creamy clam chowder

by monikaandjesse

Several weeks ago, Jesse promised to take me to a farmers market nearby. We’d been so preoccupied (or lazy), however, that we made excuses every time the subject was brought up. Despite Jesse’s unfaltering reluctance (“What do you mean by ‘real’ farmers market? The farmers market at The Grove is a real farmers market!”), I was determined to go to my first “real” farmers market this week.

Unfortunately for me, it didn’t happen. We were ill-informed about the farmers market’s hours, so by the time we got out of church it was much too late and the market was already closed. I immediately began pouting.

“You promised me we would go today…hmmph…”

After several minutes of listening to me whine, he offered me a compromise I couldn’t resist.

“How about we go to the farmers market at The Grove and look around? I’ll buy you a caramel apple.”

Once we were there, it was easy for me the cheer up. According to Jesse, the farmers market at The Grove is one the biggest in the state of California. I certainly believe his assertions: it’s huge and always packed with people, and there are tons of stalls marketing an interesting variety of fresh produce and meats. My personal favorite store there is Light My Fire, which sells about a million different kinds of hot sauce, most of which have very interesting names.

As we wandered about, looking for the candy stand, we passed by a seafood stall selling clam chowder. The smell wafting around was tantalizing; Jesse and I watched hungrily as families seated at tables put mouthfuls of creamy soup in their mouths. We looked at each other, grinning knowingly.

“Let’s make clam chowder today?”

“Heck yes!”

We bought one plain caramel apple (watching ruefully as the woman rang us up for $6.95) before making our way to Trader Joe’s across the street. There, we picked up several things, including bread bowls, heavy cream, and canned clams. Jesse was more excited than I was––making things for the first time always brings about a sense of joy in him––and we quickly drove home.

After an hour or so of Jesse toiling over the stove, we had our soup. Thick, creamy, rich, and of course, clammy. As I furiously took photos, Jesse watched eagerly as steam rose from the soup into perfect spirals to the ceiling. Finally, after a good deal of waiting, he became impatient and dug in. He had his complaints (“Needs something else” “I can do much better next time” “It’s too rich”), but I found it to be a perfect dinner for a lazy Sunday evening.

New England Clam Chowder

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium onion, finely diced
2 celery stalks (reserve tender leaves) trimmed, quartered lengthwise, then sliced into 1/4-inch pieces
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 (10-ounce) cans chopped clams in juice
1 cup heavy cream
2 bay leaves
1 pound Idaho potatoes, cut into 1/2- inch cubes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Pan Toasted Croutons:
2 to 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 baguette, cut into 1-inch cubes
3 tablespoons freshly chopped flat-leaf parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and celery and saute until softened, mixing often. Stir in the flour to distribute evenly. Add the stock, juice from 2 cans of chopped clams (reserve clams), cream, bay leaves, and potatoes and stir to combine. Bring to a simmer, stirring consistently (the mixture will thicken), then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook 20 minutes, stirring often, until the potatoes are nice and tender. Then add clams and season to taste with salt and pepper, cook until clams are just firm, another 2 minutes.

For the Pan Toasted Croutons:
Melt the butter in a large skillet and toss the bread cubes in the butter until browned and toasted, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add parsley and season with salt and pepper.