Our resident culinary expert, Matt Powell, has a different suggestion for fighting those start-of-semester blues. Read on for his take on the best way to keep your heart and soul warm.
The first Thursday that I was back from break, I was wandering through the Farmer’s Market and the fish stand seemed to be calling to me. Although the mussels tempted me, I opted for the live clams. It has always been a tradition at my house to have clam chowder during the winter months, but this year, I did not go home for the break. I needed my clam chowder! This time, though, I was going to make it fresh. (We shouldn’t fear live preparations. They’re tastier!)
24 small clams ($10 from the farmer’s market)
4 slices of bacon, diced
1 onion, diced
2 tbsp. flour
2 bay leaves
2 large Russet potatoes, about 1 lb., cut into ½ inch cubes
3 C heavy cream
1/3 C sherry or cognac
Salt and Pepper to taste
Tabasco Sauce to taste
½ C fennel fronds, chopped (optional)
¼ C Italian parsley, chopped (optional)
Bread, sliced and toasted (optional)
1. Sort through the clams. If you see any opened clams or any cracked shells, throw them out. Wash the clams of any grime on the outside with cool water. Place the clams in a large pot. Cover with the clams with water. Bring the water to a boil. Place a lid on the pot and reduce the heat to a simmer. Allow the clams to simmer for 5-8 minutes, until all of the clams have opened up. After the time is up, check the clams. If some are not open, continue to cook for 2 more minutes. If some of the clams still have not opened, throw the unopened clams away. Using a slotted spoon, remove all of the opened clams to a bowl for later use in the soup. Save the cooking water.
2. In a large soup pot, cook the bacon until done (8 minutes). Remove cooked bacon to a paper towel-lined plate. Save the grease. Add in the diced onion and sauté for 5-7 minutes. Add in the flour and stir to coat the onions. Cook for 2 more minutes. Add 3 cups of the clam water to the onion-flour mixture. Stir until the consistency is like cream, 5 minutes. Add in the bay leaves. Add in the potatoes and simmer until tender, about 15 minutes.
3. While the potatoes simmer, take your cooked clams and separate them from their shells (you can save the shells for presentation if you like). Roughly chop the clams. In a saucepan, warm the cream (but do not boil). Once the potatoes are tender, add in the cream and the clams. Simmer for 2-5 minutes.
4. Add in the sherry (or cognac), Tabasco Sauce, and the salt and pepper to taste. (You shouldn’t need too much salt.)
5. Serve in soup bowls with fennel fronds and parsley as garnish. Bread goes on the side.