CLAM CHOWDER

I have made Clam Chowder hundreds of times with varying degrees of success, ie, tasting they way I want it to…or, resembling some of the best chowders I’ve had over the years.

This is a great new recipe of mine that kind of gets back to the basics. Please note that I would have liked to do this new recipe using fresh clams, but good chowder clams are not readily available around here (Central California)…so, canned clams.

This version is also cut way down in volume. I did this to minimize the waste if I didn’t turn out…I have “sh*t-canned” many chowder recipes right after cooking. However…this one is a keeper! At least I think so.

The clams I used are whole Bumble Bee Baby Clams, they are much better than the little cans of minced clams. And, a bottle of Bumble Bee clam juice. I might try two bottles next time, but this does have a nice mild clams chowder, and the baby clams chopped, not minced. Keep in mind that canned clams are already cooked, so they need to be heated through. Cook them too long and they become rubbery. One new ingredient this time: Old Bay seasoning.

Here’s how I made it…

Ingredients:

  • 3 thick slices of bacon, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup sweet onions, diced
  • 1/2 cup celery, diced
  • 1 (8 ounce) bottle of clam juice
  • 1 (10 ounce) can of whole baby clams
  • 1/2 tsp granulated garlic
  • 1/2 tsp Old Bay seasoning
  • 1 tsp chicken or clam base
  • 1/4 cup dry sherry
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 fresh thyme sprig
  • 1/4 tsp lemon pepper
  • 1/4 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper
  • 1/4 tsp MSG (optional)
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • 2 tbsp cold water
  • 1 – 1 1/2 cups of Russet potatoes (about 1 medium), peeled, 1/2 inch diced and cook al dente

Directions:

  • Place a medium saucepan over medium low heat and add the chopped bacon. Cook the bacon until it is rendered and slightly crispy. Remove bacon from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  • To the saucepan with the bacon fat, add the onions and the celery and saute for 5-6 minutes until just softened, do not brown. Add 1/4 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp white pepper.
  • Turn up the heat to medium and add the sherry. Let it come to a simmer for about 2 minutes. Add the clam juice and the juice from the baby clams. Do not add the clams yet. Add the chicken base, garlic powder, Old Bay, bay leaf, and 1/4 tsp lemon pepper. Cover and allow to simmer for about 8 minutes.
  • Cook the diced potatoes in salted water for about 8 minutes until just barely tender. Drain and place in a bowl in the refrigerator to cool so they don’t get mushy.
  • Add the half and half to the chowder and bring to a low simmer.
  • Place 2 tbsp of butter and 2 tbsp of flour in a small saucepan and cook for about 1 minute to make a roux.
  • When the chowder is simmering, stir in the roux and allow to simmer, stirring, for about 3-4 minutes to thicken slightly. Add the cream and the baby clams. Let it simmer for 2-3 minutes.
  • To make it thicker, make the roux with more butter and flour, or, make a slurry with the cornstarch and cold water. Add to the simmering chowder.
  • When ready to serve, remove the bay leaf and thyme sprig, add the cooked potatoes and 2/3 of the reserved cooked bacon to the chowder and heat through.
  • Serve with oyster cracker, more chopped bacon and chopped chives if desired.

BROCCOLI CHEDDAR SOUP REDUX

This is one of the soups I have struggled with getting just right. Just right meaning: like Panera’s version. I took a couple steps back…started over…and used An NYT recipe. It worked this time.

With every so-called “successful” recipe, there is always the variable of seasoning. Add the right amount of salt and pepper, especially, is essential. So, it’s usually “Kosher alt and black (or white) pepper to taste”.

Add more broccoli or more cheese according to your taste. The only thing I would suggest different is something to add heat if you like that sort of thing…probably some red pepper flakes. However, I usually like to give a couple dashes of Tabasco or Cholula when I eat it.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 pounds broccoli florets
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 cup white onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, thin sliced
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 1/2 cups cream
  • 4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded + more for garnish
  • 1/8 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp lemon pepper
  • Croutons if desired

Directions:

  • Trim the stems off the florets and cut into small pieces, set aside. Cut the floret into 3/4 inch pieces.
  • Place the stems in a small saucepan, cover with water, bring to a boil, cover, and cook for about 3 minutes, until tender. Drain.
  • Heat a large saucepan over medium heat and add the butter. Add the onions and garlic and saute, stirring, for 4-5 minutes. Season with Kosher salt and lemon pepper. Sprinklw with 2 tbsp flour, stir, and allow to cook for 1 minute. Add the blanched stems, florets, and stock. Bring to a simmer. Lower the heat, cover, and cook for 20 minutes.
  • Add the cream, nutmeg, and shredded cheddar.and cook on low until the cheese has melted. Taste and reseason if necessary.
  • Serve in bowls with a sprinkle of shredded cheddar. Add croutons if desired.

