Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Rhode Less Traveled By - Rhode Island Clam Chowder

The scent of Autumn is in the air and that makes me happy.  I spent too many years in San Diego where there are no real seasons to speak of whatsoever.  After being deprived of seasons for so long I cannot help but wonder at the glorious splendor of changing leaves that I took for granted the first 28 years of my life.  What the heck was I thinking?   The dried fallen leaves provide a satisfying crunch when trodden upon. There is a crisp chill in the morning air that I find intoxicating, when accompanied by a good cup of coffee, while walking the dog.  Heaven.

When it comes to food....  Autumn always makes me hungry for soups, stews and chowders.  Yep, it's time to embrace some fine fall fodder.  One of my personal favorite flavors of fall is Clam Chowder.  Since Razor Clam season starts very shortly, it's the perfect Autumnal treat.  (Razor clams are another post, though)

Last year I shared my recipe for Pacific NW Style Clam Chowder, being similar to New England, but replacing the Bacon with Smoked Salmon.  It is technically my favorite style of Clam Chowder, but there is one other style that is a definite palate please-er.  No, it's not Manhattan style either...  Sadly, I do not find the combination clam and tomato to be of synergistic appeal to my taste buds.  Sorry, Clam-ato Juice.   I am speaking about the often overlooked, Rhode Island Style ....

Not many people seem to know about Rhode Island Style Clam Chowder, aside from those that actually live in Rhode Island.  Even I, having been exposed to it on several occasions, seem to forget about it in lieu of it's showier siblings, New England Style and Manhattan Style.  Maybe it's because of it's unassuming nature.  It's not flashy red and tomato laden like Manhattan Style, it's not loaded with cream and butter like New England Style.  It's sort of like "the clam chowder next door".  Humble and reserved...  Unpretentious and simple...  If it hadn't been for an email newsletter, I would have forgotten about it again, this year.

But lemme tell ya, it is unequivocally delicious.  It may be the least ostentatious of the three styles, but if you are a clam lover, then this is the Chowder for you.  There is no overpowering flavor of tomato, there is not an abundance of cream and butter to coat your tongue and prevent you from tasting the clams. Oh, no. Just clear brothy goodness, loaded with bits of clam, bacon and potato accentuated with caramelized onions.

True, it should be made with Quahogs, but they are not available on the West Coast, and I am not about to try and chop up a gigantic Geoduck (goey-duck), so I simply go with minced clams in a can (besides, I need the clam juice)  

Rhode Island Style Clam Chowder

3 slices of Bacon, cut into matchsticks
3 TB Unsalted Butter
1 Onion, diced
4 Celery stalks, diced
2 cloves of Garlic, minced
4 cups Clam Juice (reserved from the canned clams, plus two 8 oz bottles of Clam juice)
2 cups Vegetable Stock (or Chicken, or Seafood)
1/2 lb Yukon Gold potatoes, diced
1/2 lb Red Potatoes, diced
1 1/2 tsp dried Thyme
1 Bay leaf
1 lb Clam meat, drained & chopped (if using canned clams, you will need five 6.5oz cans to achieve the correct "drained" weight)
Kosher Salt
1/4 - 1/2 tsp Freshly ground Black Pepper
Celery Leaves, chopped

Heat a stock pot over medium heat while cutting the Bacon into matchsticks.

Add Bacon to the hot pot and saute until crispy.

Remove the bacon from the pot with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Add the Butter and allow it to melt and mingle with the Bacon Fat in the stock pot.

Add the diced Onion and allow it to sweat until it begins to turn brown in color. (about 15 minutes)

Once the Onion has begun to caramelize, add the Celery, cooking an additional 5 minutes.

Add the Garlic and cook 1-2 minutes longer.

Drain the canned clams and set them aside, saving the juice (you will probably need a couple of 8oz bottles of Clam Juice as well) then add the Clam Juice along with the Vegetable Stock, Potatoes, Thyme and Bay leaf to the stock pot.

Bring to a boil,

then cover and reduce the heat, allowing the chowder to simmer for 15 minutes.

Remove the pot from the flame, and remove the Bay leaf.

Add the Minced Clam meat and the Bacon, stirring and allowing them to heat through.

Stir in the chopped Celery leaves.

Season with Kosher Salt and  Black Pepper (I use 1/2 tsp, but I am a pepper freak)
Now you are ready to serve (with oyster crackers or Saltines, if you like)

Mmmmmmmmmm! Like I said, if you are a clam lover, then this is the Chowder for you.


1 comment:

Spryte said...

This looks SO good!!!