I've always wanted to try my hand at making clam chowder and finally decided to tackle the soup after reading one of Ina Garten's cookbooks. Her recipe sounded lighter than the thick, heavily creamy recipes I have found elsewhere. I did change some things, though. I added just half of her recommended butter because I did not buy enough clam juice. I got two bottles, 8 oz each, then came home and found that the recipe called for a full quart. Oh well. I LOVE how this soup turned out! It was rich, but not too rich. Creamy, but not overly so. It is definitely more of a gourmet soup than the thick, white stuff you get from a can. My picky eater, Goose, did not like it at all. She had a PB&J. My clam chowder lover, Tinker Bell, liked it but still prefers the white canned stuff. My hubby had three bowls!
I've added a link to Miss Barefoot's recipe so I will detail how I did it and what I changed. That way you can compare the two recipes and then tailor the soup to your taste.
2 bottles of clam juice
1 (10 oz) can of baby clams (use fresh if you can, about a cup and a half)
5 small potatoes, chopped into small pieces
3/4 cup diced carrots (about a handful of baby carrots)
1 onion, chopped
4 slices bacon (I used low sodium)
1/2 cup sliced celery (I forgot to put that in the picture)
2 bay leaves
salt (I used Kosher)
pepper (to taste)
6 T butter
1/4 cup flour
1 cup skim milk
1 cup half & half
Ina's recipe does not call for bacon, but after reading the reviews on Food Network I followed the reviewers' advice that the bacon would give the recipe much needed flavor. And my mom told me to add it. :) I used a pair of kitchen shears and cut up four slices of bacon and cooked them over medium high heat until brown and crispy.
Then I removed the bacon, leaving the fat in the pot...
and added the onion. I cooked it until it was soft and had a little bit of color.
I threw the bacon back into the pot and added the rest of the chopped veggies.
I added 2T of the butter to the pot and cooked the veggies over medium low heat for about ten minutes.
While they were cooking I drained the clams, but reserved the juice. You might want to skip ahead here...baby clams may be the ugliest creatures ever.
I actually called my mom and asked her if they were supposed to be that ugly. She assured me that I had not gotten a bad batch. She also suggested chopping them up a bit since clams tend to be chewy and Tinker Bell has braces. It makes it hard for the poor angel to chew sometimes. So, I put them in my mini food processor and gave them a few pulses. (I was glad I did. There was clam in every bite!) Put them in a bowl and stick them in the fridge. You won't need them until a few minutes before you are ready to serve the soup.
After the veggies were almost tender, I added the bay leaves, the two bottles of clam juice, and the juice from the can of clams. Bring it to a boil and simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes.
After about 15 minutes, melt the remaining 4T of butter in a pan and whisk in the 1/4 cup of flour.
Whisk constantly while cooking over low heat for 3 minutes. Then whisk in one cup of your soup broth.
Add that mixture to your pot of soup.
Simmer until the soup thickens up a bit. Then stir in the skim milk and half & half. I also added about 2 tsp of Kosher salt and a few shakes of pepper. Try adding one tsp of salt, taste, and then add more if necessary. I thought the clam juice would be saltier, but it really wasn't salty at all. The soup definitely needed the added salt.
At this point Miss Ina adds her clams, heats through, and serves. I was not ready to serve it yet, so I left out the clams, turned the burner to low, covered the pot, and left it alone (except for the occasional stir) for a couple of hours. Ten minutes before we were ready to eat, I added the clams and cranked up the heat to a 5, or about medium. When it was as hot as we wanted it, we ate!
This chowder is buttery and absolutely delicious. The kind of clam chowder you get in a nice seafood restaurant. It is not at all like the stuff from the can. We ate this soup with a few oyster crackers and salads.