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Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Better Than Restaurant New England Clam Chowder

Growing up, I had a strong aversion to all things seafood. I would always order chicken fingers or macaroni and cheese when we would eat at seafood restaurants. I wouldn't even bother looking at the menu, I simply wasn't interested. Which, is kind of funny since I am not really a picky eater. I have tried cow tongue, for goodness sake.

However, when I was about 11, my dad and I went on a special daddy-daughter date. It was so special when he and I got to go out because he worked such long and strange hours as a police officer. I was so excited. He asked where I would like to go on our date and I told him that I wanted him to choose and I would be happy with whatever he chose.

To my absolute dismay, he chose Red Lobster. Maybe be he had forgotten I couldn't stand seafood, maybe he wanted to see if he could get me to try something new... whatever the case may have been, I knew I had to make the best of it because I didn't speak up and choose.

We sat down at our table and I reluctantly picked up the menu. The first thing I noticed was how pretty everything looked. Way more appealing than macaroni and cheese or chicken fingers, that was for sure. At the bottom, I notice a beautiful picture of what looked like the creamiest, most delicious soup I had ever seen. "New England Clam Chowder," I read, "That sounds... okay." I thought with a gulp.

I pointed it out to my dad and asked what he thought. His eyes sparkled and he smiled at me, "I actually think you will like it." He said. And with that, my mind was made up.

The waitress returned and I nervously ordered the beautifully creamy soup.

Then I waited.

 And started regretting my decision.

And thinking I should flag the waitress down and change my order...

Just then, she reappeared at our table with our food. My soup was just as beautiful as it was in the picture. It smelled incredible! I scooped a small amount and brought it to my lips. The flavor was out of this world. So creamy with herbs and potatoes. To my surprise, it didn't taste fishy and the tiny bits of minced clam was delightful.

I was sold. Since then I have let my guard down a bit when it comes to seafood... just a little. However, clam chowder remains one of my most favorite soups. And I have a wonderful recipe that I love to make for my kids, who also have an aversion to fishy foods.

There are a couple things about this recipe that I think makes it so great. I love the cayenne. You might think adding cayenne to anything would make it hot, but that is not the case with this recipe. I think it adds a depth that brings out the flavor of the thyme and mellows the clams even more. It is so yummy. The other thing I like is the clams. It is important to note in the recipe that it calls for minced clams, not chopped. I made the mistake of buying chopped once. The pieces of clam are so much bigger it made the soup WAAAYYY too clammy. I couldn't even eat it. SO play close attention to the label. Don't make my mistake.

Now, are you ready to get cooking? Here you have it! My favorite New England Clam Chowder.

You will need:
One medium onion, diced
1/3 c. flour
1/2 c.butter
3 cans MINCED calms, juice drained and reserved
2 bottles (8 oz./ea) clam juice
1/2 c. chicken broth
3 medium red skin potatoes, cubed
3/4 c. celery, diced
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1 c. half and half

In a large saucepan, saute onions in butter for approximately five minutes, add flour and cook about one minute more, stirring constantly. Pour reserved juice, bottled clam juice, and chicken broth into the pot. stir in potatoes, celery, bay leaf, salt, and thyme; bring to a rolling boil then reduce heat to low and cook for about 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Stir in remaining ingredients. Heat and serve.

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