Happy week before Thanksgiving–only 5 more days of work till I get a week off!
As I mentioned on Saturday, my parents were in town for the 3-day weekend. Since it was raining on Friday, we decided to stay in and cook a warm, comfort food dinner at my place, and to me, nothing says comfort food like soup in a bread bowl. Neither Jeff or I had ever made clam chowder before, so we decided it would be fun to make for the first time.
While we were in Morro Bay earlier that day, we stopped at the fish market to pick up some fresh local clams. Only, we ran into an unexpected problem–apparently they don’t have the type of clams you use for chowder (Little Neck Clams) in Morro Bay–they said all of the local restaurants import their clams from New England–so much for local clam chowder! Since we had trekked all the way out there, we bought a pound of fresh clams and a can of shelled clams to take home with us.
To complete the meal, we also had picked up bread bowls for $2.50 each from Splash Bakery, a wonderful little bakery and cafe in SLO. Funny enough, their original location, Splash Cafe, is located in Pismo Beach and is known for their award winning clam chowder–with New England clams I suppose!
Now, onto the chowder itself. The guy working at the fish market had told us that if we just leave the clams on the counter, they would gradually open up on their own. However, after about 4 hours of waiting, the clams were still firmly closed. Maybe they need a warmer temperature or just more time? To solve the problem, we just placed the steam basket on top of the pot of boiling potatoes and let the heat of the steam open them for us which seemed to do the trick just fine.
Apparently, you’re supposed to soak the clams in cold water for about 40 minutes after they open to remove the sand, but we learned about that step a little too late… Unfortunately, this meant we did have to cut some of the sandy bits out, but it didn’t hurt us too much. Also, I highly recommend buying a can of minced clams–ours were whole and were a bit too large in the soup even after cutting.
Overall, the soup was delicious and a fun meal for a rainy night!
Clam Chowder in Bread Bowls Recipe
4 sourdough bread bowls
1 pound fresh clams (could substitute with another can of clams)
1 6.5 ounce can minced clams in juice
2 large russet potatoes
1 cup half and half
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup celery, diced
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
2 bay leaves
1/2 tablespoon smoked paprika
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large pot, bring potatoes to a boil and cook until soft. If using fresh clams, steam in basket. Remove clams (still in shell) and soak in cold water for 40 minutes to clean. Remove clams from shells and mince when clean. Drain potatoes and set aside.
Meanwhile, add olive oil to a frying pan over medium heat. Saute onions and celery until onions are translucent, about 4-5 minutes.
Add onions, celery, half and half, clam juice, and potatoes in soup pot and combine. Mash potatoes slightly. Add smoked paprika, bay leaves, salt and pepper, and stir occasionally. Cook for about 15 minutes.
In a small sauce pan, combine butter and flour into a roux and add to soup to thicken.
Finally, add all clams, and cook soup, stirring occasionally, for about another 15 minutes.
Warm bread bowls in oven for about 5 minutes. Remove, ladle in soup, and enjoy!