CALDO VERDE

A traditional Portuguese soup, Caldo Verde literally means “green soup”. Sometimes just called Portuguese Sausage and Potato Soup, it is similar to Zuppa Tocana, but a little lighter as it normally does not have any cream or milk in it.

The classic version sausage of choice is Linguica (Portuguese sausage), but some people used chorizo or some other slightly spicy sausage. Also, classically, it has kale, but other recipes call for collared greens or chicory. I tried to stick with a classic version here.

As with any popular, well-known ethnic dish, there are many versions. This is just my way of making it.

Ingredients;

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 11 ounces (2 links) of linguica, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 cup of yellow onions, rough chop
  • 1 cup leeks, white and light green part only, rough chop
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 large russet potato, peeled, quartered, 1/4 inch slice
  • 2 small Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, quartered, 1/4 inch slice, (potatoes should total about 1 1/4 lbs)
  • 1/4 tsp crush red pepper flakes
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup dry sherry
  • 4 packed cups of chopped kale (I used curly kale here)

Directions:

  • Add a tsp of olive oil to a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium low heat. Add the sliced linguica and cook, stirring, for 4-5 minutes until the slices start to brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  • Place the onions, leeks, and garlic in a small food processor and process until minced.
  • Add another 1-2 tbsp of olive oil to the pan then add the onions, leeks, and garlic mince. Cook, stirring, for about 4-5 minutes until translucent. Add the red pepper flakes and stir for 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Add the potatoes, then the sherry and the stock. then add the kale. Raise the heat and bring to a simmer, pushing the kale down. It will wilt as it cooks. After it begins to simmer, cover and cook for 20 minutes. Tate and reseason if necessary.
  • Optionally, you can mash the potatoes a bit with a masher or spoon. Or, as I did here, choose to leave the potatoes in tact. They will be cook very tender. It give the soup a cleaner, cleared appearance.
  • Add the browned linguica to the pan and stir in. Cover and cook another 15 minutes.
  • Serve in a large bowl with toasted baguette slices. Drizzle a little olive oil and hot sauce if desired, I also added some grated parmesan cheese.

ZUPPA TOSCANA

Yes, the Olive Garden favorite! I worked at the O.G. in the 90’s as a Kitchen Manager, so, I helped make this daily. My recipe is slightly different, ie, I use cream instead of milk and I throw in a little dry sherry.

A couple of chef’s notes: After you add the potatoes and they are cooked, if you are not serving it right away, cool it down immediately by placing it in a shallow baking dish in the reefer. If not, the potatoes will get mushy real soon. Also, don’t skimp on the garlic. I used 1 large (elephant) garlic clove, so 2 normal cloves will suffice.

Ingredients:

  • 2 thick slices of bacon, diced
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Italian sausage links (about 8 ounces total), casings removed
  • 1 medium leek, diced
  • 1 cup white onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 cups low-sodium chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup dry sherry
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves, minced
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt and white pepper
  • 2-3 cups kale, ribs removed, 1 inch chop
  • 2 medium Russet potatoes (1 1/2 lbs), leave skin on, quartered lengthwise then 3/8 inch slice

Directions:

  • In a large saucepan over medium heat, add the olive oil then add the diced bacon. Let it render for about 3 minutes then crumble in the Italian sausage. Cook, stirring, until the sausage is lightly browned.
  • Add the leeks and the onions and cook for 5-6 minutes. Season with salt and white pepper (use black if you don’t have white). Stir in the minced garlic, red pepper flakes, and the thyme leaves and cook for about 30 seconds.
  • Add the dry sherry and bring to a boil, scraping the bottom of the pan. Add the chicken stock, lower the heat, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes.
  • Add the chopped kale and cook another 20 minutes. Add the potatoes and simmer gently, covered, for 10 minutes until the potatoes are fork tender. Do not overcook as the potatoes will be mushy. Turn off the heat and add the cream and stir. Taste and season with salt and white pepper. Serve immediately for keep warm or cool immediately.

