bay leaf
3 cups fat-free milk
1/2 cup all-purpose flour

Cook bacon in a large Dutch oven over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan, reserving 1 teaspoon drippings in pan. Crumble bacon; set aside. Add onion, celery, salt, thyme, and garlic to drippings in pan; cook 4 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

Drain clams, reserving liquid. Add clam liquid, potato, clam juice, and bay leaf to pan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes or until potato is tender. Discard bay leaf.

Combine milk and flour, stirring with a whisk until smooth. Add flour mixture to pan; bring to a boil. Cook 12 minutes or until thick, stirring constantly. Add clams; cook 2 minutes. Sprinkle with bacon.

Serves 12


Elisabeth said...

Erika, I'm so glad to read this review today! I LOVE clam chowder and always order it at restaurants when they have it...but like your kids, the whole "canned clam" idea at home has always grossed me out (although, come to think of it, I'm sure that's what MN restaurants use, too...) - I think I'm going to get over my fear of the canned clams and make this one. Thank you!

Erika W. said...

Definitely try it! Even when I order clam chowder out, often times I think it tastes like it has canned "cream of something" added to it. This didn't have any artificial tinny taste to it.

It reheated very nicely for lunch too. :-)

Tracy said...

This looks like a recipe I'll have to try. Clam chowder is my husband's and kids' favorite soup, but they've never had homemade! Do you think this would freeze well?

Tracy said...

Never mind on the freezing issue! I looked at the recipe in my magazine and I saw the serving size is 1 cup. I think this will only last a couple of days here!

Erika W. said...

Yeah, it didn't last long here either!