Tuesday, January 24, 2012

lip-smacking good: clam chowder edition

Last week, I made some clam chowder for a friend.  He recently got divorced and everything about the man screams, "I haven't had a homecooked meal since my ex-wife moved out."  I took pity on him and found a recipe that made plenty so there would be leftovers for him for the week.  When I say I am a newbie to cooking, I mean I learned to boil water after college.  I believe measuring cups are over-rated and I've been accused of being a less-than-precise vegetable chopper.  If I can make this recipe, anyone can.  I got the recipe off of AllRecipes.com, where a woman posted it under the psuedomyn of Pioneer Woman.  Chad, the undernourished and newly single man cub, is going through somewhat of a pioneer period himself.  A clean slate, a new beginning.  Perfect, I thought.  And the recipe had 5 1/2 stars/ 6 to boot.
My Best Clam Chowder Recipe

3 (6.5 ounce) cans minced clams
1 cup minced onion
1 cup diced celery
2 cups cubed potatoes
1 cup diced carrots
3/4 cup butter
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 quart half-and-half cream
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
ground black pepper to taste

Drain juice from clams into a large skillet over the onions, celery, potatoes and carrots. Add water to cover, and cook over medium heat until tender.
Meanwhile, in a large, heavy saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in flour until smooth. Whisk in cream and stir constantly until thick and smooth. Stir in vegetables and clam juice. Heat through, but do not boil.
Stir in clams just before serving. If they cook too much they get tough. When clams are heated through, stir in vinegar, and season with salt and pepper.

 A few things to note about the recipe. 
 *You only need one potato.  I wasnt sure what two cups of cubed potatos looks like, so I liberally purchased three. 
*The recipe also calls for half and half, but I discovered, upon arriving to Chad's house, that the half and half I'd brought from my own kitchen had expired in October (another giveaway to my rookie-cook status).  So we ended up using whole milk instead.  I couldn't imagine having the chowder turn out too much creamier, so I would go the less fattening, whole milk route instead of the half and half. 
*When the recipe says wait until just before you are ready to serve before adding the clams, it means, wait until just before you are ready to serve before adding the clams. Otherwise the clams get chewy and rubbery.  Enough said.

All in all, I was pleased with how the chowder turned out.  I made a simple avocado, tomato and arugula salad and some parmeasan bread (super easy and delicious recipe to follow at some date). 

After dinner, Chad and I roasted marshmallows in his fireplace.  he didnt have any big ones, so we loaded the mini ones onto skewers and used his large metal fireplace tongs to hold the skewers to the flames (did I mention that Chad is an engineer?)

The perfect end to a home-cooked meal.

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