Jennifer’s Ode to a Clam (Chowder)

April 1, 2012 § 5 Comments

What we have here is a guest post. My first guest – awesome! And it’s from none other than the best chef I know personally—my dear wife, Jennifer. She’s the real cook in the Dainty household. Who needs a recipe? Not her, not really. Today’s topic  happens to be one of those recipe-less recipes that she just developed from experience. You eat enough chowder, you’re gonna know how to make it eventually.

So, without further ado, here’s Jennifer’s brilliant rendition of clam chowder.

Ode to a clam. Yes, I said clam. Many of you out there have an aversion to shellfish, which are easy to ruin in unskilled hands. Perish the thought. I know one former Eastern Long Island resident (editor’s note: That would be me) who had such an aversion, until she was able to experience what shellfish cooked well tastes like … manna from heaven. Well, actually the sea—the sweet, briny, bountiful sea.

Inspired by photos posted by dear friends who did some late-winter clamming, I suddenly remembered the quart-sized pouch of clams frozen in our freezer; harvested New Year’s weekend during an unseasonably warm morning outing in the flats of Provincetown Harbor.  I had frozen the clams along with the liquor they produced, waiting for the right moment to make a chowder. Not your typical Monday night meal, and it only took moments to whip up!

-I thawed out 4 cups of clam broth and 2 cups of fish fumet

Jennifer's clam chowder

-Diced into 1 inch cubes 3 potatoes

-I cooked the potatoes in the clam liquor along with 2 bay leaves for seasoning. While the potatoes were cooking I sautéed up a mirepoix (fancy way of saying celery, carrot and onion).

-2 medium carrots

-2 celery stalks

-1 large onion

-Once the veggies were mostly soft I added 4 oz. of shitake mushrooms. I had them in the fridge, and thought, why not?!

-When the potatoes were done (15 minutes or so), I used an immersion blender to break down the potatoes, but not completely. I wanted to leave some chunks, but also give the illusion of some cream in the broth, so I let my starch be the cream substitute. To the pot I added my cooked veggies and the quart plus of clams, warmed the mixture through and wished I had some crusty bread to serve along with it.

Man, oh man that was good!  Thank you P & J for inspiring me to bust out the bounty harvested a few months ago. Food-inspired memories!

Comments? Questions? Your favorite clam chowdah experience? Leave us a note below!

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Linguine with Clam Sauce: The Payoff

January 4, 2011 § 1 Comment

Clamming Part II.

This is the best part. This is when the clams go from mollusk-stuffed rocks to dinner in no time at all. This is the kind of 30-minute meal I’m talkin’ about, sista. Step aside, Rach. Ellen’s makin’ dinner.

Actually, Jennifer and Ellen are making dinner. Okay, okay … Jennifer’s making dinner, I’m sous-cheffing.

Here’s the play-by-play:

Large pot, filled with water, add handfuls of kosher salt until it “tastes like the sea,” as Giada would say. High heat. When it boils, throw in a pound of linguine – you know the drill. Keep an eye on doneness while you’re prepping the rest. Cook until nearly done, then just turn off the heat and let it coast in. When clams are nearly done, drain the linguine. Reserve 1/2 cup cooking water to add back into the pasta if you wish.

Two or three big fat cloves of garlic, smacked and minced go into a saute pan with EVOO, a tbs or two. Throw in a fresh anchovy fillet (or two for good luck). Medium heat ’til the anchovy melts and it smells like Italian heaven.

Add a half cup-ish dry white wine. Nothing you wouldn’t drink yourself, but I’m not talking a Dog Point sauvignon blanc here. We used a Sevillon/Chardonnay blend that is on the I-wouldn’t-chuck-it-down-the-sink side.

Clam juice – that’s right, we’re adding clam juice to clam sauce. Like adding chicken stock to something. Just a touch of added flavor. Let that come together for a bit. It’ll boil more quickly than you think.

Simmah time. Mmmmm. We’re half-way there, folks.

Now’s the time that some will get squeamish. It’s ok, really – the clams are destined for a greater purpose at this point. We had about 30 clams. Only about 10 at a time fit in the pan. Throw ’em in, cover, and wait for the little guys to give it up. It takes between four to six minutes, depending on size. We had some big clams that took quite a bit of time. And, something I never knew – when the clams open, it’s not like it’s a slow-motion death yawn. There’s a definite rumbling in the dying clam’s vicinity, and then a sudden “pop” – the pearly treasure reveals itself. I’m exaggerating with the pearl comparison, of course.

When they open, take them out of the “juice” and pry out the meat. Reserve shells (for fumé). Add next batch to pan, and so on until they’re all cooked and open.

We’re almost there.

Mince your clams. Add back to the saute pan – which now magically has way more liquid in it from the clams – and let them heat up again. Add in your pasta. Mix until amazing.

Serve up, garnish with fresh chopped flat parsley – never, never the curly stuff. (By the way, we added parsley we harvested from our garden back in November. Man, that stuff keeps when prepared properly. Fresh garden parsley in January, yo.)

Eat. Try not to slop it all over yourself. That may be the hardest part of this whole experience.

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