Happy As a Clam Chowder

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or Sad Mollusk Stew depending on if your bowl is half empty or half full.

With a few simple ingredients to start, you can make a Boston/New England style creamy Clam Chowder.

Good and hearty, it warms you right up after coming in from the cold.

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Step 1: Slice and Dice...

The way I cook, there are no exact measurements. Just throw in more of what you like or think that tastes good.

I grabbed a bunch of potatoes, maybe about 2 lbs which usually fills up my pot that I use to boil them in. It will be more than we need for one batch of soup but you can save the extra cooked potatoes for home fries for breakfast or mashed for next dinner. Some of the potatoes in the 5 lb bag were just starting to sprout so go over and pick off the "eyes" and cut out any blemished spots. I also peeled off the skins which I usually eat because they are 1. edible and 2. have flavor. These peels can go to the compost pile for the garden.

Rinse off the peeled potatoes. Cut the potatoes into small cubes. Cover with water and parboil the potatoes until before fork tender, they will still cook a little bit longer later on and you don't want them falling apart. 20 minutes or longer depending on what you got. Some kinds of potatoes naturally cook up fluffy and those break apart sooner so keep an eye on what you are cooking. With a slotted spoon or fork, take the cooked potatoes out of the cooking water and pot. Save the cooking liquid to be the stock for our chowder.

I chopped up a big onion that served as tribute for this hunger game. I chopped up a few stalks of celery - the ones starting to lose color being in the fridge for so long. To complete my mirepoix (chopped vegetable flavor base), I needed something else. Carrots. I didn't have any so I fished out a few carrot chunks from my frozen veggie mix. It also provides a few bright spots of color in the dish. I did not have any parsley.

Step 2: Roux the Day...

Put some butter in a frying pan and drop in the mirepoix.

Cook until the onions start to turn translucent. You want to "sweat" or just wilt the veggies and not brown them.

Take the sweated veggies and put that into the cooking liquid that you saved from cooking the potatoes.

Make the roux or thickening agent with the still warm pan. Add more butter to the pan. Put in a few tablespoons of flour and stir around to make a thin paste. I didn't have any plain flour handy so I just used a bit from the Biscuit/Pancake Mix box.

I added some cooking oil to help thin out the roux since the flour absorbed all the melted butter and was still dry. Stir and cook for a few minutes but don't let it brown. Do that only if you want a dark roux for gumbos. When done, put that to the side for the moment.

Step 3: Bon Appetit...

Get the soup stock with veggies up to the simmer.

Add a good amount of the cooked potatoes back to the soup pot.

I did not have any fresh seafood so I used two cans of chopped clams. Open up the cans and just pour the clam juice into the pot while saving the clam meat for later.

When all that comes back up to the simmer, time to add the roux.

Break apart the big clumps of roux from the frying pan and add that to the soup pot.

Bring everything up to the boil. Constantly stir and you will see the soup thicken up.

Don't panic if you had a mega batch of roux and your soup pot is like a batch of concrete solidifying and your spoon stands upright in the pot. You can always add more liquid to thin it out.

Add in a good amount of half and half or cream. This is Boston/New England style clam chowder. Manhattan style clam chowder is more of a tomato/vegetable soup base with no dairy.

You may have wished you made more roux if your chowder is still too thin. You can thicken it up by waiting to boil out more water, throw in some more potatoes pieces or mash, or add cornstarch slurry thickener.

Since clams get tough with cooking, these only need to go in at the last minute to be warmed through.

Taste and add salt/pepper as needed. It may already be somewhat salty from the briny clam juice.

I am able to enjoy this clam chowder with some homemade croutons - leftover whole wheat bread chunks pan fried in bacon drippings and garlic. So much fancier than a few crumbled saltines or oyster crackers.

Add a splash of hot sauce if desired.

Make your own chowder today.

Enjoy!

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