Tag Archives: clams

New England Clam Chowder

New England Clam Chowder

In your mind’s eye, paint the following picture – it’s a cold, November day. The sky is a dark gray, and rain is spitting against the window of your home.

Inside, the lights are on, even though it’s three o’clock in the afternoon. The heater turns on for what seems like the first time in months, a light whrrrrrrrrrrrr emanating from deep within itself.

On a day like this, there is no better meal to make than a New England Clam Chowder….which is exactly what I did.

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 medium white onion, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/3 lb salt pork, finely diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 Tablespoons All Purpose Flour
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 1 pound red skin potatoes, diced
  • 2 cups fish stock
  • 1 1/2 cup clam meat, chopped
  • 16 ounces clam juice
  • 1 whole bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped dill

In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter and add the garlic and onions. When the onions get soft, but before theystart to become translucent, add the salt pork. Cook until the salt pork is crisp. Remove from heat. Spoon off any excess fat beyond the two tablespoons intially used.

Place the onions/pork and oil into a soup pot that has also been placed over medium heat.Allow to sit for 1 minute and then stir in the flour. Add the cream and half and half, stirring them together. Add the fish stock, clam juice, clams, bay leaf and potatoes. Lower the heat to a simmer and allow to cook until potatoes are soft (for 30 minutes approx). Add the pepper and dill. Cook for another 10 minutes and then serve.

Serves 6-8

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Clams, clams and more clams

Okay… I have to come clean. I thought I could handle it. I thought I would be able to approach any and all food topics with grace and dignity. Eating insects? Not gonna bother me. Knowing how meat gets to our table? I can stomach that. But I have to admit to a failing.

Clams freak me out.

Not eating them….Not that at all. Give me fried clams with malt vinegar and I am one happy puppy (Puppy?Hmmmm…note to self. Try clams with side of hush puppies).

No, no. What freaks me out are the clams themselves, not to mention the people who dig them up…for fun.

I’ll talk about the clams in a bit.. First the people involved. Notice this web page. And then note the following quote:

“Razor clams are fun to dig.”

What a crock. That has to be the broadest interpretation of the word ‘fun’ that I have ever come across. Let’s think of tasks that are far more fun than sitting on a cold damp beach digging out soe freak of nature bivalve.

Riding a roller coaster? That’s fun!

Riding in a souped up Mustang GT on an open interstate with a blatant disregard for authority? FUN!

Hell, when compared to clam digging, watching the numbers change on a digital clock is fun. These clam-digging people need to get out more. I fear getting into a long invovled conversation with any of them.

And then there are the clams themselves, what with their icky clam foot sticking out of their shell like a tongue of a lecherous mutant. Ugh.

And it’s not like there’s only one species of clam.. oh no. There are HUNDREDS of of versions the viscous shell slugs. Go to any fish house and you can find some of the more popular ones listed below:

Butter clams: From here in the Puget Sound area, these are small, sweet clams usually eaten raw. Also known as moneyshells, as the Native American Indians used the shells for money.

Cherrystone: Up to 3 inches in size, are named for Cherrystone Creek, Virginia. Recommended for eating raw and cooking. This is usually what you get when ordering clams on the half-shell.

Geoduck: Related to the giant clam, this odd-looking variety grows up to eight inches in length and can weigh in at over five pounds, although most are harvested at under three pounds. The neck of this clam is usually parboiled and skinned, with the skins being reserved and ground for chowder. The stomach (dark portion) of the body is removed and the rest carved into 1/4-inch steaks, which are considered by many to be superior to abalone. Because of their size, they have a tough texture and are usually not eaten raw. More on the Geoduck later.

Littleneck: Small quahogs less than 2-3/4 inches are so named for Littleneck Bay on Long Island, New York. These clams are generally recommended for eating raw and in chowders.

Longneck: It’s found in colder waters of the northern seas from the Arctic Ocean to Cape Hatteras and Pacific waters north of San Francisco. They are usually less expensive than other types and easiest to dig for. Recommendations for this particular type of clam are steaming, frying, and chowder.

Manila: Imported from the Orient after 1900, this variety of littleneck is now a dominant species in the Northwest. Recommended to be eaten cooked.

Pismo: Named for the coastline city of Pismo Beach, California, where they were first found. It is large, tender, and sweet. The connector muscle can be served raw, while the remainder is normally cooked after removal of the stomach (dark portion). If you like deep-fried clams these are particularly good.

