Thursday, April 28, 2011

It Looks Like Clam Chowder

 A Potato Soup-Style Clam Chowder 

Meals can be, well... let's call them interesting, just before we move back aboard Rhapsody. What's left in the kitchen? The freezer is finally empty, the refrigerator looks bare and the pantry offers few staples to work with? Who wants to cook? Not me, however I still chose to eat at home; it would have been such a bother to tidy up just to go out to eat, and then come home to work on more messy projects. 

Inspiration struck as I gathered up odds and ends; a large baking potato, one big Spanish onion, a fat poblano pepper, a small jalapeno pepper, two cans of minced clams, half a bunch of fresh parsley, some sour cream and an assortment of spices and seasonings. RL deserved a comforting bowl of soup after doing battle for hours setting up the new boat computer. For myself I needed the comfort of an easy, can't-fail dish after losing a battle with bread dough.

I never, ever have failures with bread, that is not until today. A round of my sourdough rye collapsed in the center, creating a dense little boule with a rock solid crust and a moist middle. Was the starter tired? Did I add too much rye flour? or let it rise too long? or bake at too low an initial temperature? or... or... or... Note to selfs: it did make exceptional toasted rye croutons for the soup. (Without a soup soak those little cubes might chip a tooth or crack a filling!)

Back to the soup. I declared it a new version of clam chowder. RL claimed it was more like a potato soup with clams. Whatever, we both agreed it was delicious. The jalapeno and poblano added interest without being too assertive. We adjusted the heat in our separate bowls with more Cajun Sunshine - one of us used three times as much as the other! This will be a bowl of comfort on some chilly future afternoon, maybe anchored in a secluded cove or during a long passage across big water. It will certainly warm us up after a fishing trip or kayak exploration. Can you tell, my thoughts are already afloat and not ashore?! 

Here's the process rather than an exact recipe. Soup is so forgiving, it allows for freeform improvisation, careless measurements, and it still manages to taste good... unlike the precision suggested for baking.  This time I ended up with...

A Different Clam Chowder
  1. Microwave 1 large, scrubbed baking potato for half of the usual cooking time. Let it cool and chop into 3/4 to 1-inch dice. Set aside.
  2. Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a medium-sized pot and saute a diced onion and a seeded, diced poblano pepper until the onion begins to soften. 
  3. Add some minced garlic and jalapeno; cook until briefly until the kitchen smells garlicky and wonderful. 
  4. Stir in generous amounts of oregano, thyme, ground pepper and a bay leaf; cook for a minute or two until fragrant. 
  5. Add a heaping tablespoon or two of flour and stir to blend; cook for another minute or two. Add 2 small cans (or 1 large can) of chopped clams along with their juices. Stir some more to incorporate all into a paste-like mixture. 
  6. Add the chopped potato chunks to the pot along with enough chicken stock (or water) to cover. Stir some more. Bring to a boil, then simmer until the potatoes are tender. 
  7. Remove the bay leaf and stir in some chopped flat leaf parsley. Add some milk or cream if the soup is too thick. Taste and adjust the seasonings. At this point I added half a dozen shakes of Cajun Sunshine hot sauce. Green tabasco is another favorite for heat without hurt.
  8. Ladle into bowls and top with a pat of butter or dollop of sour cream and a handful of toasted, garlicky croutons.
Notes: the minced clams were too tiny to provide any visual impact, but they did their part flavorwise. Bacon or salt pork is traditional in many clam chowders, but it was not missed in this recipe. I would add a bit of cream at the end, if there was any cream in the fridge... which there wasn't yesterday. 

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