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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Rhode Island Clam Chowder

Rhode Island Clam Chowder
So, did you know that Rhode Island Clam Chowder was a thing? Until recently, I didn't. You see, lately I've been in the mood for seafood. Well, okay—I'm almost always in the mood for seafood. So how let's just say that I'm craving it even more than usual. This leads to me scouring my bookshelves and the internet for ideas and inspiration. It was on one of these missions that I happened across an article by Sam Sifton called The Clam Chowder Wars, and in turn, Rhode Island Clam Chowder.

Now, I've found myself to be in the minority when I declare Manhattan Clam Chowder to be my favorite type. Manhattan variety has a tomato-based brothy base, with a hint of heat from crushed red chile flakes. It's not only the flavor, it's the brothiness; I tend to prefer brothy soups. It was actually the very first recipe that I shared right here on my blog over six years ago, and I just happened to post an updated recipe less than a week ago.

That said, I do like the creamy New England variety...I think. Yes, I'm ducking right now. I saw that only because I can't remember the last time I ate any. It was probably when I was still working in restaurants. So, it's been at least seven years. You can probably guess where this is going; you'll be seeing yet another clam chowder recipe in this space soon.

Rhode Island Clam Chowder
But today, it was all about exploring the Rhode Island variety that Sifton described as recalling "the feeling of pulling into Block Island after a long day at sea, tired and scented with salt spray". Yeah. I want to be sitting at a table, on a salt sprayed, wind weathered deck eating a bowl of it under the Atlantic sun, watching boats and gulls in the distance.

Upon looking at the simple ingredient list, one might assume it was boring or drab. It's actually just the opposite. It seems to be the version that tastes (dare I say) the purest. It's broth is clear, and tastes like ocean air...salty...clammy. It has some underlying heat from a healthy dose of black pepper, as well.

I have a feeling that I need to head over to the west coast and look into some Pacific clam chowders soon, as well. I hear they serve it in a bread bowl in San Francisco—HELLO!

Rhode Island Clam Chowder
With origins along Rhode Island's southern coast, this simple clam chowder has a clear broth crowded with clams and potatoes, and the pleasant heat of black pepper. 
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Rhode Island Clam Chowder
by Heather Schmitt-Gonzalez
Prep Time: 10 minutes (+ time for the soup to rest)
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Keywords: simmer soup/stew dairy-free soy-free sugar-free clams potatoes American

Ingredients (serves 6-8)
  • 12 to 16 ounces canned clams, chopped or whole (see note)
  • 4 ounces bacon
  • 2 small yellow onions, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 2 large ribs celery, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1/2 cup white wine (nothing fruity, choose dry)
  • 16 ounces red potatoes, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 quart clam juice, broth (or fish or seafood stock)
  • few sprigs thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
Drain the canned clams, pouring the liquid from them into a 4-cup glass measuring cup. Add enough clam stock or juice (or alternative) to yield 4 cups (1 quart); set aside. At this point, if you want to chop any of the clams, do that and then reserve them.

Cut the bacon crosswise ito 1/4-inch strips. Put in a heavy pot or Dutch oven over medium heat, stirring occasionally, and cook until done, 5-7 minutes. Scoop out the bacon and transfer it to a paper towel-lined plate; reserve. You should have about 1-1/2 tablespoons of bacon grease left in the pot; if you don't, add a bit of oil or fat to make that amount (or pour off any extra).

Set the pot back over medium heat and add the onion and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes, or until soft and turning translucent. Pour in the wine and let it bubble up for 1 minute.

Add the potatoes, clam broth, thyme, and bay leaf. Bring back to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 15 minutes, or until potatoes are tender.

Stir the reserved clams and bacon into the pot and add a good amount of black pepper (I use 1 teaspoon to start, then add more to my bowl - taste to find your sweet spot), to taste. I usually find that clam chowder does not need any extra salt, especially if you've used canned clams, as the bacon adds some, too; be sure to taste before automatically adding some in. Let sit for 30 minutes, then remove the thyme stems and bay leaf. Warm slightly before serving, if you wish.

Stir in the parsley just before serving, with oyster crackers on the side.

If you want to use fresh clams, you'll need about 48 small hardshells. Place the clams in a large pot and cover with 1-1/2 quarts of water. Set pot over medium-heat heat and bring to a boil, then cover, and reduce to a simmer. Cook until all the clams have opened, about 12 minutes; discard any clams that don't open. Set a strainer over a bowl and line it with cheesecloth or a damp coffee filter; pour the cooking liquid through the strainer. Remove the clams from their shells. Use this liquid where the recipe calls for clam broth.

You can also use a mixture of fresh and canned clams. Just use enough canned clams to make up for what you don't have in fresh.

-adapted from Sam Sifton via NY Times Cooking 
Rhode Island Clam Chowder
I'm excited to be donning my substitute hat again this month, as I join the Progressive Eats crew in bringing you a tempting menu featuring SOUP and some sides to go with it!

Welcome to Progressive Eats, our virtual version of a Progressive Dinner Party. This month's theme is Soup’s On! and is hosted by Lauren Keating who blogs at Healthy. Delicious. Need some warming up? We can help!

Soups On!

Salads and Bread

If you're unfamiliar with the concept, a progressive dinner involves going from house to house, enjoying a different course at each location. With Progressive Eats, a theme is chosen each month, members share recipes suitable for a delicious meal or party, and you can hop from blog to blog to check them out.

We have a core group of 12 bloggers, but we will always need substitutes and if there is enough interest would consider additional groups. To see our upcoming themes and how you can participate, please check out the schedule at Creative Culinary or contact Barb for more information.

More delicious seafood chowders:
Manhattan Clam Chowder
Smoked Salmon Chowder

Can't get enough soup? You may be a SOUP ADDICT like me!
Follow Heather Schmitt-Gonzalez's board Soup Addict on Pinterest.

I am sharing this soup with Souper Sundays at Kahakai Kitchen!