Quahog (also Quahaug): This is an East coast favorite, it is also known as the round clam. Generally recommended for eating raw and in chowders, depending on the size. Smaller clams are best for eating raw. Quahogs also include Littlenecks and Cherrystones, which are simply smaller in size.

Razor: Because of its sharp shell and its resemblance to a straight-edge razor, this East coast variety of this clam is not as easy to catch as its West coast counterpart, making it not as popular. However, the unrelated Pacific razor clam is quite popular on the West Coast and is considered to have superior flavor. Recommended for frying and soups.

In the Seattle area, you can find clams with ease. Manila, Butter, Razor and even the dreaded Geoduck are all readily available in season.

Yeah.. about the geoduck? I have nightmares about them.

The geoduck (pronounced “gooey-duck”.. just another reason to hate the mutanteous shellfish…gooey?? Who the hell wants meat thats gooey???) is a clam that best resembles the sandworms from Dune. They are so very large. Picture your in your mind a regular clam, with it’s 1 oz of meat buried within its shell. Now picture the size of the clam that can produce FIVE FREAKIN POUNDS of meat!!! Having problems with that? Well lookey here.

You will note that the clam looks not unlike a penis. Add to this fact that when I see a clam this large, all I think about are those horror movies from the 50′s, where the mutated animals grow 10 times their size and attack helpless cities. You have not quite lived into you’ve had dreams of 50 foot penis shaped clams attacking downtown Seattle….very slowly (’cause they only have one appendage y’know).

And history tells us that the Neanderthals first excursion into meat eating started with shellfish. My faith in mankind dwindles just a bit knowing that between a choice of bison, rat or shellfish, our ancestors decided to gnosh on the penis looking objects found deep in the sandy beaches. This probably explains our innate laziness (easier to catch a clam than it is a gazelle) and our propensity for building large phallic monuments.

I see only one way to make these dreams go away: show the clams just where they stand on the food chain. My plans for attack? Creamy Deviled Clam, Clams Casino, and the old standby…clam chowder.

Then, and only then, can I get over my fear of these freaks of nature.


Steamed clams

clams

To be honest, shellfish intimidate me. Perhaps its that part of me from the Back Hills of Western Pennsylvania that still sort of cringes at the thought of eating oysters, or perhaps its the fact that I’ve heard so many stories from/about people who’ve become ill from eating that one bad scallop, but for some reason, I have a little bit of fear when it comes to the oldest meat source farmed by homo sapiens.

Didn’t know that, did you? You read correctly, man has been eating shellfish for longer than there’s been a civilized society, with archaeologist’s stating that we’ve been eating shellfish since before 50,000 BC. That’s a long time ago folks. If those people could eat the shellfish, what was I to be afraid of?

But what to make and how to make them? Luckily for me I am in an area of the country where such fish are plentiful. So I decided to stay local: Puget sound littleneck clams. And in asking the various fish vendors around Pike Place Market, I found that most of them liked to cook clams the simplest way…to steam them.

I went around and bought some basic ingredients for steaming clams…garlic, shallots, onions, lemon and parsley. Total cost? Six dollars.

Have I mentioned lately how much I love PPM? While there, I also purchased a 2002 Yakima Vally Riesling
from Hyatt Vineyards.
Side note…For a good, inexpensive Reisling, Hyatt has delivered a nice bottle for under nine dollars.

Here’s my recipe for steamed clams…and I must say ever so humbly: It was pretty tasty.

  • 1 cup Reisling (Rule of thumb…The better the wine, the better the clams)
  • 5 cloves of garlic, smashed
  • 1/2 shallot, diced
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley
  • 2 lbs. littleneck clams
  • Melted butter

-Rinse the clams in water, discarding any clams that are already open. Set aside in bowl.

-In a dutch over, place shallots, garlic. parsley and wine over medium high heat. Allow mixture to warm but not boil.

-Once broth gets warm, place clams in pot, cover, and raise to high heat, bringing to a boil. Every two minutes, shake pot, moving clams allowing them to open.

-After 10 minutes, remove clams with slotted spoon, keeping both in pot. Place in bowl.

-strain both into differnt bowl.

-Serve with melted butter as a dipping sauce on the side.

Eat by removing each clam from its shell, and dipping it in borth to remove any remaining grit, and then dip into butter.

As I said. Quite tasty.