Friday, January 16, 2009

My Bad East Coast

I apologize to everyone on the East Coast. The current record cold might be my fault. Last week I was talking to my step father and he asked how cold it was. I told him it was about 38 degrees, so cold but not too bad. He asked if we had to wear long underwear in that kind of cold (my step father has never lived more than 20 miles from the Pacific coastline, almost all of those years in Santa Cruz or Marin county.) I laughed and said no, and in fact I don't even own long underwear. Fast forward one week and I'm considering buying long underwear to make it through the weekend. I apologize that I jinxed the weather.

To keep you warm, here is my clam chowder recipe. It's originally from a San Francisco Junior League cookbook, and adapted based on what I prefer in my chowder. Our tradition has been to have this and fajitas on Christmas Eve because Matt's family always does a huge seafood feast (originally based on the seven fishes Italian tradition, but adapted for his family to include clam cakes, lobster, stuffed quahogs, and scallops wrapped in bacon) and my father's family tradition of barbecued oysters from Tomales Bay (my job to go out and pick them up from a specific beach shack) and tamales (from them Mexican tradition). In my mom's family Christmas Eve is a work night (my step father is a minister), so the meal there is generally a different adaptation of this chowder and lasagna because both can be made in advance and reheated between services.

If you like your chowder a little thicker, you can mash up one or two of the potatoes or add some instant mashed potatoes to the pot. I like the addition of dill here, and I generally hate dill, so try it once before you skip it. Part of marrying a New Englander is always being forced to always carry oyster crackers in the house, and I'm told they should always be used with chowder. I do used canned clams for this, but mainly because I'm lazy. Feel free to use fresh. The original recipe called for green bell pepper and celery. I've omitted the bell pepper because I don't like that flavor in the chowder, and I hate celery with the passion of 1,000 suns so I never use it. My mom doesn't use the dill or pepper and adds frozen corn for her California version. This freezes well, so I often make a double batch.

Clam Chowder
6 slices bacon, chopped
3 green onions, chopped
6 potatoes, peeled and cut into ½ inch pieces
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 cups water
½ tsp pepper
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
10 drops Tabasco
2 cups raw clams with juice
2 cups half and half
¼ c. chopped dill

In a large soup pot saute bacon until crisp. Add onions, potatoes, and garlic and saute for three minutes. Add water, pepper, Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender. In a separate pot, heat clams and juices until warm. Add clams, half and half, and dill to potatoes and heat until piping hot. Do not boil.

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