Cooking inspiration comes from many sources, right? Friends, coworkers, conversations overheard most anywhere, magazines, billboards, TV commercials, the person sitting next to you in church, random cooking smells drifting on the breeze from a neighbor’s home, something seen in the grocery store, a cookbook, or even your own imagination can spark a little kitchen madness. Madness being the operative word; aka kitchen whimsy.
At least that’s the way it is with me. The internet offers an endless supply of recipe ideas as evidenced by my HUGE collection of printed recipes. If I stopped printing recipes today, I do not think that I would be able to cook everything in my collection even if I lived to be 100. Plus, chances are pretty darn good that I would change almost every single recipe in some way. Most of us are that way, I think.
My grandmother’s Sour Cream Pound Cake is probably the only recipe with which I would never again tinker. I only tried to make a change once and it was a complete disaster. Never, EVER substitute light sour cream for regular sour cream in that cake. There will be a price to pay for that one, namely a cake that tears apart. I managed to used the ruined cake in a trifle, but trifle is a disappointing substitute for a beautifully perfect sour cream pound cake.
All other recipes–tweak and tinker to your heart’s content, but stay within the bounds of the laws of chemistry. You do know that food is all about chemistry, don’t you?
The inspiration for making clam chowder recently came from some very large cans of clams that I found at Costco and from a conversation with a coworker. My coworkers are great. They are always giving me loads of encouragement and ideas for future posts. Thanks everyone!
This recipe for clam chowder is relatively standard. It is absolutely delicious, one of those recipes which does not need tweaking, except with maybe a little red wine vinegar for some zing. Serve it in bread bowls, or in your favorite soup bowl with some crusty sour dough bread on the side. If you’re like my husband, you’ll cut to the chase and use a serving bowl instead of an average, run of the mill soup bowl. No need to waste time going back for seconds when you can have your seconds first.
New England-style Clam Chowder
- 4 strips bacon, chopped
- 2 pounds russet potatoes, diced in 1/2-inch cubes
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 stalks celery, medium diced
- 4 (6.5 ounces) cans chopped clams, drained, reserving juice
- 2 cups clam juice reserved from cans of chopped clams--add water if needed to bring juice to two cups.
- 2 teaspoons seasoning salt, or to taste
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 cup half and half
- 1 tablespoon flour
- Cook bacon in a 4 quart stockpot over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon to drain on paper towels. Reserve two tablespoons of bacon drippings in pot.
- Add potatoes, onion, and celery to bacon drippings in stockpot. Sprinkle with seasoning salt. Cook over medium heat for 5-10 minutes, stirring often.
- Pour reserved clam juice over vegetables. There should be enough juice to almost cover the vegetables. It's okay if there are a few vegetables slightly protruding from the juice. If you feel that more liquid is needed, any of the following will be good additions: water, bottled clam juice, chicken stock or chicken broth.
- Stir in the fresh thyme leaves and bay leaves. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender. Taste to correct seasonings.
- Mix the half and half with flour until smooth. Pour and stir into soup. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until chowder has thickened. The potatoes will help to thicken the chowder during the stirring process. Add liquid if necessary to bring chowder to desired consistency.
- While chowder is thickening, rinse clams in a colander under running water. Clams are often sandy and rinsing helps to dislodge the sand. Add the rinsed clams to the chowder and stir. Cook until clams are just warm. Over-cooking will cause the clams to be tough.
- Serve in bread bowls or soup bowls. A side salad and some sour dough bread make a great meal.
- Clam juice is also sold separately in bottles and it is a good idea to keep a bottle on hand in case you need extra juice.
- The recipe as written, will make a thick chowder. If you'd prefer it a bit looser, add some extra liquid such as bottled clam juice, chicken stock, milk, or even water.
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