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The Joy Of Canned Clams
& turning them into chowder
Hello, and welcome to the New Year. December was a true whirlwind, and I am glad to have emerged on the other side unscathed. The first five days of 2022 have been kind to me, and I hope the same goes for you. Let’s hope this momentum lasts all through the next 11 months when December will surely knock me on my ass again. I’ve come today to share more of my coveted family secrets: the joy of canned clams.
My grandfather was the primary cook in his household, where I spent a ton of time while growing up alongside my 22 first cousins. Over Christmas my cousins and I were texting in a group chat and sharing some of my grandpa’s more precious recipes that have far outlived his 88 years. I was the only one with the clam chowder recipe. After my grandpa died, and with much persuasion, my uncle deemed me worthy and begrudgingly shared it with me. And, as someone who believes that keeping a recipe secret is totally silly, I’m going to (mostly) share it with you now. When it comes to sharing secret recipes, I say publish them all. It doesn’t matter how well you follow the recipe—it’s not going to be as good as Grandpa Jack’s. Here is a photo of the hilarious recipe that my aunt found after my grandma died. I just imagine this being incredibly difficult to type and print out.
A word about clams – I have made this recipe many, many times and I have tried it with fresh clams and canned clams. Canned clams are better. Also, making a soup out of a bunch of cans of something is antithetical to my usual modus operandi and therefore very fun. If you have some sort of aversion to canned clams, sorry bout it. Canned clams tend to come in either 6.5 ounces or 10 ounces and they come whole or chopped. For this recipe, I used four 6.5oz cans of chopped clams and two 10oz cans of whole clams. Feel free to use whatever mix or variation on whatever kinds of canned clams you can find.
1 lb. bacon sliced into bite-sized pieces
1 large leak, diced
8 carrots, cut into 1 inch coins
2 tbsp. Old Bay
2 tbsp. butter
1/2 cup flour
8 oz. bottle clam juice
6 cans canned clams - do not drain
5-8 potatoes, quartered or cut into large pieces
1qt. chicken broth
2 cups heavy cream
Handful of herbs - chives, parsley, dill, scallions
1 tbsp. white vinegar or lemon juice
1 tsp. fresh cracked pepper
This recipe is my adaptation of my family’s recipe.
In a Dutch oven brown the bacon on medium heat in two batches. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add leaks and carrots and cook until they begin to soften. Add salt, Old Bae, and butter and scrape up any stuck-on bits from the bacon. Add flour and stir to incorporate until all the flour is completely absorbed. Add canned clams with their juices, clam juice, and potatoes. Stir until the soup starts to thicken. Add the broth and heavy cream. Bring the soup to a boil then lower the heat to medium low. Add half the cooked bacon. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the carrots and potatoes are cooked through. When the soup is done, add the vinegar, pepper, and chopped herbs. Top with herbs and bacon to serve.
I made this soup last night in my brand-new Great Jones Dutch oven that my mommy bought me for Christmas. She discovered that I wanted it for Christmas because she reads this newsletter. So yeah. She’s a really good mom. Thanks mom, I love you. And I love all of you, and I hope you got everything you wanted for Christmas, and I hope you ate sauerkraut and pork on New Year’s Day. Please make some clam chowder this weekend and let me know how great it is. It’s great to be back. I think next time I am going to tell you everything that you need to know about embalming.
I love you