Meet the Sullivans: Low-Fat Clam Chowder

January 15, 2015

Low-Fat Clam Chowder

I have always loved clam chowder and I don't think I know anyone who doesn't! Maybe it's the area we live in? There are so many places out here in the Bay Area to go to enjoy a steaming hot cup of clam chowder, but my very favorite place to order one was in Carmel, California. My family used to visit there at least twice a year and we had a tradition of stopping at a little cafe (sadly, it closed a little while back) at the top of Ocean Avenue for lunch when we arrived. So maybe part of why I like this dish so much is because it holds some great family memories!

You may also remember that as part of my goals for 2015 I'm going to try to step outside of my comfort zone in the kitchen at least once a month. My goal for January was to make clam chowder.

I did a little research online and decided to go with a low-fat version from the Food Network.

The recipe called for 4-pounds of cherrystone clams, but I'm not a huge fan of their texture, so I just went with half the amount of clams. Subsequently, this also cut back on the clam taste of the soup, so next time I would add some clam juice if I decided to use less actual clams.

I also added a few extra stalks of celery and one additional potato.

4 pounds cherrystone clams, scrubbed (I only used 2 lbs)
2 large red-skinned potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 slice lean center-cut bacon, chopped
1 medium onion, diced
1 stalk celery, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
1 cup fat-free half-and-half
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
4 teaspoons unsalted butter, sliced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
1/2 teaspoon paprika

1. Put the clams and 2 cups water in a pot. Cover, bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook 5 minutes. Uncover and continue to cook until the clams open, 5 to 10 minutes (discard any that do not open); transfer the clams to a bowl. Pour the liquid into a large measuring cup. (You should have 3 cups liquid; add water if needed.) Wipe out the pot.

(Don't skip this step there was lots of yucky stuff that came out of the clams into the "juice"! My juice was a tad less than the 3 cups, which is probably because I used half the clams.)

2. Pour the liquid back into the pot through a paper towel-lined sieve. Add the potatoes, cover and simmer until tender, about 15 minutes.

(This is when I chopped up the veggies!)

3. Remove one-third of the potatoes. Continue to cook the remaining potatoes, covered, until soft, about 10 more minutes. Puree in batches in a blender until smooth. Return the soup to the pot.

(I will absolutely add even more potatoes next time to increase the creaminess without having to add more half-and-half or cream.)

4. Cook the bacon in a skillet over medium heat until crisp, about 5 minutes. Add the onion and celery and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, thyme and bay leaves and cook, stirring, about 3 more minutes. Add the bacon mixture and reserved potatoes to the soup. Cover and cook over low heat, about 5 minutes.

5. Meanwhile, remove the clams from their shells and roughly chop. Stir the clam meat and half-and-half into the soup; remove from the heat, cover and set aside, 20 to 30 minutes.

6. Discard the bay leaves. Season the soup with salt and pepper and reheat. Serve topped with a slice of butter, parsley, chives and paprika.

Overall, we both really liked this soup!

It was definitely not as creamy and rich as the kind you get at a restaurant, but that's the result when you're trying to lessen the fat, right? Although this soup was great, and satisfied a craving for chowder, next time I make clam chowder I think I will try the full-fat version, just for the heck of it. 

Next time I make this specific recipe I'll add some more clam juice, but not clams because I don't totally love their texture (just the flavor they give) and one more clove of garlic -- but that's it, otherwise it was perfect!

Recipe from Food Network.

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