Saturday, November 7, 2015

Clam Chowder Cook Off or TASTE off ( for Weekend Cooking)



I am going to link up with Weekend Cooking at Beth Fish Reads!  YOU can too!
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I've talked about our Friday nights before ( click here to see all the Friday night fun!)
From Nov. 8th 2009:  Speaking of friends, our Friday Nights, if we are not busy, are spent with our friends, the Miltons.  So, actually, the Handyman and I are busy every Friday night.  It started years ago, and has become a tradition.  If neither the Miltons or us have other plans we get together for supper.   Robbie and I like to try different recipes --our husbands like meat and potatoes--we are trying to broaden their lives with good food.
From Oct. 20th, 2014: Robbie and her husband John are our Friday Night Friends.  The ones we have dinner with every Friday night, IF neither of us is doing anything else.
We've been doing it for years and years.
17 to be exact.
It is so comfortable and normal I can wear my slippers over there if I want to.
And sometimes I do.

It's the same today!
So, when I wanted to try out different kinds of Clam Chowders, I knew it would have to be done on a Friday night.
I needed good honest tasters.



After reading Heather's post about clam chowder I thought--hmmmm, I'm going to try this.  We really haven't given Manhattan Clam Chowder a chance.  And I'm sure the Handyman didn't even know that a Rhode Island clam chowder existed.
I feel that soup is the easiest thing in the world to make.  You just chop and add--all into one big pot.  But when you are making 3 different soups it gets a bit more complicated. Still, once it was done, there was nothing left to do last minute and that's always nice-- you can have a glass of wine and visit.
I served appetizers and drinks and let my Friday Night guests get settled in and then I presented them with this:
Rhode Island Clam Chowder.


Robbie took one bite and said---you don't have to bring out any other soup. This is delicious!
And it was!  It was clear and a brothy (you didn't know I was an expert soup describer, did you?  BROTHY! It's a new trendy descriptive word meaning that you can really taste the clams--and they are SO GOOD. )
I used Heather's recipe from "All Roads Lead to the Kitchen"
To steal from Heather, because she says it best:  It seems to be the version that tastes (dare I say) the purest. It's broth is clear, and tastes like ocean air...salty...clammy. It has some underlying heat from a healthy dose of black pepper, as well.

All I know is that is to die for!



Next, I brought out the Manhattan version--in a tomato broth.   Most people here in the Western part of the United States steer clear of this one.
I have no idea why after tasting this one!  (again Heather's)
It has my mouth watering even now!
It was spicy and tasty and YUMMY!
My tasters liked it too.  They were now having trouble making a 'favorite' decision.
This Manhattan Clam Chowder is laden with clams and chunks of potato nestled in a tomato-based broth with a hint of underlying heat, and a bit of smokiness lent by the addition of bacon.


I used mild Rotel tomatoes and added a small can of tomato sauce to Heather's recipe.
This one is one of my favorites!


Last but never least is New England Clam Chowder.
The old standard.
I used my friend Barbara Brown's recipe ( I've adopted it as my own, but she might be reading this, so I can't steal it outright)
This is very good. Creamy and velvety and traditional tasting.
It's the best!!  For New England style.



What would your favorite be?


A few pics of my tasters before you get the results.
My sweet daughter-in-law, helped me make the Bourbon Bread Pudding for dessert.
and the Handyman and John are ALWAYS playing cribbage.
And my son and Robbie are 'not-so' patiently waiting to have soup.
Thanks to them for putting up with me and my weird food night ideas.
Scroll down to see the soup they chose as their favorite.





These soups were all great---could easily stand alone and win any contest against like soups--YES, they are THAT good!
But I asked my people to pick their most favorite kind of clam chowder...
and they chose.......


