“The sun did not shine. It was too wet to play. So we sat in the house. All that cold, cold wet day.” — Dr. Seuss
I looked out the window, today, and it was raining. Again. Yesssssss . . . I feel like it has been raining for 40 days and 40 nights. I keep expecting to look out the window and see the Space Needle, because I think my normally sunny Virginia kitchen has magically morphed itself to Seattle. Oh my goodness . . . is that a vampire? Go Team Edward. Sigh.
Anyway, because it’s so cold, and so very, very wet . . . I was feeling chilled to my very soul. Everything was getting on my nerves. I was glaring at the woman cooking on TV because she had sunshine coming in her window, and I didn’t. I looked outside and saw that someone had parked in my (empty) parking space and muttered under my breath. My son asked for strawberries and then refused to eat them, after I had cleaned and sliced them (the strawberries– not the kids. I wasn’t THAT mad ;). Sigh. Rain, rain, rain just turns the ground and the spirit to mush.
And then I decided that a rainy day calls for a warming, comforting meal. When I think of cold, wind-swept days, I think of my childhood up North. I think of my Mom, who often had a big pot of soup or hearty chowder bubbling away on the stove, ready to chase those cold-weather blues away when we came inside, with our noses running and a grumpy outlook on life. Nothing says “comfort” like a warm, hearty soup simmering away, making the entire house smell good. So chase those rainy days away with Classic New England Clam Chowder– which is also deliciously gluten free.
What are we waiting for? Let’s do this!
Classic New England Clam Chowder
(My adaptation from Allrecipes.com)
1 stick butter or margarine
3 (6.5 oz.) cans chopped clams (reserve juice)
1 onion, diced
2 celery sticks, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
5 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. black pepper
2 tsp. garlic powder
2 tsp. onion powder
2 tbsp. chicken bouillon
1/2 tsp. Old Bay seasoning
1/4 cup white wine
1 cup whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
1/4 cup cornstarch + a few tbsp. water to make it a liquid
In a large Dutch oven, melt butter and add your onion, celery, carrots, potatoes, and clam juice. Cook vegetables until they are softened and tender (about 20 minutes). Next, add in your spices, wine, milk/cream, and vinegar. Allow to heat back up until very warm, but not boiling. Mix enough water with your cornstarch to make a milky substance and immediately stir cornstarch liquid into the soup. Stir the soup frequently as it heats and thickens, so that the cornstarch doesn’t sink to the bottom of the pan. When the soup has thickened slightly, turn off the heat under the pot. Add clams right before serving, as they will toughen and become rubbery and chewy if you heat them too long (sometimes I even add clams to each individual bowl, right before serving, if I know we won’t eat all the chowder at a meal).
Now, in pictures! 🙂
When I cook soup of any kind, I always reach for my Enameled Cast Iron pans. These pans have the gorgeous, even heat of a cast iron skillet, but they have the “stick this in the sink and scrub it” like a regular pan– no “seasoning” or oiling necessary. They also last forever, keep your soup hot for hours, and look absolutely GAWGEOUS. My favorite Cast Iron Dutch Oven is a beauty from Le Creuset here. When my hubby got me my very first Le Creuset, I started to enjoy doing dishes (shhh– don’t tell anyone that). And then I knew . . . it was totally worth the cost. I smile every single time I use it– I just love it that much. If a burglar broke into my house, I’d have to think twice before smacking him with one of my beautiful Le Creusets– out of concern for them, not for him 😉 Treat yourself to one of these beautiful, beautiful pieces of cookware. It will last a lifetime, and you and your kids (and maybe even grandkids!) will enjoy it for years to come.
Anyway, break out your cast iron Dutch Oven, if you have one, and a regular pan, if you don’t. Melt your butter in the pot and start slicing and dicing your vegetables.
While the butter is melting, go ahead and drain your clams– but DON’T throw away the clam juice. Take your juice and add it to the melted butter. The clam juice will give an awesome seafood taste to your finished “chowda.” Don’t add your clams to the mixture, yet, though– if you overcook clams, they become tough and rubbery. So put these into a covered container in the fridge until you’re ready to serve the finished chowder.
Once your butter is melted and you’ve added the clam juice, go ahead and add in your chopped vegetables and potatoes. We want these vegetables to simmer on medium low heat until they are tender and can be easily pierced with a knife. Mmmmm . . . it’s starting to smell really good in here!
Once your vegetables are tender, the rest of the recipe just couldn’t be easier . . . add all the remaining ingredients except the cornstarch. Cover the pot and allow the soup to slowly come back up to a hot temperature, but not boiling. This soup should be like you when you interact with the person who is standing in front of you in the checkout line at Walmart, using a million coupons and questioning every charge while you stand there with your screaming kids, cursing yourself for picking this line. You can get hot . . . but you just can’t boil over. 😉
When the soup is hot (but not boiling!), go ahead and make your cornstarch mixture in a separate bowl by mixing your cornstarch together with just enough water to turn it a milky substance when you stir it. Keep stirring the cornstarch so it doesn’t separate and then add it, all at once, to your hot soup. Cornstarch is a funny ingredient– when you first add it, it won’t seem like your soup has thickened, at all. But never fear . . . keep stirring and scraping the bottom, and eventually the soup will thicken up to a nice chowder consistency.
My suggestion is to add the clams right before serving (the temperature of the soup will warm them up). Sometimes I even add the clams a “bowl at a time,” right as I take them to the table. That way your clams will be nice and tender, and they won’t get overly rubbery and tough.
Bring your pot of steaming chowder to the table. Dip up delicious bowls of hearty, steaming goodness. Watch your family members’ eyes light up as they feel warm and cozy around the family table. You did that.
You banished the rainy day blues and got the whole family together for a cozy family meal. You closet superhero, you.
You did it. And I’m just so proud of you.
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