Tuesday, January 25, 2011

237. New England Clam Chowder, Easy

Mention 'clam chowder' and some people will  think of a thick, creamy dish that is served in bowl with crackers or crisp breads. Other people know their chowder as an almost clear, tomato-based soup.

The thick, white chowder is known as New England clam chowder while the red version is called Manhattan. No one knows for certain where the Manhattan label came from, but it is, supposedly, the preferred chowder in the environs of New York.

Which ever style is offered, it is sufficient to note that all chowders got their start as peasant food when almost any food remnants were thrown into a pot and simmered down into the soup-of-the day...the only requirement was that the concoctions contained some kind of fish or seafood.

Food time-lines say that in the 1800s  these first chowders were a multi-layered conglomeration of fish, pork, bread or crackers and liquid. Several layers of these ingredients were put in a large pot, seasoned and simmered over the fire for a few hours. I can't imagine how it became popular!

While both versions of chowders are available in cans, I find that they all have an off-flavor that is neither desirable nor found in home-made soups. New England clam chowder is so easy to create...the little time it takes to put together is well worth the effort.

This easy recipe is even more time friendly if the potatoes are cooked in a potato bag in the microwave - 5 minutes on HIGH, see posts # 3 and 54).

New England Clam Chowder

2 strips bacon
½ medium sweet onion, chopped
2 russet potatoes, cooked, peeled and cubed
2 T flour
Salt and pepper blend, to taste
2 T sherry (optional)
Tabasco sauce
2 cans chopped clams, juice reserved
1% milk (any milk or even heavy cream may be substituted)

Cut bacon strips into small pieces and add to a pot on medium high heat. Stir to brown evenly. When golden, turn heat down to medium and add chopped onion. Stir and cook until onion is slightly translucent. Add flour and stir well. Heat over low heat, stirring for 2-3 minutes. Carefully, whisk in the reserved clam juice. The sauce will thicken and must be stirred while it simmers. Add the potatoes and stir well. Begin to add milk and continue stirring. Add only enough milk to bring the consistency up to that of a thick soup. Add sherry and Worcestershire and Tabasco to taste. Stir in clams. Taste and add salt and pepper blend as desired. Serve.
Recipe may be doubled.

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