At the ripe old age of 83 (he just turned so today), my Dad still goes digging for clams in the summer at our cozy cottage in Friendship, Maine--he disappears for hours at a time--to bring back the most delicious mollusks from Muscongus Bay which we steam and dip in butter, or marinate with gin, clam juice, and apple cider vinegar for soused clams (an excellent garnish for an extra dry martini!) or make into a chowder. When Baby and I were home over Christmas, Dad sent us back to New York with the best gift of all--juicy clams he had dug up, vacuum-sealed and frozen from this past summer's haul. Although I started with a delicious recipe from my father, I feel I complicated it a bit, haphazardly trying to make my first clam chowder, but as we are to take recipes and adapt them into something of our own, passing them down along the way, I think the extra time and labor ended up creating another wonderful Down Maine dish that I'd be proud to serve in Friendship.
Happy Birthday! My dear old Dad!
Wicked Good Clam Chowdah
3 slices Oscar Mayer thick cut bacon, or the like
2 tb each chopped shallot, garlic, red onion
3 tb European butter; 1 tb when sauteeing shallot, garlic and red onion, 2 tb later to whip into reduced lobster stock
1 can drained, diced Del Monte fresh cut whole new potatoes
1 cup clam liquor (take care not to put any sand into your chowder!) or bottled clam juice
1 tb or so, fresh thyme leaves removed from stem (to avoid a woody flavor)
2 cups chopped clams
1-2 cups lobster stock for simmering the clams and potatoes; 3 more cups lobster stock, reduced to 1 cup to stir into the broth later
3 cups 2% reduced fat milk, instead of cream
Black pepper and white pepper to taste
Cook bacon in a skillet until crispy and remove, saving the fat (chop bacon when manageable). Add shallots, garlic, and red onion into this, with a tablespoon of butter and sautee for about 5 minutes.
Add clam liquor, potatoes and thyme with 1-2 cups lobster stock and simmer at low heat while rapidly reducing 3 cups lobster stock over medium-high heat in a separate pan. When this latter 3 cups of lobster stock has reduced to 2 cups, whip 2 tb butter into it with a wire whisk and continue to simmer down to 1 cup.
Add reduced stock into broth mixture with chopped clams, crispy bacon and let it all get to know each other until simmering nicely. Pour in cold milk and bring to heat but do not boil. I did mean to use fat free evaporated skim milk, an even better substitute for cream, but thankfully I looked at the bottom of the can first and saw that it had expired last year! Anyway, the 2% milk on its own will work just fine.
Throw in some freshly ground black pepper and some white pepper to finish it off and let your chowder sit off heat for at least an hour before reheating and serving. May be refrigerated up to 2 days.
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