Prepare your clams in their shells the way you prefer in a generous sauté pan. A deep dish of (smashed fresh) garlic butter in your sauté pan with just a little water gets them off to a good start.
Just when you know the open clams are ready to eat, once they open (be careful not to overcook as the clams are cooked when they open), tipple into your butter sauce loaded with clam shell juices, a jigger of Bacardi “Limon” (Spanish for Lemon) Rum. This product is also available in lime, but for this we use the limon.
Using your two-tine fish fork (or tongs or kitchen-specific strong tweezers; the clams are hot), pull each clam from its open shell. Discard any clams that did not open. Pop the empty opened shells back in their broth. The shells will continue to strengthen the poaching liquid. Remove the shells using tongs, tipping out any residual juices only when the chowder is finished.
You can enjoy your succulent clams immediately with your garlic bread dipped in the sauce or pop the opened, pulled clams back into the sauce.
You might like to chop the clams because you are going to make clam chowder. To the clam jus butter sauce, add a generous cup of brunoised firm raw potatoes that you have rested briefly in sugar water. Add the soaking water as it has captured vitamins galore; add a finely chopped medium white onion (or sweet Vidalia if available). Mince a medium-size raw fresh carrot and a half cup of Bacardi Black (Puerto Rican) Rum-marinated plumped golden raisins. Let the vegetables poach until fork tender, having an al dente texture. They will continue to cook in the hot broth. You don’t want mushy vegetables. Remove the pan from the heat source.
In a stovetop pot, reduce a couple of cups of half and half cream to thicken slightly. When reduced, sprinkle a little nutmeg, a pinch of sweet paprika, a pinch of dried thyme and a quarter cup of fresh chopped parsley. Add to the clams and veggies in the butter sauce broth.
Grind fresh pepper and squeeze the juice of a half lemon. Adjust salt. The clams are already salty.
You will note that I don’t use flour in my chowders. The thickened reduced cream is a sufficiently delicious texture. And the butter sauce rises to the surface and floats gently on top of each serving.
Make your favourite garlic bread, roasted, grilled or pan-fried in just a smear of noisette melted butter. If you are familiar with naturally salty east coast Atlantic purple dulse (seaweed), fresh from the farmer’s market, add a small handful to your garlic bread for an unusual tapas dipper. You might want to drizzle the tapas with my Grapefruit Beurre Blanc.
You could top each chowder dish scattered with just a tiny bit of my hazelnut watercress pesto.
Over the moon… just when ready to serve, add to each flat soup plate, positioned on a large charger plate, a few of your thawed frozen leftover Christmas cake croutons crisped quickly under the broiler. Yes!
That works. Very yum indeed especially if you sprinkle the croutons with a few flakes of Amagansett finishing sea salt, any flavour. My clam chowder is now your clam chowder. Enjoy! I’m sure you will need seconds, so make plenty.
If you let the chowder rest a bit you can carefully reheat in a double boiler over gently simmering water. This provides an opportunity to make your clam chowder a couple of hours ahead of serving time. And, the chowder is equally good the next day when all the flavours have had additional time to marry. Just when ready to serve, perhaps do as famous European chefs do – add to the clam chowder pot a tablespoon of Asbach Uralt cognac. The little bit of brandy enhances all the other flavours.
As with all hot soups, serve really hot (not boiling) and let the person eating decide what temperature is preferred. It will cool accordingly.
My East Coast corn chowder
My regular readers know that I use flour roux as little as possible and always use reduced thickened cream in my soups.
Start by putting a tablespoon of reserved bacon fat and a tablespoon of unsalted butter in an enameled cast iron generous stovetop pot. Add a brunoise of Vidalia onion or a medium Spanish onion. Micro-chop a large stalk of celery including attached leaves. Mince a large sweet carrot.
Sauté the onions, celery and minced carrot in the bacon butter mix. Sprinkle with a half-teaspoon of thyme. Add a large bay leaf. Stir in three poached garlic cloves from your refrigerated stored-in-Mazola-Corn-Oil jar. Mash the cloves with a fork. You won’t taste the garlic that has gone really mild in poaching. The garlic just enhances all the other flavours. Don’t be concerned if you don’t like garlic. You won’t even taste the garlic. It just disappears in the flavour mix.
Peel three medium large firm potatoes. Cut into small cubes. Rest in sugar water briefly.
When the onions are translucent, add the chopped resting potatoes and their sugar water and the minced carrot. Add a teaspoon of salt, fresh ground pepper and a pinch of nutmeg.
Slide a serrated knife down the sides of uncooked sweet corn cobs, maybe six cobs. Squeeze any extra cob juice into the pot, pushing on the sides of each cob with a regular kitchen knife. The cobs retain a lot of juice that you need in your chowder.
