Creamy Clam Chowder
This superb recipe comes from Sandy Camp. It's pure and bellyfilling, rich and decadent, also born of a natural and innovative cook. Serve to 8 people as a wonderfully filling meal.
Sandy, in her own words:
I made my first bowl of clam chowder when "I was about 15-years-old after I'd learned how to make it from watching my grandmother. Her recipe was fairly basic, like potato soup with clams in it, but none the less delicious. The differences between hers and mine is that she used non-peppered slab bacon. Another difference was that she dug for her own clams. Another difference is the way in which it is thickened. I used to thicken it the way she did..with a butter based roux added to the soup when the potatoes were fork tender.
"My grandmother and I lived on an island in Southeastern Alaska called Sokolof. We were the only inhabitants of that Island located about ten nautical miles from Wrangell, Alaska. My grandmother leased the island from the Bureau of Land Management back in the 60's. Since our house was right on the beach, she would put the clams in a big galvanized wash tub, fill the tub with sea water and feed the clams oatmeal for about three days. We would change the water often and when this process was done the clams would only have oatmeal in their stomachs instead of all that gritty dirt. I am sure others probably use this process as well. Although I thought it was quite a unique technique and that she was so smart to do this. After that we would clean the clams and have fresh clam chowder with part of the clams and then would can up the rest. I learned so much from my grandmother."
- 1 pound peppered bacon, sliced in 1/4-inch slices (regular bacon is okay, but remember to add pepper to taste at the end)
- 2 large white onions, diced
- 6 stalks celery, with leaves, and some inner core leaves
- 3-4 pounds small red potatoes, scrubbed and quartered
- 32 ounces of clams with juice (or one quart of fresh clams)
- 1/2 tube of Ritz® crackers, crushed to a fine powder (other crackers are also okay)
- 8 Tablespoons butter
- 1 quart of "half and half" (cream and milk)
- hot pepper sauce, to taste
Garnish: oyster crackers
In a large, heavy pot, fry the bacon over medium heat until crisp. Remove the bacon and drain on paper towels, leaving the fat in the pan. Add the chopped onion and celery to the fat, and sauté over medium heat until they are translucent. Add the potatoes, then pour in enough water to keep the potatoes from sticking, about a quarter inch up the sides of the pot. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat, partially cover and let the potatoes steam to fork tenderness, stirring occasionally and adding water as necessary--this will take about 15 minutes.
When the potatoes are tender, add the powdered crackers and the butter and stir carefully. When the butter is melted and the crackers moistened, add the half-and-half and any juice from the clams. Bring to a simmer and let cook until the broth is thickened by the cracker crumbs. Season with salt (and pepper if it needs it) and also with hot pepper sauce, to taste. Thin with milk as needed. Last (so the clams don't toughen), stir in the clams and crumbled bacon, cover, and let simmer for a few minutes. When ready to serve, ladle into bowls and pass the oyster crackers.