NE Clam Chowder

The second time I woke up this morning, it was to the sounds of rain drops splattering against my bedroom window. The pup snorted, stretched, and then we headed downstairs to gear up. Standing under the unruly pines of my backyard, nestled in the warm, gray mist cloaking the neighborhood, with the November droplets soaking my rain coat, a little bored with the pup’s seventh spin, my thoughts got lost in between the rain drops, and, while slowly but surely slushing it back inside, I decided today is a soup day. After coffee, breakfast, and wrangling my Christmas tree skirt away from Ms. Idgy Threadgoode, I put my turkey stock on to boil then got busy whipping this luscious potato and corn based soup together. There’s just nothing more perfectly uplifting on a wickedly dreary day than a quintessential bowl of NE Clam Chowda’ and an oversized bowl of it warmed me better than a blanket. So, let it rain, as my house, with all this simmering, feels bright and sunny despite the weather.

Ingredients

2 lbs fresh, pre-washed Littleneck clams

2 cups clam broth

2 cups chicken stock

1 cup leftover mash potatoes

1 carrot, petite diced

1 red potato, diced

4 ears fresh corn, trimmed, husks and silks discarded

2 sprigs fresh tarragon left whole

2 sprigs fresh tarragon, stems removed and leaves finely chopped

1 tbsp finely chopped fresh chives

1/2 fresh lemon, peel removed

Salt and pepper to taste

1 tbsp high smoke point oil, such as grapeseed

Saltines or Oyster Crackers

Method

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees. Layer a sheet of aluminum on top of a sheet pan. Coat with a thin layer of grapeseed or avocado oil. Place the fresh ears of corn on the prepared sheet pan and drizzle a small amount of oil over top the corn. Place in the oven and char the corn on at least one side, about 30 – 45 minutes. Once tender and lightly charred, remove the corn from the oven and set aside on a clean surface to cool. Once cooled, remove the corn kernels from the cob. Discard the cobs or save for stock. Set the kernels aside.

In a large soup pot, bring about 2 quarts of water to a boil over high flame. To the water, add the half lemon and 2 sprigs of tarragon. Once boiling, drop in the clams and boil about 5 minutes until the clams fully open. Remove the claims from the broth, discarding any clams that did not open, and place them in a heat safe container. Store in the fridge until the clams are cool enough to handle.

Meanwhile, strain the clam broth through a sheet of cheesecloth or use a mesh ladle discarding the lemon, tarragon, and any shell pieces as needed. Once the broth is clean, add back to a soup pot with the 2 cups chicken stock. Stir in the mash potatoes and, with an immersion blender, purée until smooth. Over med high flame, simmer the chowder base until reduced by at least half, or to your desired consistency, about an hour.

While the stock simmers, remove the clams from their shells and discard the shells. Rough chop the clams and then return to the fridge until ready to use.

Once the chowder has reduced, add in the red potato, corn, and carrot. Continue simmering until the vegetables are very tender, about 15 minutes. After the vegetables cook through, turn off the heat. Taste and adjust salt and pepper. Stir in the chopped clams and tarragon. Ladle into soup bowls and garnish with the chopped chives and crackers of choice. Serve immediately.

NE Clam Chowder: Littlenecks, Charred Corn, Tarragon Saltine Crumble, Fresh Chives

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