I'm at home! I mean, I'm in New Jersey, in my parents' house, since home could also mean my little Astoria apartment or even, in a pinch, Boston.
I like going home every once in a while, since it gives me an opportunity to sleep for unhealthily long periods of time (14 hours suckas!) and eat good food without spending money or time. Pretty nice! Last night, at 7:30, before I went to bed, my mom asked if there was anything we should make to take home on Sunday (home, in this case, being Astoria. I know, it's confusing. Keep up people), and I said, like one of those creepy serious horror movie children, "Why yes, Mother. Clam chowder." So, we're making it!
My mom's clam chowder is the kind of food that makes you wish for blizzards. When you eat it you can sort of imagine being locked inside your house for long periods of time, but it's ok, because hey, clam chowder! It is so absurdly delicious, and so absurdly filled with veggies. My mom, healthy food connoisseur, eats with gusto, which is enough proof for me to down three bowl fulls without guilt. She usually fills up a few plastic bottles with the soup for me to take back on NJTransit. They haven't exploded yet, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed. When I get back to Astoria, I usually whip up some of my rolls to go with it, since my parents are not so much with the copious amounts of baked goods. It's amazing--the perfect winter meal.
It's also Manhattan Clam Chowder, not New England, which is a very important detail (Manhattan--tomatoes, New England--cream). Having lived in Boston for well on 4 years, it's impossible not to form an opinion about chowda. Off the top of my head, I can name at least 5 places within two blocks of my campus that made clam chowder. I am a fan of New England chowder, but always sort of suspicious of it outside of Boston, since it's this incredibly opaque stew that anyone can put anything in (whatever, I've watched Fight Club too many times and I'm paranoid...). Inside of Boston, though, it's sacred, and also amazing.
My mom got her Manhattan clam chowder recipe from The New McCall's Cookbook, where "New" means, no joke, 1973 (yeah my mom is not a cookbook person...). Although, let's be serious people, it's still my mom's clam chowder. It's pretty easy to prepare, mostly requiring lots of chopped vegetables, and not too expensive, mostly requiring lots of chopped vegetables. For the clams--I have no idea where you would get them or how much. The recipe calls for 2 jars, which I thought sounded suspicious, but my mom said it tastes fine and is cheaper and easier, so she uses it (um, like mother like daughter?). The recipe says to use water, my mom substitutes either clam broth or Clamato (which is mixed clam broth and tomato juice. It's disgusting, but is delicious in chowder.). I've made a slight change in the recipe, which says to add the potatoes after the broth has simmered for 45 minutes. My family likes our potatoes sort of on the mushy side, so we put them in from the start.
MANHATTAN CLAM CHOWDER
4 bacon slices, diced
1 cup sliced onions (about 4)
1 cup diced carrots (about 4)
1 cup diced celery
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 can (1 pound or 12oz) tomatoes
2 jars (11 1/2oz size) clams
2 teaspoons salt
4 whole black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme leaves
3 1/2 cups pared and diced potatoes (about 3)
Water, Clamato, or clam broth
Cook bacon until almost crisp
Transfer bacon to a large pot, add onion, cook for about 5 minutes until tender
Add carrots, celery, and parsley, cook over low heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally
Drain tomatoes, keeping the liquid
Add tomatoes to the pot
Drain clams, keeping the liquid
Add clams to the pot
In a separate bowl, mix the tomato and clam liquid, and add water, Clamato, or clam broth until you have 1 1/2 quarts (6 cups)
Add liquid to pot
Add salt, peppercorns, bay leaves, and thyme
Bring to boiling, reduce heat, and simmer 1 hour
Chop clams, add to chowder, simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes
Image from Ulterior Epicure