One of my all-time favorite soups is clam chowder. While talking to a friend the other day, I realized that there are still some people who think that great chowder is defined by the size of the can it comes from, the rolls that are served with it, and the attire that must be worn in order to be served.
Some people just don't get it.
Clearly, clam chowder is best when it's made from scratch. Even better when fresh clams are used.
And downright superb when it can be eaten while barefoot.
One of the highlights of spring and fall around here is clam-digging season. Thousands of people flock to the ocean in hip waders and rain gear (it's the Pacific Northwest people!), clam guns in hand, ready to hunt down the ever elusive mollusks. If you've never been clam digging, let me just tell you, it's a hoot. People aimlessly stomping around, sometimes carrying lanterns (depending on the time of low tide), staring at the ground, only to stop suddenly and start their frantic digging. Before you can dig however, you must first locate that tell-tale indentation in the wet sand that gives away the clams presence; up to a foot below you. It's a true testament of a great clam digger if they can retrieve the clam from the hole before the next wave rolls in and delivers them a salty sea bath!
Personally, I can't wait!
This recipe requires the use of leftover mashed potatoes. They thicken the soup nicely without the need for flour or cornstarch. (I mash my potatoes with cream cheese.) One of the tricks I use is to put leftover mashed potatoes in 1-cup freezer bags and freeze until ready to use. If there's any left over!
~Roasted Potato Chowder~
A Jabez Farm Original
8-9 cups unpeeled red potatoes, diced into 1-inch pieces
olive oil for the roasting pan
4 cups chicken broth
1 lb. really good bacon
1 large onion, diced or chopped (personal preference)
8 oz. jar clam juice
3-6.5 oz cans of minced or chopped clams, undrained
1-1/2 cups fresh clams, chopped or minced, PLUS another jar of clam juice
1 cube (8 Tb.) salted butter
2/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup half & half
1-1/2 t. dried parsley
1/2 t. dried tarragon
1 cup leftover mashed potatoes
Preheat the oven to 375F.
Cover the bottom of a roasting pan with olive oil. Place half of the potatoes on pan and bake in the oven for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. You want them to have browned some.
In a large soup pot, place the remaining potatoes; add chicken broth to cover. If more is needed, just add enough water to finish covering. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and cover. Cook until very soft; 20-25 minutes.
While the potatoes are cooking, cut bacon (I use kitchen shears) and cook until done. The bacon doesn't need to be crispy, just cooked.
|Bacon waiting to be cooked.|
When the bacon is done, remove from pan and allow to drain on paper towels. Using the bacon grease in the pan, cook onion until translucent; 5-7 minutes.
When the stovetop potatoes are soft, remove from heat. Use a hand masher to carefully mash the potatoes while still in the pot.
|Mash lightly to keep from getting burned.|
To the mashed potatoes, add clam juice, bacon, and onions. Add parsley and tarragon and stir well. Return to low heat. Mix the heavy cream and half-and-half together. Temper the cream by adding a couple of tablespoons of soup; pour cream into pot, stirring well. Add the mashed potatoes and use a whisk to break apart and mix in with the soup.
Cut the butter into 4 or 5 pieces and add those to the soup. Just leave them alone to melt on their own.
Once the butter is melted, add the roasted potatoes. The soup should be hot enough to eat at this point, if not, continue to heat but do NOT allow to boil.
Season with fresh ground pepper.
Shoes are optional.☺
*I didn't add any extra salt, but if using unsalted chicken broth and unsalted butter, you'll probably need to add it.