New England Clam Chowder!
They are lovers of traditional and what is familiar to them, but it was a great choice.  It's a really good soup!
Hooray Barb!!
**********************************

Heavenly Clam Chowder (that's the name Barb gave me)
(and this is how she wrote the recipe for me)

Cut 5 slices bacon into 1-inch pieces and cook in the soup kettle till limp.....about 5 minutes.
Add 1 large chopped onion and 1 cup chopped celery and cook until onion is limp...about 10 minutes.
Add 3-4 potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch chunks, 1/4 cup parsley, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper and 1 quart chicken broth.
Cover and and cook until potatoes are tender...about 30 minutes.
Stir in 2 10oz cans of minced clams with liquid.
Stir in 1 quart of milk and cook until soup is hot, but not boiling.
Blend 5-6 tablespoons of cornstarch with 1/4 cup water until smooth and add to the soup.
Continue cooking until soup boils and thickens.
Taste and add more salt if necessary.
***************
Things I did differently
I used only 1/2 onion
I used half and half instead of milk
I used "new" potatoes and left the skin on
I used 3 cans of minced clams with juice
I used more than a quart of chicken broth/stock
**********************
These two soups tied for 2nd place and you can find the originals at
All Roads Lead to The Kitchen
(Heather once had  a Tortilla Soup finding challenge that lasted a year---we tried to find the best! I might have to have a taste test challenge for that soup next!)
Heather did say she adapted soups from this article: The Clam Chowder wars by Sam Sifton.
They are SO GOOD!
Manhattan Clam Chowder
I used mild Rotel tomatoes and added a small can of tomato sauce to Heather's recipe.
Ingredients (serves 6)
  • 1 pound small clams, scrubbed (about 24-26)
  • 1 (10 ounce) can of whole baby clams
  • 4 ounces bacon
  • 1 medium onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 2 stalks celery, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 large carrot, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 fresh bay leaf
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red chile flakes, or to taste
  • 12 ounces Yukon gold potatoes (about 2 medium), cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 6 cups clam broth, stock or juice (or seafood stock, water, or a combo) (See Notes)
  • 1 (14 ounce) can petite diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
Instructions
Place the clams in a large pot and cover with 1 quart of water. Set pot over medium-heat heat and bring to a boil, then cover, and reduce to a simmer. Cook until all the clams have opened, about 12 minutes; discard any clams that don't open. Set a strainer over a bowl and line it with cheesecloth or a damp coffee filter; pour the cooking liquid through the strainer. Remove the clams from their shells.
Drain the canned clams, adding the juice to the reserved clam broth from above. Combine the clams; run your knife through half of the clams a few times, just to roughly chop some. Set combined clams and broth aside (this will count towards your 6 cups).
Cut the bacon crosswise ito 1/4-inch strips. Put in a heavy pot or Dutch oven over low heat, stirring occasionally, and cook until done, 12-14 minutes. Scoop out the bacon and transfer it to a paper towel-lined plate; reserve. You should have about 2 tablespoons of bacon grease left in the pot; if you don't, add a bit of oil or fat to make that amount.
Set the pot back on the stove over medium heat and add onions, celery, and carrots. Cook until beginning to soften, 7-8 minutes. Add garlic, bay leaf, thyme, and crushed red chile flakes; cook 1 minute longer. Add potatoes, clam broth (or other recommended liquid), and tomatoes with their juices. Bring back to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes, or until potatoes are tender.
Stir in the reserved clams and bacon, plus the parsley and white pepper. Cook gently for another 3-5 minutes without letting it come to a boil (to keep clams from getting tough). Remove from heat then taste and adjust seasoning (don't add any salt until you've tasted, it may not need it because of the bacon, tomatoes and broth). Remove bay leaf and thyme stems before serving.
I like to garnish mine with a couple of clean clam shells (that can picked out easily), but that's all for looks.
notes:If you don't want to use this reserved clam broth, or if you don't have enough, you could make up the difference (or substitute) with bottled clam juice, seafood stock, or water.
If you don't have access to fresh clams, you can substitute them with 4 to 6 ounces of canned clams (whole or chopped). Save the juices, and sub as much clam juice, stock, or water as you need to get the amount of broth you need for the recipe.
*****
Rhode Island Clam Chowder
Ingredients (serves 6-8)
  • 12 to 16 ounces canned clams, chopped or whole (see note)
  • 4 ounces bacon
  • 2 small yellow onions, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 2 large ribs celery, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1/2 cup white wine (nothing fruity, choose dry)
  • 16 ounces red potatoes, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 quart clam juice, broth (or fish or seafood stock)
  • few sprigs thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
Instructions
Drain the canned clams, pouring the liquid from them into a 4-cup glass measuring cup. Add enough clam stock or juice (or alternative) to yield 4 cups (1 quart); set aside. At this point, if you want to chop any of the clams, do that and then reserve them.
Cut the bacon crosswise ito 1/4-inch strips. Put in a heavy pot or Dutch oven over medium heat, stirring occasionally, and cook until done, 5-7 minutes. Scoop out the bacon and transfer it to a paper towel-lined plate; reserve. You should have about 1-1/2 tablespoons of bacon grease left in the pot; if you don't, add a bit of oil or fat to make that amount (or pour off any extra).
Set the pot back over medium heat and add the onion and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes, or until soft and turning translucent. Pour in the wine and let it bubble up for 1 minute.
Add the potatoes, clam broth, thyme, and bay leaf. Bring back to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 15 minutes, or until potatoes are tender.
Stir the reserved clams and bacon into the pot and add a good amount of black pepper (I use 1 teaspoon to start, then add more to my bowl - taste to find your sweet spot), to taste. I usually find that clam chowder does not need any extra salt, especially if you've used canned clams, as the bacon adds some, too; be sure to taste before automatically adding some in. Let sit for 30 minutes, then remove the thyme stems and bay leaf. Warm slightly before serving, if you wish.
Stir in the parsley just before serving, with oyster crackers on the side.
note:
If you want to use fresh clams, you'll need about 48 small hardshells. Place the clams in a large pot and cover with 1-1/2 quarts of water. Set pot over medium-heat heat and bring to a boil, then cover, and reduce to a simmer. Cook until all the clams have opened, about 12 minutes; discard any clams that don't open. Set a strainer over a bowl and line it with cheesecloth or a damp coffee filter; pour the cooking liquid through the strainer. Remove the clams from their shells. Use this liquid where the recipe calls for clam broth.
You can also use a mixture of fresh and canned clams. Just use enough canned clams to make up for what you don't have in fresh.





