We got a nice 6" of snow, and sleet in the Annapolis area last night, so a warm bowl of delicious was in order.
I have been craving New England Clam Chowder for a few weeks, so I decided it was a perfect opportunity.
I grabbed the ingredients and started cooking at 11am. For the next few hours I was inside cooking, Chris was outside beer-ographing in the snow. It was wonderful.
I started off by sauteeing about 1/4 of diced thick smoked bacon. Once it was ready I pulled it from the pot and added some mixed mushrooms, a pat of butter, a pinch of salt and my favorite spice, fresh thyme. I let the mushrooms brown up and peeled 2.5 lbs of golden potatoes in the meantime. When the mushrooms were finished I pulled them out and put them to the side. I then sauteed 4 stalks of diced celery, 1 diced carrot, 1/2 a diced medium yellow onion, 5" finely chopped leek, a large shallot, and a bit of olive oil to keep it all from burning.
As soon as all of the aromatics (ie onions, shallots, leeks) started turning translucent I began to pick out the carrots to keep the soup from turning too muddy or orange. I suppose you could omit them all together but I can always taste the difference. I then added the potatoes and allowed them to begin to brown. Once a nice fond formed on the bottom of the pot I poured in 8oz of clam broth and a can clams that had been strained and washed, and allowed the whole mixture to boil and reduce for a minute or two, stirring as I went.
In a separate pan I melted a pat of butter and enough chicken broth to fill about 1/2" up the sides of the pan. You could also use more clam juice, or even white wine. In this pan I steamed 4lbs (shells and all) of fresh cherrystone clams in batches. As the clams opened I put them aside to pick for later.
When the clams were all cooked I added about 26oz of chicken broth. As soon as I poured it in I realized I had made two small mistakes. First, I realized that because it was not homemade, it had a very strong color to it from the carrots that cooked in it! Not such a major problem, and no going back so I had to accept it. I also realized that I had meant to sprinkle flour over the veggies before adding the liquid in order to thicken the soup, and allow the raw flour flavor to toast up. This problem was solved by taking two tbsp of flour and a glass of the hot soup liquid together to make a thick slurry, and pouring that back into the soup. I allowed that to all cook for about 5min while I picked the clams. I reserved the broth, planning to add it back into the chowder, but somehow it was too salty (even though I added no salt). I put the clams and bacon and mushrooms in the fridge and added about 2cups of Half and Half, a pinch of cayenne pepper, a pinch of crushed red pepper, and 3/4-1tsp of black pepper. I reduced the heat to barely simmer and also added 1 cup of crushed oyster crackers, and 2 tablespoons of lightly chopped fresh parsley. I let the whole mixture cook for around an hour.
While that finished I threw together some super simple Buttermilk Biscuits ( I use Alton Brown's recipe)
2cups ap flour
4tsp baking powder
1/4tsp baking soda
2tbsp cold butter
1cup chilled buttermilk (plus tbsp for brushing on biscuits)
Preheat over to 450ºF and clean a small space on your countertop. Pull out your cookie sheet, and a pastry brush, and an object to use as a cutter, or an actual cutter if you are that fancy.
Chope butter into small dice, be careful not to let melt or warm.
Stir all dry ingredients together in a big mixing bowl.
Use a fork to "cut" in the buter and shortening till the mixture looks crumbly.
Make a well in the center and pout in the buttermilk. Stir dry into wet until a thick sticky ball just BEGINS to form. Turn the dough onto a floured worksurface. Flour your hands and quickly knead the dough into a ball.
You must make everything as fast and as cold as possible to avoid melting the fat. This causes dense biscuits.
Flatten the dough till its about 1"thick but press gently, nothing should be perfect, just barely together. Use the cutter to cut biscuits and place on a cookie sheet so they just touch. Brush the top with buttermilk, or an egg water mixture to encourage browning.
Cook for 15min and serve with honey.
While the biscuits are cooking add the bacon, mushrooms, and clams to the pot and allow to warm through.
Seve and savor.
Side Note: I think next time I will try adding some jalapenos to the pot right at the end. A fresh crunch of green flavor would have really lightened the meal up. I also would recommend being more carful about letting the mixture boil as my half and half separated. This doesn't hurt flavor, mostly appearance, and the chowder has a very SLIGHTLY grainy texture. I added a bit of extra cool half and half right at the end which did help a tad. Maybe with cream I wouldn't have had that issue.
Subscribe to GFP