There’s a clam chowder made at a restaurant in Westport, Connecticut, that I start to think about a tad too much this time of year.
It’s cold and rainy in New York City but lacking the joy of fluffy snow that makes all the mushy street corners and sopping subway cars worth the mess. I’m dreaming of soup.
This time of year, along with the slush, I get Robert Frost poems stuck in my head (often sung by a madrigal choir) and daydream about the cookies I don’t have enough time to make (I think my neighbors are getting “Happy New Year” cookies this time around). I drag my computer to the living room so I can look at this while I work:
Snow and cookies and Robert Frost and wrapping presents may have to wait, but this soup I just couldn’t shake.
I’ve always been a fan of the lesser known Rhode Island version of clam chowder. The Manhattan version is too tomato-y and rather flat-tasting for my likes. And the New England take is obviously loaded in dairy, which I can’t eat. So when I stumbled into that restaurant in CT one day with a friend and found a variation that not only was allergy-friendly but that tasted just what I want a seafood soup to be, I was hooked. Now I make excuses to stop in there when I go see my family this time of year, and I often buy it by the 2-lb jug. Which is quite silly because, as you can see here, it’s incredibly easy to make myself.
Yesterday was a quiet private chef-fing day, and I wanted to provide something nourishing for my lady-boss, who’s a bit under the weather. There were already a few pureed soups in the fridge, but she needed something with a bit more sustenance. She loves veggies and corn and seafood, so it was the perfect combo to hit the spot.
This is an incredibly easy, quick, flavorful soup to make. In the minimal growing season you can completely get by with high-quality canned clams and corn. You don’t have to peel the potatoes. It only takes a few sprigs of thyme to get some amazing flavors outta it. You don’t even need butter! There are measurements here, of course, but you can eyeball things and taste as you go. Easy peasy.
Soon I’ll get to slow down, wrap those presents, make those cookies, and spend a day watching the Christmas movies I just bought to round out my collection. Until then, I’ll relish in the quiet moments at work where I get to make someone feel just a tiny bit better with a big mug of soup.
It’s the week before Christmas. I hope you’re not sweating the small stuff, that you’re relishing in the happy things you get to do, and that with the coming holidays you get to rest and recharge.
Rhode Island Clam Chowder
3 Tbsp olive oil, divided
2 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into small pieces
1 small yellow onion, chopped fine
2 celery stalks, chopped fine
4 small red potatoes, diced small
1 15-oz can corn, with juice
3 6.5-oz cans clams, with juice
1 cup clam juice or fish broth
2 Tbsp chopped thyme
salt and pepper to taste
In a large pot, heat 1 Tbsp of the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook until almost brown, about 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the onion, celery and remaining olive oil and cook, stirring, until soft, about 5-6 minutes.
Add the potatoes, corn, clams, clam juice/broth and thyme. Fill with enough water to cover, and bring to a low boil. Turn heat to a simmer, and simmer about 20 minutes, or until potatoes are soft. Add salt and pepper to taste before serving.