After a couple of days of pureed varieties, I was looking forward to something that was still soft enough to consume, but had some depth and texture so I decided on clam chowder. Now, I should say, I don't make your typically clam chowder. I love the thick, hearty, flour-based versions that come out of New England. But I think they're hard to get right, and take awhile to cook properly.
A couple of years ago I was in San Francisco on a frigid January afternoon and I stopped in to Hog Island Oyster Bar in the Ferry Building for a lunch of oysters and chowder. What they served me was a revelation. Still full of all the elements of a classic New England clam chowder, but made lighter by not adding any flour. Ever since that meal I've been replicating their recipe when I make this soup at home. And it's really quite simple.
After posting a pic on Instagram, I was asked for the recipe by a few individuals, so this is for them (and anyone that loves a good clam chowder).
(Note: normally I include bacon in this recipe but I wasn't sure about my ability to chew crispy bacon yet so it's been eliminated this time around. But for the love of all that is good in the world, please include bacon if you decide to make this recipe. It's definitely worth it.)
1.5 cartons of vegetable stock (I normally use homemade but we were out)
1/2 onion, small chop
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 carrots, small chop
4 celery stalks, small chop
5 sprigs of thyme
2 cans chopped clams
1.5 pounds of fresh clams (see here for properly cleaning clams - if you don't do this step, your soup will have sand in it. Trust me on this.)
1 bottle of clam juice
1/2 cup of heavy cream
salt & pepper
1 bunch of Italian parsley (not curly restaurant garnish parsley)
Fry the bacon until it's super duper crispy
Add onions, carrots, celery, and garlic to the bacon and saute until onions are soft
Add salt and pepper at this stage - amount depends on how much you like salt & pepper
Also add the thyme (removed from the stem) at this stage
Add 2 cans of chopped clams and their liquid
Let liquid reduce
Add stock and jar of clam juice - bring to a boil
Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes
Add cream - bring to a boil
Stir to mix
Add clams and let those buggers boil (this is actually kind of sad)
Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to check doneness of clams (clue: they're done when they're open)
Chop parsley - fine chop
Serve soup & sprinkle with parsley (This is not just a garnish. This is a key flavor profile for the soup.)
A lot of people like to serve their chowder with toast points or sourdough bread. Both are good.
Side conversation: The other day on Twitter I was chatting with Michelle at The 236 about dutch ovens and I told her that this item is by far the most used pan in our kitchen. I'd go so far as to say outside of our bowls, forks and a chef's knife, it's the most used anything in our kitchen. I use it for every soup I make, every pasta sauce, every cassoulet, every roast chicken. It's pretty much the best pan I've ever seen. I'd love to get my hands on one of the larger ones, but it's true that these are not cheap. We received the one above as a wedding present a couple of months before our wedding ten years ago. A very rough guesstimate of how much we use it against how much it costs has us at about 12 cents per use at this point. This one pot changed how I cook. If you can afford it, I definitely implore you to get a Le Creuset at your earliest convenience. A lot of outlet malls now have Le Creuset stores, and we've been lucky enough to pick up a couple more items from there to round out our set. It truly is the most wonderful stuff.