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.

ITALIAN WEDDING SOUP – REDUX

I posted a version of this back in September, but this recipe is slightly different. It uses lean ground pork (instead of ground veal) and ground beef for the meatballs. Also, I chose to poach the meatballs in the stock instead of browning and baking them. I found this leads to a more tender meatball and is much easier in the long run.

Ingredients:

For the meatballs:

  • 12 ounces of lean ground beef
  • 4 ounces of lean ground pork
  • 1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs, torn in small pieces
  • 1/2 cup panko crumbs
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 1/2 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1 egg

For the soup:

  • 1/2 cup minced onion
  • 1/2 cup minced celery
  • 1/2 cup minced carrot
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground white pepper
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup dry sherry or white wine
  • 4 cups low sodium chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup Acini pasta (or Orzo)
  • 4 ounces baby spinach, stems removed
  • Grated parmesan for garnish

Directions:

  • Place the bread crumbs and cream in the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix on low for 1 minute. Add the rest of the meatball ingredients and mix on low for 3 minutes.
  • Form the mix into 1/2 ounce meatballs, about the size of a large marble, and place on a large plate. Cover and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
  • Place 1 tbsp of olive oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions, celery, and carrots and saute for about 4-5 minutes until the vegetable begin to soften. Season lightly with salt and white pepper (black pepper is O.K.).
  • Add the dry sherry and stir for about 2 minutes. Add the stock, 1/2 tsp Kosher salt, 1/4 tsp of white pepper, and 1 tsp dry dill. Bring to a simmer, lower the heat, cover, and cook for 15 minutes.
  • Add the meatballs to the soup, cover, and simmer on low for 15 minutes.
  • Add the acini pasta to the soup, cover, and simmer for 7 minutes. Add the spinach and simmer for 1 minutes, making sure the spinach is covered. Taste and reseason if necessary.
  • Serve with grated parmesan cheese.
  • Note: Cool the soup immediately if not serving right away or for leftovers. If not cooled, the pasta will absorb too much of the soup.

THE BEST ZUPPA TOSCANA

If I had to choose today, this would be my favorite soup. It’s got Italian sausage, potatoes, a lot of garlic, and kale. A full meal soup that comes together in less than an hour, and, the leftovers freeze well.

You can substitute spinach for the kale, but kale holds up better. Also, if you aren’t going to eat this soup right away, then cool it down quickly as the potatoes can get mushy if it sits around on the stove too long.

Ingredients:

  • 2 thick slices of bacon, roughly chopped
  • 1 medium leek, white and light green parts only, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 3/4 lb Italian sausage links (about 2), casings removed
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • Kosher salt and white pepper
  • 1/2 cup dry sherry
  • 3 cups low sodium chicken stock
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 large Russet potato
  • 1 cup cream or half and half
  • Grated parmesan cheese
  • Chopped chives

Directions:

  • Place the leeks, garlic, onion, and bacon in a food processor. Pulse until it is all minced fine.
  • Heat a large saucepan over medium heat and add the olive oil and butter. Add the vegetable/bacon mixture and the Italian sausage. Crumble and chop the sausage. Stir and cook everything for about 8 minutes until the sausage is no longer pink. Add the red pepper flakes, thyme leaves, bay leaf, and salt and white pepper to taste.
  • Deglaze the pan with the dry sherry and bring to a simmer, scraping the bottom of the pan. Add the stock and bring to a simmer. Lower the heat, cover, and cook for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Do not peel the potato. Cut lengthwise twice into quarters then slice 1/4 thick pieces. Add the potatoes and cook on low, covered, for about 9 minutes until the potatoes are just fork tender but not mushy. Add the cream and heat through. Cook for another 2-3 minutes. Remove the bay leaf. Taste and reseason if necessary.
  • Serve garnished with grated parmesan and chopped chives or green onions.

ROTISSERIE CHICKEN STOCK AND SOUP

O.K., so you did the rotisserie chicken thing last night. Please tell me you didn’t throw away all those incredible roasted bones! Assuming, you did not, let’s make a quick, easy chicken stock. Also, I suggest you try to reserve all the other bones as well after all the meat has been dispensed with.

You also will need about 1 cup of the cooked chicken meat, preferably breast meat, for the soup. I also used some leftover cooked white rice, but you can add egg noodles or other pasta like orzo, or nothing.

What you put in your stock is open to interpretation. I used onions, celery, a carrot, and, since I had one in the fridge I needed to use for something. Also, turnips and turnips work well for stock. Keep in mind this is a very small batch of stock, you’ll get about 4 cups, you adjust the amount of ingredients for more than one chicken.

What’s so great about making your own stock? You control everything, especially the sodium content. It will need seasoning when it’s done.

Ingredients:

For the stock:

  • 1 rotisserie chicken carcass and bones
  • 1 medium carrot, rough chop
  • 1 celery rib, rough chop
  • 1/2 onion, peeled, rough chop
  • 1 medium leek, white and light green parts only, rough chop
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled, smashed
  • 2-3 sprigs of parsley
  • 1-2 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 10 whole pepper corns

For the chicken soup:

  • 3-4 cups of stock
  • 1/2 cup onions, 1/4 inch dice
  • 1/2 cup carrots, 1/4 inch dice
  • 1/2 cup celery, 1/4 inch dice
  • 1 sprig of thyme
  • 1 inch piece off fresh ginger, sliced into 3 pieces
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire
  • Kosher salt and white or black pepper to taste
  • 1 cup cooked chicken breast meat, diced
  • 1 cup cooked white rice or cooked pasta of choice
  • 1 tbsp chopped cilantro or parsley
  • 1 tbsp sliced green onions

