Cooking Class with Chef Ivan Flowers – Lesson 80 Clam Chowder

In the last class I taught you how to make delectable Roasted Fingerling Potatoes. I hope you not only made them, but also made some unique dishes using them. Thinking about those potatoes led me to thinking about another one of my often requested dishes; New England Clam Chowder. New England Clam Chowder is the cream based one, Manhattan style is tomato based. The New England variety to me is like eating seafood ice cream! The pop of the fresh corn, the creaminess of the soup, the brininess of the clams all work together to create a salty/sweet bowl of lusciousness. It is a dish that has remained popular for years for good reason.

Before I get into the class, I want to talk about a technique you will be using in this recipe; a roux (pronounced roo). Roux is a French term for a thickener that is used in soups, gravies and sauces. It is equal parts fat (butter, oil, bacon grease etc.) and flour that is cooked together in a pan while being stirred. The starch of the flour gets suspended in the fat and that makes it distribute evenly into the liquid you are thickening. Without the fat, the flour would simply create clumps in the liquid. The key to a successful roux is in the cooking. It not only helps to get the flour suspended in the fat, but it also removes that raw flour taste. This is a technique you will use again and again.

Now let’s get cooking!

This recipe will serve four. For it you will need: one quart canned minced clams in juice, one ¼ cups small diced white onion, three tablespoons unsalted butter, two ½ cups peeled russet potatoes small diced, three tablespoons flour, two cloves minced garlic, one cup finely chopped celery, two cups fresh, uncooked corn kernels, ½ quart cream, ½ quart low sodium chicken stock, salt, pepper, knife, measuring spoons, large spoon, large stock pot with a lid and wooden spoon.

First thing to do is put the butter into the stockpot over low-medium heat. Next add in: garlic, onion, celery and potatoes. Cook uncovered and stir occasionally. You will cook this for about four minutes. You want the garlic and onions to be translucent. The potatoes will not be completely cooked, but do not worry; you want them to finish cooking as the soup cooks so they maintain their integrity. If you let them cook too long in the beginning they would fall apart and disappear into the soup.

Okay, now you are going to create the roux. Add in the flour and start stirring. Keep stirring and cook the roux for three minutes. Next add in the clams and all the juice. You are using canned clams in this recipe because it is so much easier than using fresh clams. Trust me it tastes just as good and you are not going through the time and expense of buying, shucking and cleaning the amount of clams needed for this dish. Make sure you add in all the clam juice, it adds a wonderful flavor. Once the clams are in the pot stir the soup and cook it, still uncovered, for an additional three minutes.

Next add in the cream and the chicken stock. You want to use low sodium stock because it allows you to control the seasoning. This is the same reason you are going to wait to add salt and pepper at the end of cooking the soup. Clams have varying degrees of brininess (read saltiness), the stock is also salty so if you salt and pepper before you have completely cooked all the ingredients together you run the risk of having an over-salted soup.

Now turn the heat up to medium and add in the corn kernels. You keep them raw and add them into the soup for the same reason; you want that fresh sweet corn pop when you eat the soup. If you cooked the corn or added it too soon, it would get mushy.

Stir the soup and cook it, still uncovered, until it comes to a simmer. Once at a simmer, continue to cook it uncovered for ten minutes. After ten minutes, turn the heat down to low and cover. Cook covered for ten more minutes, stirring occasionally.

The final step is to salt and pepper to taste. That’s it!

When I eat this soup I like to have a sourdough baguette with it. I rip off large chunks of the bread and dunk it into that fabulously creamy soup. You can also serve it with the traditional oyster crackers. Another nice touch is a few dashes of hot sauce on top. You really can’t go wrong with this soup. And now that you know how easy it is to make, I hope you eat it more often! Remember, as with any technique or recipe, the most important component is the cook’s heart. The heart is what helps you create delicious meals you’ll never forget.


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