CREAMY FRENCH POTATO LEEK BISQUE

Leeks are so under appreciated, don’t you think? I mean, onions get top billing all the time…and a leek or two would raise the bar in so many recipes instead of onions. Just don’t forget to wash out the dirt from between the leaves!

Potato Leek soup is unabashedly simple to make but is such a welcome lunch on a cold winter day. Serve with a little dollop of sour cream, diced cooked bacon, chopped chives, and croutons, or, wait for it…cooked chopped tater tots.

Chef’s note: To make this soup really smooth and creamy, it’s essential that after blending, you strain it through a fine wire mesh sieve. It is a refinement method that is used in French cooking all the time and is worth the effort.

Ingredients:

  • 2 thick slices of bacon, chopped
  • 2 medium leeks, white and light green part only, thin sliced
  • 2 tbsp of unsalted butter
  • 1 garlic clove, thin sliced
  • Kosher salt and white pepper
  • 3 cups low sodium chicken stock
  • 2 medium Russet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/2 inch dice
  • 1 fresh thyme sprig
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup cream
  • Croutons or cooked tater tots
  • Sour cream
  • Chopped chives

Directions:

  • Heat a medium saucepan over medium heat and add the chopped bacon. Cook until bacon has rendered and cooked but not crispy. Remove from pan and drain on a paper towel lined plate. Set aside.
  • Remove most of the bacon fat. Add 2 tbsp butter and the leeks and saute, stirring, just until they have softened. Do not fry or brown. Add the garlic and stir for 1 minute. Season with salt and white pepper.
  • Add the stock, thyme sprig, and the potatoes and bring to a simmer. Lower the heat, cover, and cook about 20 minutes, until the potatoes are tender but not mushy. Remove the thyme sprig and bay leaf. Let soup sit and cool for about 10 minutes.
  • With an immersion blender, blend the soup until smooth. Strain the soup through a fine wire sieve. Return to the saucepan and add the cream and reheat. Taste and reseason if necessary.
  • Serve with croutons or chopped tater tots, chopped bacon, a small dollop of sour cream, and chopped chives

CHICKEN CHARDONNAY WITH MUSHROOMS

Chicken thighs, mushrooms, and wine. What an incredible combination. Its’ easy to make using very few ingredients and goes well with almost any starch, especially rice, polenta or Creamy White Cheddar Grits like I have here.

Skin on, bone in chicken thighs work the best, though I have made this with bone in chicken breasts as well. It is braised in wine and stock so it doesn’t dry out when cooking in the oven.

This recipe serves 4-6 people…or, the two of us with lots of leftovers! And, yes, that’s a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon (instead of white wine) since the browned thighs produce such an incredible light brown sauce.

Ingredients:

  • 4-6 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, about 2 lbs
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • Avocado or canola oil
  • 1 cup of onions, thin sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups of cremini or white mushrooms, 1/4 in slice
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled, thin sliced
  • 2 sprigs of fresh parsley
  • 1/2 cup of Chardonnay or other dry white wine
  • 1 cup of low-sodium chicken stock
  • Chopped parsley

Directions:

  • Trim any excess fat from around the edges of the chicken thighs. Dry them with a paper towel. Season on both sides with salt and pepper.
  • Heat a large, oven-proof skillet over medium heat and add the about 2 tbsp of avocado oil. When the oil is hot, brown the thighs thoroughly on both sides. Remove from the skillet to a plate and set aside for now.
  • Drain most of the oil from the skillet and lower the heat. Add 2 tbsp unsalted butter and add the sliced mushrooms and onions. Saute, stirring, for about 7 minutes. Season lightly with pepper. Add the sliced garlic and cook for another 30 seconds, stirring,
  • Add the wine and bring to a simmer for about 1 minute. Add the stock and the thyme sprigs.
  • Place the browned chicken thighs back in the skillet and bring to a simmer.
  • Place in the oven, covered, and cook for 50 minutes until the internal temperature of the chicken is 165 degrees.
  • Remove the lid from the skillet and raise the heat to 425 degrees. Cook an additional 12 minutes to brown and crisp the chicken a bit.
  • Remove from the skillet from the oven, remove the thighs to a serving platter, and place skillet over medium high heat. Simmer until the liquid has reduced by half. To serve, spoon the mushrooms and pan sauce over the thighs. Garnish with chopped parsley.

