13 Clam Chowder

13 Clams and Sweet Corn Chowder

It is the middle of the week and I have lovely soup for you.

And, there is more to this story. I could wax eloquent about these clams and how they are the local waters and caught by the fisherman who then sells it at the mid-week market a couple of blocks from me. Truth be told, I had never cooked them before.

I wanted to make mussels in saffron broth for a dinner with a friend. For the record, I love mussels. I love picking out the flesh from a huge broth filled bowl and thoughtfully munching on them. I love cooking them too. So easy and delightful. I would tell you how when I went to the market and looked skeptically at these clams, because I really wanted mussels for a saffron broth, he tried to entice me with ways to cook them.

13 Clams and Sweet Corn Chowder

I would tell you how, as I remained undecided, the Japanese guy and the bread lady from the adjoining stalls joined in on the conversation and we all had a good chat about fish and clams and ideas and how I ended up buying the clams after all. Elated by all this camaraderie, conversation, I told my friend about the changed plans that was still going to be awesome and he snorted at my idea of substituting clams for mussels. So, I had to go back to the fish guy and guiltily buy a couple of slabs of blue fish for dinner.

Gently, though, he told me that the shell fish will wait in the fridge unspoiled for a week. They are clearly forgiving and patient creatures. And, I think we give them altogether little notice! They deserve more, I say.

Steamed Clams

Just for a bit I want to ruminate on this whole shell fish not being as popular thing. Oddly, I have found they do not have many takers in the circle of folks I eat with. They are by and large pleasured eaters, yet none find the joy in these creatures as I do. I think I just like the idea of getting my hands dirty, picking through their bones and shells to get to their sweet flesh. My favorite is crab and we cook it whole. It takes patience, nimble fingers and a lot of time to finish eating a carb served whole. I inordinately love the experience. My food would grow cold but I relished picking out the flesh from the nooks and crannies and popping them delightfully into my mouth. When I happen to look up from my plate, beaming with joy, I realize that my company rarely reflects the same expression. More than usual, I read a slight helplessness with the whole shell thing and how awkward it all is. So, in my cherubic happiness, I offer to help and I don't think that goes quite well. LOL.

So, my point is this. I think they deserve more love because as all things difficult, the result is delicious and sweeter, whether perceived or real! And, when someone offers help with coaxing that hard to get flesh of these sea creatures, I say, let them do it. Because, it ain't the shell's fault. It is an amazing lesson in patience. Of course, if you don't like someone touching your food, then there are always loads of helpful kitchen tool that aid in getting anything done!

13 Clams and Sweet Corn Chowder

On the subject of clams, they are prettier than mussels, for sure, but my verdict is still out. I think I need more acquaintance with them. Oh wait! It is market day ;-)

And with that, I will leave you with a generously chunky clam and corn chowder. This is not a New England clam chowder, it is simply my chowder. The market now has fresh fennel and I find them fragrant and warming and so much better than onions. So, I try and use it, for the few weeks they are around, as much as possible. I also use a fair bit of cabbage to this chowder for heft and of course the fiber helps. Finally, I used sweet potato for a touch of sweetness to offset the brine. You can always use a regular potato of course. Topped with fennel fronds and whatever herbs you have and it is a feast.

Oh! The 13 is because that is interesting number I had when I bought them. Odd number that but made for an even stew!

13 Clams and Sweet Corn Chowder

Clam and Corn Chowder

{You can clean the clams the same way as mussels. That is put them in a shallow pan with 1/4 cup of water and sprinkle some flour on them and toss. Leave for 15 minutes and the grit comes out}

1 lb clams, live

1/2 small fennel bulb

2 cloves of garlic, minced

2T of pancetta, cubed

1/2 cup chopped cabbage

1 good sized sweet potato, diced into half inch cubes

2 slivers of jalapeΓ±o {optional}

handful of fresh corn kernels

1/4 cup milk

1/4 cup + 1/4 cup heavy cream

3 cups of water

2 T potato starch

small bunch of thyme

1 T chopped fennel fronds, for garnish

chopped basil for garnish

salt, pepper and olive oil as needed

In a deep pot, place the cleaned clams in water. Close the lid and bring to a boil. Simmer the clams until the shells are fully opened. Remove the clams, strain and reserve the broth.

While the clams are cooking, heat a little oil in a soup pot and sautΓ© the pancetta until the fat has rendered and the meat is crispy. Add the thyme, fennel, garlic and jalapeΓ±o (if using) and cook until soft.

Add cabbage and sweet potato and stir with seasoning. Close the pot and let the veggies sweat, about 4-5 minutes.

Remove the lid and sift the potato starch all over. Toss for a couple of minutes.

Add the reserved warm clam stock and quickly whisk, so the starch does not lump. Close the lid again and cook until the vegetables are just soft, about 7-8 minutes.

As they cook, pick the flesh out of the clam shells and chop into 1/2 inch pieces.

Add the corn, clams, milk and 1/4 cup cream. And bring to a quick boil.

Remove from heat and let steep for 30 minutes.

Just before serving, warm to appropriate temperature. Remove the thyme sticks.

Divide into bowls, swirl more cream in and top with fennel fronds and other herbs.

 
Long Island Clams