...because I was planning on taking this recipe to the grave. Or put up a website and start a business around it. Turns out I'm over the 50 lb. weight limit for netherworld luggage and I'm simply too busy to even register a domain name. "Blog about it" was choice #3 (come to think of it, that's choice #3 for pretty much everything that goes on in my life). So, my friends, I present to you the New England Clam Chowder recipe that won me a new family.
People invite me to parties all the time. I used to think that it was because I was cool. But when every call ends with "... oh, by the way, can you bring over some of that clam chowder too?" you begin to wonder. And when your not-yet-wife's aunt screams "get the minister!" after one bite, you just know. It's the chowda. It's gotta be the chowda.
After a decade of silence, I am ready to share it with you. I cooked up a vat (and I mean a VAT) of this stuff over July 4th weekend. I am using the pictures from that session to illustrate the how-to part. The recipe below, however, is for the usual 6 servings, so the pictures are way off scale to what you will experience (just so you know).
BD's Killa Clam Chowda
- 1/2 cup clarified butter (unsalted)
- minced garlic (approx 1-2 cloves' worth)
- 1 medium onion, chopped (I prefer Vidalia)
- 1 rib celery, chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/4 teaspoon thyme (dried is fine; fresh doesn't make too much difference)
- 1/2 cup flour
- 30 ounces clam juice (go to a warehouse store like Smart & Final to buy this, or else you literally pay 5x more for the same amount of clam juice. Clam juice is not cheap at a normal supermarket. Not at all.)
- 3 cups half and half, divided into two batches of 1 1/2 cups each
- 1 med potato, diced into 1/2" cubes
- 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
- 13 ounces fresh chopped clams (or two 6.5 oz. cans), fully cooked
Most people who cook know how to make clarified butter. But for those of you who don't, I'm not going to send you on a Google search. Here's the easy way: a 1/2 cup butter is equivalent to one stick, so just put a stick of butter into the pot, set it on the lowest heat possible and let it melt completely. Then just let it cool. After it cools, use a sieve or spoon and scoop up and discard the white milk solids that gather on the surface. The clear yellow leftover liquid is clarified butter.
Clarifying butter takes a few minutes, so I usually use this heating/cooling time to prep my garlic, onions, celery and potatoes. And I pre-measure my spices too. Cooking is a lot easier (and more fun) when you pre-measure what you need and set it out in front of you. Plus, you totally feel like you are on your own cooking show. It rocks...
Now, throw the minced garlic into the clarified butter and cook on low heat for 1 to 2 minutes. Careful not to brown it. You just want to soften it.
Next throw in your onions and celery, along with the bay leaf, thyme and white pepper. Turn the heat up to medium and cook about 5 minutes, until the onions are translucent. It is important to keep it moving! There are two keys to success in this chowder - always keep it moving, and add ingredients gradually. I've seen this recipe botched by friends who tried it because they did not do those two things.
Keep it moving! Unless you are taking a picture...
Once the onions reach translucency, slowly add the flour. Add a little, stir it in, add a little more, stir it in, etc. Until it is gone. This way you minimize lumpage. You have now created a roux (butter/flour mixture) with onions, celery and spices in it. Cook this for about 5-7 minutes. Careful - it should look beige. Do not let it get brown!
Butter and flour rule. Sometimes more than freedom itself.
At this point, things smell mighty good. Just keep stirring and enjoying the aroma. Keep it moving!
My chowda brings all the dawgs to the yard...
After 5-7 minutes, slowly add the clam juice. Same as the flour. Add a little, mix it in. Add a little more, mix it in. Again, to minimize lumpage. After you've added all the clam juice, add the 1 1/2 cups half and half that you set aside. Stir. Slowly bring to a boil. Don't forget to maintain fairly constant movement, as cream-based liquids have a tendency to scald.
Child labor is an excellent source of constant movement.
Once the mixture has come to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for about 5 minutes. Once it's simmering, you don't have to move it as much. Take a breather.
Cooking isn't boring. You just need the right peripheral activies.
... like rounding up rogue droids.
After it has simmered for a while, add the diced potatoes and the salt. Stir it up well and simmer until the potatoes are cooked to your liking (I don't like them too soft because they tend to soften more just sitting in the chowder). For me, that takes roughly 12-15 minutes.
I know, you just want to dive right in, don't you?
At this point you can excuse your kid so he can change out of his jammies. It is 1pm, you know.
"Put on whatever you want," I said.
I know, you've seen me in that shirt 50 times. I LOVE "Life is Good" T-shirts. Or T-shirt in my case.
For you cooking enthusiasts out there, here's 65,000 BTUs for you. If you are turned on, I totally understand.
Playtime's over. Stir for your lunch!
After the potatoes are to your liking, pour in the rest of the half and half (1 1/2 cups). Stir it around for a minute or so and remove from heat.
SO bad for you, yet so right.
Add the clams, stir it some more (off the heat) and you are done!
Unlike me, this chowder is so much better in real life.
The proof is in the kid eating piping hot soup with gusto on a 95 degree day.