INSTAPOT POTATO LEEK BISQUE

Leeks rule! And I don’t use them enough. This smooth potato leek soup with bacon was made in an Instapot but can be made on the stovetop. Using a large saucepan or small Dutch oven, just follow all the directions leading up to the pressure cooking. Cover the pot and simmer on low for 25 minutes. Then blend with a immersion blender or counter top blender. You’ll note there are a few chunks left in the soup, but you can blend it as smooth as you like.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 slices of thick bacon, diced + more for garnish
  • 1 large leek, cleaned, white and light green parts only, chopped
  • 1 cups diced celery
  • 1/2 cup diced onions
  • 3 cups low-sodium chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup dry sherrt
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp fresh chopped thyme or 1 tsp dried thyme
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 large Russet potato, peeled, 1/2 inch dice
  • 1/2 cup diced carrots
  • Sour cream – opt
  • Chopped chives

Directions:

  • Select Saute on the Instapot. Add the olive oil and the chopped bacon. Cook the bacon, stirring, until cooked. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  • Add the leeks, onion, and celery and saute, stirring, for about 6 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Add the sherry and bring to a simmer, scraping the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon. Add the diced potatoes, diced carrots, stock, garlic powder, red pepper flakes, and parsley. Lock the lid and pressure cook for 13 minutes. Let the pressure release for 10 minutes.
  • Remove the lid and use an immersion blender and blend until smooth or slightly chunky if desired. Add the cream and cooked bacon and stir in.
  • Garnish with a dollop of sour cream, chopped bacon, and chopped chives.

INSTAPOT POBLANO CORN CHOWDER

Summer means lot of incredible fresh sweet corn. Cooked with fresh roasted poblano chile and leeks is a great combination for a Summer chowder that takes only a few minutes to make.

For pantry hacks, you can make this using a small can of diced green chiles and frozen corn. If you don’t have leeks, use a few green onions and a celery rib. Try to find fresh tarragon, there isn’t a substitution here without exceeding that great tarragon flavor profile. O.K., maybe some dry tarragon. Don’t tell my chef friends I told you that! Fresh is always best.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp of unsalted butter
  • 1 medium leek, white and light green parts only, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 medium poblano, roasted, skin and seeds removed, chopped
  • 2-3 ears of fresh corn, kernels removed, cobs reserved
  • 1 bya leaf
  • 2 sprigs of fresh tarragon, stems removed and reserved, leaves chopped for garnish
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup dry sherry
  • 1/2 cup half and half
  • 2 small Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, 1/2 inch dice, (about 1 1/2 cups) cooked al dente
  • Kosher salt and white pepper
  • Chopped fresh tarragon leaves
  • Chopped chives

Directions:

  • Set Instapot to Saute and add the butter to the pot. Add the chopped leeks and garlic and saute, stirring, for about 4 minutes. Season with salt and white pepper. Do not brown.
  • Add the corn kernels and the cobs, the chopped poblano, bay leaf, tarragon stems, and enough stock to cover the corn. Stir to combine. Seal the Instapot and pressure cook for 15 minutes. Let the pressure release naturally. Discard the cobs, tarragon stems, and bay leaf.
  • Transfer the mixture to a blender and add the rest of the stock. Blend until smooth. Strain the mixture through a fine metal sieve, pushing it through with a rubber spatula.
  • Transfer to a medium saucepan and add 1/2 cup of half and half. Taste and season with salt and white pepper. Add the cooked potatoes and heat through. Serve and garnish with fresh chopped tarragon and chopped chives.

HOW TO MAKE PANERA CREAMY CHICKEN AND WILD RICE SOUP

We all love soup. And most of us love Panera soups. They’re the best. Fresh, savory, tasty soups.