11 comments:

Claudia said...

What fun, a clam chowder night! I want to try them all. When the weather gets a bit colder.

Beth F said...

What fun to have chowder-off! Why am I not surprised that New England won the day? Looks like you all had a blast.

Stefanie said...

These all look yummy! I wish I was there.

Carole said...

What fun! They all look great. Cheers from Carole's Chatter!

Katherine P said...

Yum to all! I've only had the New England Clam Chowder. There was a deli here years ago that had the absolute best New England Clam Chowder that was my favorite thing to get on rainy days. I think I cried when it closed! I've never had the other two but I'm definitely intrigued. I've never been sure if I liked the idea of Manhattan Clam Chowder but after reading this recipe I think I would enjoy it.

JoAnn said...

I'm going to try your New England Clam Chowder recipe - it is my FIL's favorite. He orders it as an appetizer EVERY time we go out to dinner and I'd like to make a big pot for him to have for lunches all week long.

Karen said...

Fun! I've only had New England chowder... I was born and raised in New England, so that's probably why :) I'd like to give these other two chowders a try... my winter soup weather is coming up! :)

Tina said...

That's a tough choice trying to pick a favorite from all of those. I'm more of a new England clam chowder girl. But I have had the Manhattan style and it's really good too. Looks like a fantastic time, having a cook off

bermudaonion said...

Oh man, Carl would have loved to have joined you that Friday night!

kimbacaffeinate said...

OMG I want them all and a beer. Yum..I would have a hard time choosing but the Rhode Island Clam Chowder made me drool the most. Thanks for sharing. I have saved the page for future reference

(Diane) bookchickdi said...

What a lovely tradition, and I'ma New England Clam Chowder girl even though I live in Manhattan.

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