Friday, April 10, 2009

What's for dinner on Good Friday? Meatless Clam Chowder

by Susan Fox
I know it sounds odd to say meatless clam chowder because isn't clam chowder meatless anyway? It's not. Most clam chowder recipes call for bacon and if you start with a soup stock, it's got meat juice in it. That's a "no no" on Good Friday if you are Roman Catholic, and a "no no" all the time if you are vegetarian. So here's a great vegetable stock and a delicious, healthy clam chowder. If you don't grow your own herbs, Watkins spices really make a big difference in the flavor. I've tried it myself with Watkins and without Watkins, and I can attest to the flavor difference. Ingredients do matter.

I make my stock in large quantities and freeze the rest. So not all of this is needed.
Chop one bunch of celery, one bunch of bok choy (this really makes the best soup ever, and use the whole thing, leaves and stalks), 4-5 carrots, 3 big onions, 15-20 cloves of garlic, 1 turnip, 2 parsnips. Put in a huge soup pot, cover generously with water. I use a 16-quart soup pot. Turn on the heat. Add 1 teaspoon Watkins Parsley, 1 bay leaf, 1 teaspoon Watkins thyme, 1 teaspoon of Watkins Orange Peel. Add salt, Watkins Granulated Black Pepper and/or Watkins Cayenne to taste. Also cut a couple of wedges of fresh lemon and throw them in the pot. Bring to a boil and then simmer for two hours. Let cool, and strain the broth through a fine sieve, pressing the solids to extract the liquid.

Use 10 to 15 cups of the vegetable broth in this recipe. It will not make a thick clam chowder, it will be healthy, buttery and milky, but not thick. However, the more soup stock, the more thiner the soup, so start with 10 cups and see what you think.

Boil three or four big diced red potatoes in the rich vegetable broth. I don't peel them, but I do cut out the eyes because I read they contain a poison. You can put more potatoes in if you want. I try to use less because I am diabetic and on a diet. I get a big can of Chopped Sea Clams at Costco with a net weight of 3 pounds 3 oz. It's mostly liquid. I separate the liquid and the clams, and at this point I mix the clam juice with two tablespoons of flour. You can add more flour if you want a thicker soup, but I am always aiming for a low carb option. It's possible to use none. Pour all the clam juice into the vegetable stock. But not the clams! Chop or thinly slice three stocks of celery and put them in the soup.

Now I am going to create a Clam Chowder Herb Blend. This stuff makes the soup incredible. Blend 4 tsps. Watkins Oregano, 4 tsps Watkins Parsley, 2 tsps Watkins Marjoram, 2 tsps Watkins Dill, 4 tsps. Watkins Thyme, 4 tsps. Watkins Basil, 1 tsp. Watkins Sage, 4 tsps Watkins Rosemary, 2 tsps. tarragon and 1 tablespoon of flour. Crush in a mortar or blend in a blender. Store in a resealable plastic bag to refrigerate.

Thinly slice two or three large onions or chop if you don't want to notice the onion slices. Chop 10-15 cloves. Put both in a heavy-bottomed frying pan, and saute in butter (or if you are allergic to butter, use olive oil or ghee (clarified butter). If you use ghee, you'll need to add more salt at the end. Use enough so the onions don't burn. Add three teaspoons of the Clam Chowder Herb Blend. Do it over low heat. Do not allow it to brown. Can you pierce the diced potatoes with a fork now? If so, throw the sauteed onions into the boiling soup pot. Add either whole milk, half and half or cream to the soup until it is creamy. If you are lactose intolerant, use lactose free whole milk. If you think it's too thin add more flour, but mix it carefully in some broth first or you'll have clumps of flour. Keep it hot, but don't boil once you put the milk in. The cream will make it thicker and creamier, and will have less sugar than whole milk if you are diabetic. Add the clams. Simmer about 20 minutes. Add salt to taste. I sometimes add a couple of palmfuls depending on how much it needs. Add pepper to taste. Add cayenne pepper if you want it spicier. Add paparika to taste. Enjoy with corn bread or crackers. Or just eat with salad if you are watching your carbs like me!

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