Saturday, August 2, 2014

Beach-Dug Clam Chowder

We went clam digging in Maine. What an experience! It had been years and years since I stood hunched over a muddy beach with a shovel and a bucket. At the time, I was a young child on a Zeeland beach on the North Sea coast, digging for razor clams. The idea is the same: you look for a little "air hole" in the sand, and you dig. Not ON the hole, just near enough. And then you claw with your hands in the sand, removing it carefully until you feel the shape of the shell. This time, in Maine, big clams prove worth the finger-scraping effort and the mud-grey nails by the time the tide starts to roll back in.

Beach-Dug Clam Chowder
10 or so big clams (or less if you didn't dig long and hard enough)
1 cup heavy cream
1-2 cups clam juice (what you steamed the clams in)
1 cup diced kohlrabi
1 cup diced potatoes
1/2 cup diced fennel
1/2 cup chopped onions
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 small twig of fresh lovage
1 small bay leaf
1 twig of fresh thyme

Steam the clams open 2-3 minutes in water to which you've added a splash of white wine, a pinch of salt, and some coarse chopped aromatic vegetables like onion, leek, celery and garlic. Let cool enough to handle, then pick out the clam, drain every last drop of clam juice from the shell into a collecting bowl. Strain the steaming liquid from the pan also into this bowl, but use a cheesecloth if the water seems gritty.

Put the kohlrabi, potato, fennel, lovage, thyme, onion, bay leaf and garlic in a pot with the clam juice: use enough clam juice to just cover the vegetables. Simmer for up to 15 minutes, or until soft. Remove the lovage, thyme and bay leaf, and add the cream. Add more clam juice if the soup is too thick (or not if you like it that way). Bring to a slow boil and add the chopped, cooked clams. Turn off the heat, and leave to infuse for 2-3 minutes. Add some chopped chives, and serve with a good chunk of hearty bread and good quality butter.

ps. I made exactly the same chowder minus the clam juice and clams, using fresh haddock.

I cooked this staying at the New Moorings Farm in Sedgwick, Maine. See the story With A Pitchfork In My Kitchen here

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