We all have our comfort foods. When nothing else sounds good, we reach for familiar touchstones to soothe us. They many not mean much to anyone else, but we have our favorites.
Years ago I wrote a heritage cookbook for my family with the odd title, What Sounds Good? It was just that, a crazy assortment of cherished recipes that were a regular part of our food repertoire when my daughters were growing up. At our house, there was always a debate underway about what to eat for the next meal or upcoming food event. The discussion would typically include what sounds good?
Some of the recipes in What Sounds Good? were from my own childhood; some I picked up in my early days of cooking from friends and family. Some were regional, like Santa Maria Style Beans and Boston Clam Chowder. They still hold a place in my heart.
Yesterday was one of those days. It was cold and rainy and I was feeling the aftermath of the long Thanksgiving weekend. I needed something that reached down and warmed my soul. Of course, it was no further away than my pantry shelves. I always have the makings for clam chowder tucked away somewhere.
I pulled out my soup pot and found a familiar rhythm. The smoky scent of bacon always perks me up. There’s nothing fussing here: some onion, potato, a bit of celery, a few herbs… In no time I had hearty soup cups ladled full of thick and creamy clam chowder.
Funny thing. This morning I pulled out the recipe to take a look at it. It has been a while since I made it, and without thinking, I made it as written in the cookbook, down to ingredients and quantities. I guess somethings are too good to change.
Boston Clam Chowder
From What Sounds Good?
4-5 strips bacon, chopped
1/2 medium onion, chopped
2 stalks celery with leaves, chopped
2 medium red potatoes, skin on, diced
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
2 cans chopped clams, 4-5 ounces each, liquid reserved
1 bottle clam juice, about 8 ounces
3 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup water
2 cups milk, of choice, including diluted condensed milk, if necessary
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Garnish: chopped parsley, butter, or paprika, serve with oyster or pilot crackers
- In a soup pot, sauté the bacon over medium heat until it begins to color. Drain off all but 1-2 tablespoon of the fat.
- Add the onion, and cook to soften, then add the celery and toss briefly. Add the potato, herbs, white pepper. clam liquids, and enough additional water to barely cover the potatoes. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook until potatoes are tender, 10 to 15 minutes.
- Combine the flour and water into a slurry and slowly stir into the potato base and allow it to thicken.
- Stir in the milk and clams and heat well, but do not boil. Adjust seasoning. Serve with garnish of choice. Serves 4.