I also love making soups, that, for the most part, are really easy to make. Chop, throw, cook, eat! My version of Panera Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup uses a chicken breast poached in the liquid, but leftover chicken from a rotisserie chicken works just fine.

I thickened it a little at the end with cornstarch, although you can use a flour and water slurry but it can make it a little heavy, after all, there is cream in it. Try not to leave out the sherry as it give it just the right amount of tang and acid for some great flavor. A dry white wine will work as well. Also, I use a wild rice/brown rice blend, but you can put them together yourselves, half wild rice, half brown rice. Make sure you precook the rice for at least 40 minutes (wild and brown rice take much longer than white rice) before adding to the soup at the end.

Let’s make Panera Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup carrots, 1/8 inch coins
  • 1/2 cup celery, 1/4 inch dice
  • 1/2 cup white onions, 1/4 inch dice
  • 1/2 cup white mushrooms, halved and thin sliced
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup dry sherry or white wine
  • 1 cup cream plus + 2 tbsp
  • 1 tsp herbes de Provence or dried savory, marjoram, rosemary, thyme, and oregano to total 1 tsp
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 6 oz boneless chicken breast or equivalent cooked chicken
  • 2 tbsp corn starch
  • 1/2 cup wild and brown rice mix, cooked
  • 1 tbsp chopped celery

Directions:

  • Heat a large saucepan over medium-low heat and add 1 tbsp olive oil and 1 tbsp unsalted butter. Then add the onions, celery, mushrooms, and celery. Saute for about 7 minutes until the vegetables are tender. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Add the stock, sherry, garlic powder, herbes de Provence, and the chicken breast. If you are using cooked chicken, do not add at this point. Simmer on low, covered, for 35 minutes until the chicken is done. Remove the chicken and allow to cool. When cool, shred or cut into bite sized pieces.
  • Add the cream and the cooked rice and bring to a simmer. Mix 2 tbsp corn starch with 2 tbsp cream and stir into the simmer soup. Allow to thicken slightly. Add the cooke chicken.
  • Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Creamy Seafood Chowder

Chock full of shrimp, salmon, and crab meat, the chowder is a meal. Maybe pair with a small chopped salad and a slice of sourdough garlic bread, and you’re set! Well, perhaps a cold glass of Chardonnay as well will do.

I pre-baked the salmon. But the shrimp cooks in the seafood stock, not for very long though. I used lump crab meat, but King crab would be nicer.

The fish and clam stock I use is Better Than Bouillion brand. The low-sodium chicken and beef stocks are good as well.

Ingredients:

  • 4 ounces of salt pork, minced
  • 1/2 cup of white onions, minced
  • 1/2 cup of celery, minced
  • Kosher salt and ground white pepper
  • 1 cup of fish stock
  • 1 cup of clam stock
  • 1/2 cup of dry sherry
  • 1 pound of Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, 1/2 inch dice
  • 5 ounces of large shrimp, peeled, deveined, each cut in half
  • 5 ounces of crab meat, lump or King crab
  • 5 ounces of salmon, cooked, 1 inch chunks
  • 2 cups of half and half
  • 1 tsp of granulated garlic
  • 1 tsp of herbes de Provence
  • 1 1/2 tbsp of tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 tbsp of chopped parsley
  • 2 thick slices of bacon, cooked crisp, chopped

Directions:

  • Heat a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the minced salt pork and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add the minced onions and minced celery and cook for about 5 minutes until soft and translucent Season with white pepper.
  • Add the fish stock, the clam stock, the sherry, the herbes de Provence, and the diced potatoes. Bring to a simmer, turn down the heat, cover, and cook for 10 minutes until the diced potatoes are slightly tender.
  • Add the shrimp and cook for 5 minutes. Add the cooked salmon chunks, and the crab meat. Simmer for about 5 minutes.
  • Make a roux with 1/4 cup unsalted butter and 1/4 cup flour, let it cook about 3 minutes. With the chowder simmering, slowly stir in the roux and cook until thickened, stirring. Add the granulated garlic, stir. Season with ground white pepper. Salt may not be necessary as the salt pork may be salty enough. Cook for another 5 minutes on low. Taste. Reseason if necessary.
  • Serve in a soup bowl. Garnish with the chopped bacon and chopped parsley.