We’ve had some very cold weather here in Baltimore the last few weeks. Well, very cold by Baltimore standards. We’ve even had some snow! Mommy says it’s not really worth mentioning because it hasn’t lasted more than a few hours, but for those of us who have only ever lived in Baltimore it still counts. The snow and cold yesterday put us all in the mood for soup and Mommy must have been reminded of growing up in New England because she decided to make chowder (or chow-dah, as I understand they call it…)
Mommy says there has long been some debate in her family about clam chowder. Nonno and Nonna (her parents) prefer Manhattan clam chowder. Perhaps because Nonno is from the NY-metropolitan area. However, although Manhattan is Mommy’s favorite city, she prefers the creaminess of New England clam chowder. Perhaps because she grew up in New England – though she doesn’t readily admit to this, so maybe it’s just the creaminess.
Whichever style you make, it’s a pretty simple process. In general, soups are fairly simple and don’t even have to take a long time. So, gather up some ingredients – many of which you may have in your pantry – and make yourself some warmth in a bowl.
2 strips thick-cut bacon, diced
6-8 medium potatoes, diced
2 medium carrots, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
1 medium onion, diced
1 jar clam juice
1 (10 oz) can of clams
1 quart half & half (or a combination of milk and half & half)
salt & pepper
Render bacon over medium heat (this is just a fancy way of saying cook the bacon until all the fat has cooked away from the meat and you have crispy bacon and melted bacon fat.) Remove the bacon bits and drain them on a paper towel for garnish later. Add vegetables to the pot and toss them with the bacon fat.
Open the can(s) of clams and drain the liquid into the pot of vegetables. Also add the jar of clam juice. Add water to the pot to just cover the vegetables.
Bring to a boil and then turn down heat to simmer until the potatoes and carrots are tender, about 15-20 minutes. Add clams and warm through (clams will get rubbery if they are over-cooked.)
Add the half & half (we used fat-free, though Mommy doesn’t understand how half & half can be fat-free… and it was still creamy) and salt and pepper to taste. We use lots of pepper because Mommy likes pepper. You will probably also use more salt than you think you want or need, but add a little and taste – you can always add more, but can’t take it away. The salt is a funny one to judge in this recipe because the clam juice is salty, but potatoes can absorb a lot of salt without tasting salty. You decide what you like.
It’s ready to eat. We topped ours with the bacon bits (which you could also stir in at the end) and some oyster crackers, which may be my new favorite. A little parsley or some chives would be good too, especially for a little color.
If you really wanted to make this Manhattan style, just omit the half & half and add an equivalent amount of tomatoes and their juice and Voila!
Now wasn’t that easy?!?!