Saturday, January 9, 2010

A Nice Comfort

I was planning on sharing my newest discovery from the South Beach book but halfway through the post I switched gears and all of a sudden I'm back with another soup recipe. I'm on a comfort food kick, plain and simple. It's January and it's really winter now. I'm not a big fan of the cold, the snow and the general inconvenience of the season, so I'm looking for comfort wherever I can find it. And for me that would be delightful aromas wafting through my kitchen.

Comfort Food: According to Wikipedia, comfort foods are familiar, simple foods that are usually home-cooked or eaten at informal restaurants. They are foods that are often emotionally significant to a person or group of people and are sometimes related to pleasant memories of childhood.

When I was growing up, my favorite meals were the creamy, cheesy, noodly casseroles that my mom would throw together at the last minute when my dad was working late and it would just be my sister and me at the dinner table. I'm still a big fan of all tuna noodle concoctions and anything Campbell's Soup enhanced. But there are other dishes that are a little less calorie laden that give me the warmth and security I need in these cold winter months. One of these would be my dad's clam chowder. I'm originally from New York so the clam chowder I grew up on had nothing creamy on the ingredient list. We ate Manhattan clam chowder- tomato based and definately figure-friendly. My dad (who hardly ever cooked) would make this maybe once or twice a year on a lazy Sunday afternoon. He sent me this recipe in January, 1991 when I must have been craving some comfort and warmth.

He called it "Ye Olde Daddy's Clam Chowder" and looking at the stained, yellowed paper it was typed on, you know it's a recipe that's been enjoyed year after year by me. It not only conjurs up memories of my teen years, but of summers as a kid when we used to visit with relatives on the Coney Island Boardwalk, sip red chowder from a paper cup, and I'd fall asleep in the back seat of my parent's Studebaker on the ride home to Long Island.

This is a typical recipe that I would get from any member of my family- by that I mean the vague measurements, which in the long run (I think) helped me become a better cook

3 large onions
4-5 T oil
2 28 oz cans tomatoes (stewed in puree or plain tomatoes)
1 16 oz can kernal corn
3 cans chopped clams
4 medium size carrots, peeled and diced
3 large potatoes, peeled and diced
1 package (8 or 9 oz) frozen cut string beans (remove from freezer when you start to cook)
5 slices of bacon cooked (do not cook to crisp, cook to semi soft and cut into 1 inch slices)
SEASONINGS- thyme, oregano, sugar, salt and pepper

Saute onions in oil until soft. Add salt, pepper, thyme and oregano. Add tomatoes and cook for a few minutes over medium heat. Add small amounts of water if mixture is too thick.
Add potatoes and carrots and cook on low-to-medium heat for 20-30 minutes. Taste potatoes and carrots. They should be firm to the bite at this point.
Add drained corn, frozen string beans and bacon. Continue to simmer until carrots and potatoes are done. Add sugar until the tartness of the tomatoes is suitable to your taste.
Add clams and and their juice; the entire mixture should be heated and the flavor should be adjusted with spices, sugar etc.

Re-Mix: I don't do too much to change this recipe except add Old Bay Seasoning in place of the salt. I like the flavor it gives the soup, and there's plenty of salt in the Old Bay mixture itself. Sometimes I'll buy a bottle of clam broth and add that instead of water, but now that I'm kinda old and watch my salt intake, I leave it out more often than not. Oh- and I have to warn you, this recipe makes enough to feed an army, so I cut down on these ingredients: onions (I use 2), oil (I use 1 or 2 T) and only 1 can of the tomatoes and 2 cans of clams.

If you're not a clam lover, but like fish, this recipe makes a great fish chowder. Simply omit the clams, add the whole bottle of clam broth mentioned above, and add a pound or two of cod or haddock 15 to 20 minutes before you're ready to eat.

Thanks dad.

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