Stir in a tablespoon of Quebec Turkey Hill maple syrup.
Add homemade chicken stock, four to six cups depending on the desired amount of finished chowder. Simmer for 10 minutes with the lid slightly at a tilt.
In another pot, reduce three cups of half and half cream until thickened. Add a half cup of chopped fresh parsley or use LiteHouse brand fresh freeze-dried. Add a little minced basil, a pinch of rosemary if you enjoy it. Maybe even a pinch of your garden-fresh dried deep-fried sage from your pantry jar. Using a rasp, grate a little fresh lemon zest.
Check that the potatoes are al dente, barely fork-tender. Add the seasoned reduced cream. Stir in a teaspoon of fresh squeezed lemon juice and a spritz of Bacardi Lemon Rum.
After you have added the reduced cream, remove the corn pot from the heat and let sit for a couple of hours with the lid on.
Serve in an ovenproof french onion soup bowl. Float a Tennessee Jack Daniels Corn Compound Butter Coin on each serving. Do not stir. Just let the melting coin swirl on the chowder surface as it melts.
You could top each bowl with a store-bought butter-made puff pastry round cut just a little larger to fit the oven-proof bowl size. Paint the outside edge of each bowl with a little egg wash to attach the pastry securely. Brush the pastry with egg wash. Bake in preheated 400 F oven until the pastry puffs.
Add one of my Tennessee Jack Daniels Whiskey Corn Compound Butter frozen coins to each hot serving and eat immediately, perhaps with grilled garlic bread, smeared with a corn compound butter coin.
For an entree you might like to pair with my special Polenta mille-feuille recipe or check out the polenta suggestions in comments below this recipe (scroll down).
Corn on the cob treats
Add Tennessee Jack Daniels corn compound butter coin to cobs of steaming hot corn that are boiled for just four minutes on a soft, not roaring boil. Many people overcook their cobs of corn. No salt in the cooking water; it tightens up the corn. Let the large pot of cold water come to a simmer and add husked corn cobs. No need to cover. Use tongs to remove cobs to a rack to drain. Save the hot water to poach the reserved husks in.
Sprinkle your corn cobs on your plate with fresh ground pepper and generous flakes of hand-cultured Atlantic Ocean Amagansett finishing salt.
But before adding pepper and salt you might enjoy this… drizzle the ready-to-eat cobs with a corn husk syrup made by roasting the corn husks on a sheet pan on middle rack for about 10 minutes at 350 – 375 F. Chop the husks and add to an equal measure of the cob simmer water and Canadian Quebec Turkey Hill Maple Syrup (maybe a half cup each.) Simmer the chopped corn husks until the maple syrup and water are well combined. Strain. Add a little Tennessee Jack Daniels Whiskey and refrigerate.
Let the whiskey syrup come to room temperature before drizzling on the ready-to-eat hot corn cobs. Then smear broken coins of my corn compound butter on the hot corn cobs. You could also use this compound butter on grilled garlic bread to dip in your chowder.
Corn cob compound butter coins
Mash a half pound of unsalted butter and add pulsed fresh poached corn cob kernels. Simply run a knife down a cooked corn cob to release the kernels and pulse coarsely using your food processor.
Add sweet paprika, a few hot chilli flakes, fresh ground pepper and a pinch of crushed garden fresh deep-fried dried sage from your pantry storage. If you love rosemary add a tiny pinch. Both can overpower so be careful. Use any herbs and spices your palate enjoys. Add a teaspoon of Tennessee Jack Daniels Whiskey. Combine well.
Roll a log in plastic wrap. Freeze until solid, then cut into coins and rewrap and freeze hard.
Knock off a coin or two to serve on your homemade steaming hot cream corn chowder. Don’t stir. Just let the corn cob butter coin melt in the individual hot chowder bowls or cups.
Maybe something a little different: top your chowder with a round of frozen pre-made butter puff pastry and add a corn compound butter coin when you take individual servings from the hot oven just as the pastry puffs golden. Be sure to use oven-proof serving bowls if you choose to top with the puff pastry. Onion soup bowls work. Use a parchment lined baking sheet to catch any sticky bits. Do not let serving bowls touch one another.
Or for those who enjoy a Caribbean flavour, paint your perfectly simmered corn cobs with my jerk compound butter. (You could stir into your jerk compound butter mix when mashing, a tablespoon of hot red pepper jelly perhaps.)
You might discover other uses for these tasty whiskey corn cob compound butter coins. Maybe on an au gratin veggie mix, or on individual muffin tin corn fritters or on a corn waffle or a corn pancake.
Spritz the corn chowder with a little Benedictine or Asbach cognac perhaps, when ready to eat.
© Spirits in My Kitchen: Lady Ralston – Canadian Cooking with Bouquets and Aromas – Good Food Made Better Adding Spirits