Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Light Clam Chowder

I haven't made this chowder for about a year...and I can't believe I haven't made it this winter yet. It is easy, delicious, inexpensive to make, AND figure friendly. This is one of the few soups containing potatoes that David likes (for the most part, he doesn't like potatoes unless they're fried).

I recommend buying chopped clams instead of minced. I like the bigger pieces of clams for this recipe. And don't use turkey bacon--it just isn't right. It doesn't render out enough fat to flavor this chowder properly.

Use a decent white wine for this also, the bonus is you get to drink the rest of the bottle while you eat ;-). You know the saying, "Don't buy a bottle of wine to cook with if you wouldn't drink it."

You could make this during Lent if you make it without the bacon. But personally...I wouldn't.

Light Clam Chowder

3 slices bacon, diced
1 medium onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1 pound russet (brown potatoes), peeled and cut into 1/2 inch dice
1/4 cup white wine (I used a chardonnay)
2 bay leaves
4 cans (6.5 ounces each) chopped clams, drained and juices reserved
3/4 cup instant mashed potato flakes
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 bottle (8 ounces) clam juice
3/4 cup fat free half-and-half
1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley
salt and white pepper to taste

I first drained my clams into a pyrex measuring cup. As you can see, canned clams are packed with a lot of juice. I got 2 cups of juice from the four cans (and we'll use all of it for the chowder).

I'll also recommend this brand of potato flakes--one package has just about 3/4 cup, which is just right for this recipe (and no waste). Make sure you buy the plain variety (not butter/cheese).

Here's my onion and bacon ready to go. Yes, they're on the same cutting mat, because they're going to be cooked together, so there won't be any cross-contamination, don't worry!

Of course, my potatoes were cut on a separate cutting board. Some people like wooden boards, I don't--they're harder to get clean. I like plastic because I throw mine in the dishwasher so they get really clean and sanitized.

In a stockpot or dutch oven, saute the bacon over medium heat. My pot has a fairly thin bottom, so my gas flame was on low.

I'd love a really nice fancy dutch oven like this one...but it's major expensive... maybe one day! (However... if anyone is feeling extra generous, I'd like it in cobalt blue please, ha!).

Once the bacon is lightly browned...

add the onion...

and saute for about 6-8 minutes or until the onion is soft and translucent.

Now add the garlic, thyme, potatoes, white wine, and reserved clam juice (we'll use the bottle of clam juice in a little bit). Simmer over medium heat for 10-12 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.

In a medium, microwave safe bowl (I used my measuring cup again), whisk together the potato flakes, bottled clam juice, and cornstarch. It will get thick and somewhat stiff. Microwave the mixture on "high" for about 1 minute--this ensure the potato flakes are fully dissolved when we add it to the pot.

Add the potato mixture to the pot, and stir gently, but thoroughly. Let it come back to a simmer for a couple of should thicken nicely.

Add the clams, half-and-half, and parsley, and stir to combine. At this point, just heat the chowder through over very low do NOT want it to boil, otherwise it will curdle on you, which is not pretty!).

Season to taste with salt and pepper. When I made a pale soup, I like to use white pepper, but black pepper works just fine (it's just me!).

Ladle into a soup bowl and serve immediately. I realize photographing this chowder in a white bowl wasn't the best thing to do...but it's all I have!

This really hit the spot last night after the kids had been playing outside in the gorgeous, cool twilight. Hope you like it as much as we did.

God bless your table tonight!

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