Nate’s New England Clam Chowdah
Serves 4 people
200ml dry white wine
- Soak the clams in cold, fresh water to purge them of any residual sand left in side. Clams are bivalves, it is their biological function to filter water. We use this process to our advantage to rid them of sand. Leave them soaking for a minimum of 20 minutes. If you find any that have opened, discard these. It means the clams are already dead, and will have a greater chance of tasting off.
- After the clams are purged, heat a medium-large sized pot over medium heat on your stove top. Add a touch of neutral cooking oil to the pot, and put 1 kg of the clams into the hot pot. Stir around for 10 seconds, then add 100mL of the wine and cover the pot. Allow the clams to steam for 5-10 minutes until they open and release their liquid. Take the pot off of the heat and strain the clams from the resulting liquid. Separate the clams from their shells, and discard any that haven’t opened. Strain the broth again through a clean, wet cloth (a paper towel will work) so as to ensure all sand is removed.
- You should yield about a liter in clam stock. Add a touch of water if you need to get closer to that yield.
The chowdah base
300g bacon (I used Guanciale, but any salted pork product will do. Try and get a slab of it from your butcher (not pre-sliced) so you can cut lardons)
1 large yellow onion
5 medium sized carrots
4 ribs of celery
1 head of fennel
Add the bacon to a room temperature pot, and turn the heat up to a low temperature. We are trying to render the fat out relatively slowly, and not burn the bacon but crisp it in its own fat. Once crispy, strain the fat from the bacon. Return the fat to the pot, and add in the diced vegetables. Sweat in the rendered fat until translucent and sweet (about 8-10 minutes).
1L clam stock
Once the above vegetables had cooked, I added a bit more butter to the vegetables, because they had soaked up some of the bacon fat. What we are going to make is a roux, which is a French technique to thicken sauces. It is typically made from equal parts fat and flour. You need to determine if you should add more fat or not. Sprinkle the flour in over the fat and vegetables. Using a rubber maryse (rubber spatula), to move the roux-coated vegetables so that nothing sticks in the pot. We want to cook out the starchiness of the flour from the roux. About 4-5 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat, slowly whisk in about half of your clam stock. Notice how it thickens straight away. Add in another quarter of the clam stock, while reserving the last quarter. We want to keep this to adjust the viscosity of our chowder base. Return the pot to the stove, and bring it to a light boil. We have to bring the base up to this temperature to activate all the starch from the roux to see how thick our chowder base is. Adjust with the remaining clam stock if you want a more thin chowder. Add water, if necessary.
Potatoes for the chowdah
300g New Danish Potatoes (or whatever waxy potatoes you have available)
2 bay leaves
In a small pot on the side, place your washed potatoes in with cold water to cover, the bay leaves, salt to season the water, and about 10mL of olive oil. Cook the potatoes from cold until fork tender. Remove from the heat, and allow them to cool in the cooking liquid.
5 sprigs lemon thyme (or regular thyme if that is all that’s available)
2 bay leaves
2 packages brown beech mushrooms (about 80-100g of mushrooms). Trim the caps of the mushrooms from the stems.
2 bunches of Green Asparagus Cut into 2cm cylinders.
300g Cooked potatoes
300g Cooked bacon
All of the Steamed clams
20g of Creme Fraiche (38% fat)
50mL of Milk
100mL of Cream (38% fat)
Take our chowder base and warm it on the stove. Stir in the Creme Fraiche and the Milk. Add in the aromatic herbs (the lemon thyme and the bay leaf) and continue to heat. Add in the brown beech mushrooms and the cooked bacon. The mushrooms will cook in the chowder base in a matter of minutes. Add in the cut green asparagus, which will also cook in a matter of minutes. Do not overcook these things! Mushrooms are more forgiving, but there is nothing worse than mushy asparagus. Add in our already cooked potatoes. Add in some of the cream and taste. If you feel it needs more richness, then add more. Season the chowder with salt, black pepper, and lemon juice to taste. It can take a lot of black pepper. Finally, add in the steamed clams. These should always be last as they are already steamed, and the last thing we want is rubbery, overcooked clams in our chowder. Remove the lemon thyme sprigs and bay leaves.
Picked lemon thyme leaves
Chop the chives into small champagne bubbles with a sharp knife. Pick and wash the fennel fronds in cold water. Pick the lemon thyme and wash if necessary. Use all of these items as toppings for the chowder, after plating. Extra points if you have old bay seasoning.
With this recipe it’s important to note that the most essential ingredients are the clams, the bacon, and the potatoes. Anything else you feel like adding is entirely up to you and the season in which you decide to make this deliciousness. I felt like adding mushrooms for their umami flavor and meaty texture, asparagus because it is currently spring in Copenhagen, and fennel because anise flavors work very well with this dish. Use your imagination and visit your local market/farm to gather inspiration for this or any other dish you are preparing. Talk to farmers. They have a lot of knowledge to share and are very passionate about their work.
Black pepper oyster crackers
16g baking powder
100 rounds of black pepper
56g cold butter, cubed
150 mL cold water
- Combine the above dry ingredients (minus the flakey salt) in a bowl, and mix till homogeneous. Using your hands or a pastry card, slowly cut in the cold butter until incorporated. Begin to slowly add in the cold water bit by bit. You may not need to add all of it. Work the dough into a ball the point that it isn’t sticking to your hands anymore and is cohesive. Wrap in cling film and allow to rest for minimum 10 minutes.
- Remove the dough from the cling film after resting and roll it out on a floured surface. Roll the dough to about a mm thickness. Using a ring mold (or a beer bottle cap) punch out the crackers and put them on a baking sheet lined with baking paper. After having punched out all of the crackers, form the left over dough into a ball again and roll it out to produce more crackers and not waste the dough. Once your crackers are all punched out, brush each one with clarified butter and season with another round of black pepper and a piece of flakey salt. Bake in the middle of the oven at 175c for 15-20 minutes. Allow to cool. Store excess crackers in an airtight container for future use. Add the crackers liberally to your Chowdah.