Directions:

  • Place all the bones in a large pot. Add the rough chop carrot, onion, celery, leek, garlic, thyme, parsley, peppercorns, and bay leaf. Cover with cold water by about 1 inch, about 8 cups. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for 1 1/2 hours. Do not add salt at this point. Using a ladle, skim some of the foam if desired, it just makes for a more refined stock.
  • When done cooking, strain the stock through a fine metal sieve. You should get about 4 cups. Transfer the stock to a medium saucepan over medium high heat. Add the diced onions, carrots, celery, thyme, ginger, and Worcestershire. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, cover, and simmer for 25 minutes.
  • Remove the ginger and the thyme. Season to taste with Kosher salt and white or black pepper.
  • Add the cooked chicken and cooked rice and heat through for about 2 minutes. Taste and reseason if necessary. Serve with chopped cilantro and sliced green onions. I added a few drop of sesame oil and cholula or Tabasco.

PAPA JIM’S CHILI BEAN SOUP

It’s a chili…it’s a soup…it’s Papa Jim’s Chili Bean Soup!

My Dad, Papa Jim, made his Chili Bean Soup quite often when I was growing up in the 50’s and 60’s. He liked chili, but loved making this “soupy” version better.

It comes together quickly and is great for a weeknight full-meal soup. The recipe here is a small batch (for just Loretta and I), but it would be easy to make bigger batches. It is super the next day and freezes well.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups cooked red kidney beans
  • 2 thick slices (2 ounces) of bacon, diced
  • 10 ounces of ground beef, 80/20, pressed into a large patty
  • 2 tsp canola oil
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1/2 cup diced onions
  • 1/2 cup diced celery
  • 1 tsp granulated garlic
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1-2 tbsp chile powder
  • 1 (14 ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • 1-2 tsp Worcestershire
  • 1 tsp veal demi glace or 1 bullion cube
  • Sliced green onions
  • Shredded cheddar cheese
  • Sour cream or Sriracha crema (recipe below)
  • Chopped cilantro
  • Tortillas chips or Fritos

Directions:

  • Heat a large saucepan over medium high heat and add the canola oil. When the pan is screaming hot, add the ground beef patty and let it sit for 3-4 minutes without touching it. Season with salt and pepper. Turn and cook on the other side, seasoning with salt and pepper.
  • Add the diced bacon and spread it around the beef patty. Using a spoon or potato masher, smash the beef to a crumble. Add the garlic powder, cumin, paprika, and chili powder and stir to season the meat. Add the tomato paste and stir in. Add 1 cup of water and stir with a wooden spoon, scraping the bottom of the pan letting it come to a simmer to deglaze the pan. Add the diced tomatoes and juice and smash with the spoon. Add the brown sugar, stocks, Worcestershire, and demi glace. Bring to a simmer, lower the heat, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes.
  • Add the cooked kidney beans and cook another 15 minutes. Taste and reseason with salt and pepper if necessary. Add some tabasco for more heat.
  • To serve, ladle into bowls and garnish with shredded cheese, green onions, sour cream or Sriracha crema, chopped cilantro, and tortilla chips or Fritos.
  • For the Sriracha crema, combine 1/2 cup sour cream. 2 tbsp buttermilk, 1 tbsp Sriracha, 1 tsp lime juice, salt and pepper to taste.

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.

EASY OLD FASHIONED CHICKEN AND ROLLED DUMPLINGS SOUP

The differences this recipe has over traditional Chicken and Dumplings is pretty basic…and simple. This really is closer to a Cream of Chicken and Noodle Soup than anything else.

I used Pillsbury Grands biscuits to make old-fashioned rolled dumplings instead of from scratch dough. The chicken is from a leftover rotisserie chicken. The soup part is because it uses a much thinner sauce. The stock is store-bought low-sodium chicken stock. I still introduced a bit of cream near the end, but only a little cornstarch as a thickener. All in all, it really is an “easy” Old Fashioned Chicken and Dumplings.

One of the keys to the rolled dumplings is to roll out the Pillsbury Grands thin, to about 1/8 of an inch before cutting them into strips. They will puff up a lot when cooking in the stock.

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups of low-sodium chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup dry sherry
  • 1 cup carrots, 1/4 inch coin cut
  • 1 cup celery, 1/4 inch bias cut
  • 1 cup white or yellow onion, 1/4 inch dice
  • 1 cup white mushrooms, halved then 1/4 inch slice
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 fresh thyme sprig
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked chicken, shredded or diced
  • 1/4 cup frozen peas
  • Kosher salt and white pepper
  • 1 can Pillsbury Grands biscuits
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley
  • Chopped chives for garnish

Directions:

  • Place the chicken stock and sherry in a large saucepan. Add the carrots, celery, onion, mushrooms, garlic, thyme sprig, and bay leaf to the saucepan. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, cover, and simmer for 25 minutes. Stir the cornstarch into 3 tbsp of cold water then stir into the simmering sauce. Let it thicken for a few minutes.
  • Add the cream, cooked chicken, and peas to the saucepan and let heat, covered, on low heat for about 10 minutes. Taste and reseason if necessary.
  • Remove the biscuits from the tin. You will only need half of them. Bake the other half according to package directions and save for a later use. Take 4 of the biscuits and roll them out to about 1/8 of an inch. Slice them into 1 inch long half inch wide strips.
  • Bring the sauce to a low simmer. Add the dumpling strips to the saucepan, sprinkle with the parsley, cover, and let cook for 20 minutes until the dumplings are cooked.
  • Serve in large bowls and garnish with chopped chives.

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