Monday, September 16, 2013

Clams Got Legs!

Clams got legs, but I date myself. This is one of my favorite all time B.C. comics by Johnny Hart:

Actually they don't have legs but they do have a foot so they can move around. Dragging themselves around, not hopping. For the record.

I really enjoyed the mussels I had with FF last week. With the weather turning cooler I wanted soup so I decided to cook up a batch of homemade clam chowder. I had everything except the clams, an essential part of the recipe (duh). Zena, Goddess of Fire took her little legs for a walk to the grocery store. A good idea also when anticipating something made with cream and butter and bacon.

Canned clams. I hate canned clams. They are often sandy, salty and have a funny orange color. I'm sure there are premium brands you can order online if you are a rich gourmand and planned this meal two weeks in advance. Some of the ones I look at had sodium tripolyphosphate (to retain natural juices) and calcium disodium EDTA to protect color (doesn't really work in my opinion). EDTA is a short term for ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid.

Ugh. RUN AWAY!!!

I didn't want to start with fresh clams - too much work with too many other superhero projects in the works, like fold the laundry. I looked in the frozen fish section and found Sam's Clams, a 16-ounce plastic container of shucked clams ($5.99). Ingredients: Clams, water. OOOOOH. I liked that. This is what I found online:

"100% natural chopped clams are hand processed by Blount using the time honored hand-shuck technique because, to date, this method still produces the highest quality meat (heat shucking methods tend to blanch and toughen the meat more than our standards would allow). Our products are guaranteed 100% natural. We do not soak or pack with tripolyphosphate. We use no salt or preservatives. The clams are washed in fresh water, plain and simple. The end result is a healthier, fresher, sweeter, more tender product."

It also had a label that it was "Certified Sustainable" but according to an NPR report the labeling thing isn't reliable (, but I still felt a bit better about eating seafood, a topic which is very confusing for most mortals (and superheros) but very serious from an environmental standpoint. PRI's environmental news magazine "Living On Earth" had a piece on the radio yesterday about some newfangled inland shrimp farming operation near Boston that's environmentally friendly. We may be able to feel good about eating shrimp again, but that might not be for awhile. The first tankfuls are going to high-end chefs that will treat the food with respect. Time for a meander to Boston, n'est-ce pas?

I left Sam's Clams on the counter to defrost during most of the course of the day while I protected the innocent, sharpened my sword, and vacuumed. They were still very cold with a few ice crystals in the center when I started cooking, so I think I got the timing just about perfect. Just a few seem to have walked away but my cat's just looked at me innocently, then licked a foot. The clams smelled sweet and briney.

The next new ingredient I used for this soup was Trader Joe's Uncured Bacon Bits & Ends ($2.99/lb.). VERY smokey, almost too much, but distinct and flavorful. These were definitely ugly and very fatty, which may be me some day if I don't quit sleeping in on Sundays and eating rich food, so I won't be overly critical as I meander over to the stove and start cooking.

Here's my recipe. The clams were wonderful - tender with just a bit of chew, the bacon added a rich, intoxicating smell, potatoes, butter, cream and salt. A a couple of virtuous veggies. All good.

Serves 4 as a first course
  • 2 ounces chopped bacon, cooked over medium heat in a medium pot until the fat has mostly rendered and the meat is tender crisp; remove the bacon to drain; reserve 2 tablespoons of the fat in the pan.
  • Add 1/2 small chopped onion, l large sliced shallot, and 2 finely chopped celery stalks and cook until the vegetables are tender.
  • Add 2 cups of water, and 2 medium sized red potatoes that have been washed and cut into 1/4" dice. Also 1 1/2 teaspoons of Worcestershire sauce and a generous grind of white pepper.
  • Return the bacon to the pot, bring to a boil then lower heat to a simmer, covered, while you make the roux.
  • In a separate saucepan melt 4 tablespoons of butter over medium-low heat. When just sizzling add 1/4 cup all purpose flour and cook 1 minute, stirring with a whisk. Slowly whisk in 1 can of whole evaporated milk (or light cream if you prefer). Cook until thickened and bubbly and set aside.
  • When the vegetables are tender (about 15 minutes or so) add the clams (rinse these well before you use them, and look out for bits of shell). Don't cook them longer than a few minutes so they don't get all rubbery on you. Stir in the roux. Serve with oyster crackers.
And a beer. It's Sunday, after all! Time to put up your feet, relax and enjoy.

Zena, Goddess of Fire

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