Monday, April 30, 2012

Clam and Wiper Try Pots Chowder

If you've read Moby-Dick, perhaps you'll remember the chapter about chowder. I sure do! It was my favorite. 

Before handing over their fates to the Pequod, Ishmael and his exotic friend Queequeg arrive at the Try Pots Inn:

"Upon making known our desires for a supper and a bed, Mrs. Hussey, postponing further scolding for the present, ushered us into a little room, and seating us at a table spread with the relics of a recently concluded repast, turned round to us and said - "Clam or Cod?"

"What's that about Cods, ma'am?" said I, with much politeness. 

"Clam or Cod?" she repeated. 

"A clam for supper? a cold clam; is that what you mean, Mrs. Hussey?" says I; "but that's a rather cold and clammy reception in the winter time, ain't it, Mrs Hussey?"

But being in a great hurry to resume scolding the man in the purple shirt, who was waiting for it in the entry, and seeming to hear nothing but the word "clam," Mrs. Hussey hurried towards an open door leading to the kitchen, and bawling out "clam for two," disappeared.

"Queequeg," said I, "do you think that we can make out a supper for us both on one clam?"

However, a warm savory steam from the kitchen served to belie the apparently cheerless prospect before us. But when that smoking chowder came in, the mystery was delightfully explained. Oh, sweet friends! hearken to me. It was made of small juicy clams, scarcely bigger than hazel nuts, mixed with pounded ship biscuit, and salted pork cut up into little flakes; the whole enriched with butter, and plentifully seasoned with pepper and salt. Our appetites being sharpened by the frosty voyage, and in particular, Queequeg seeing his favorite fishing food before him, and the chowder being surpassingly excellent, we despatched it with great expedition: when leaning back a moment and bethinking me of Mrs. Hussey's clam and cod announcement, I thought I would try a little experiment.

Stepping to the kitchen door, I uttered the word "cod" with great emphasis, and resumed my seat. In a few moments the savory steam came forth again, but with a different flavor, and in good time a fine cod- chowder was placed before us."

And that concludes Melville's wonderful excerpt about chowder. Who would not want chowder after having read something like that!? It's already making you hungry, isn't it? Yep. Thought so. Although this isn't our healthiest recipe, we swear that this will be the chunkiest and heartiest chowder you've ever had, fit for hunters and sailors alike. After having our chowder, you probably wouldn't have to eat for 3 years -- an entire whaling voyage! We slowly simmered our Try Pots Chowder with large pieces of white fish, lots of tiny baby clams, bacon bits, Yukon gold potatoes and celery. To add a surprise, roasted kernels of corn give that pleasant burst of sweetness when lapping. For the novel's sake, we will pretend we used cod, but we really didn't. Thank you to Rick's family in Nebraska for providing us with beautiful wiper filets, perfect for this recipe. You can use any firm white fish you have on hand. Enjoy!! 

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 40 minutes
Ingredients:
- 4 slices of thick-cut bacon, chopped
- 1 large yellow onion, chopped (about 2 cups)
- 1/2 cup dry white wine, like Chardonnay
- 2 large Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
- 2 celery ribs, diced
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tbs. fresh thyme, or 1 tsp. dried thyme
- 1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 tsp. Old Bay seasoning
- 2 (10 ounce) cans of whole baby clams
- 1/2 - 1 lb. firm white fleshed fish filets
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 4 - 8 tbs. of unsalted butter (optional)
- 3 tbs. corn starch
- 2 tbs. fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- 2 ears of sweet corn, lightly roasted over the grill or broiled

1. In a Dutch-oven, cook bacon. 
Remove the bacon and drain on paper towels.  
2. Over medium-high heat, add chopped onion to the bacon grease and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir occasionally. 
3. Then add 1/2 cup of dry white wine. 
We like this kind. Yummy! Great for drinking. 
Allow the wine to reduce by half. 
4. Then add diced potatoes and celery. 
Drain the juice from the canned clams and add it to the pot of potatoes and celery. There should be enough liquid to cover the vegetables completely. If not, add water. 
5. Then add Old Bay, bay leaf, thyme, salt and ground black pepper. 

Bring to a boil. Then lower heat to medium and cook covered until potatoes and celery are almost done, about 10-15 minutes. 
6. In a small saucepan, heat the cream until it's steamy, but not boiling. Whisk in corn starch, making sure you get rid of all lumps. Stir the cream mixture into the pot of potatoes. If the chowder is still loose, allow it to simmer uncovered to thicken. Do not allow it to boil, or else your cream might curdle. 
7. Remember to remove any dark flesh from the fish. This will give you cleaner tasting and less "fishy" fish. Cut into 1 inch pieces. 

For those who don't live by the sea, wiper is perfect for chowder. 
When the chowder is almost to desired thickness, add fish and half of the reserved bacon bits. 
Then the clams.
Allow the chowder to simmer for another 10 minutes, or until the fish is cooked all the way through. If desired, mix unsalted butter into the chowder.  This will make the chowder even richer.
8. Stir in freshly chopped parsley. Slice roasted kernels off corn and mix into chowder as well. Add more salt and pepper, if needed. Let the chowder rest about 30 minutes before serving. This will allow the flavors to improve. 
Mmmm! Garnish with remaining bacon bits and parsley. Serve with crusty bread and the rest of the chilled Chardonnay. The flavors of the chowder paired well with the wine. 
 

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