Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Clam Chowder a la Today's Catch -- The Secret Ingredient Is Clams That They Freeze In House

Okay, the secret ingredient in clam chowder can't actually be clams, but who knew that Today's Catch gets Chesapeake clams that it freezes in house?

I only ended up in Today's Catch's freezer because I couldn't find large clams at the local seafood markets.  I had a recipe that called for six pounds of clams and steaming them to start.

Why bother?  The market in Wilde Lake village center sells $10 containers of enormous clams -- shucked and raw, ready to make whatever interests you, and ready to store a bit in your freezer if you take them straight home.  They buy them fresh, then package and freeze them in the Columbia shop.

Last weekend, I had a car full of chowder ingredients like cream, bacon and potatoes, but no clams at Frank's Seafood Market in Jessup.  I had to take a risk, and it paid off in a flavor strong with salt water and clams.  No grit.  No fishiness.  I augmented with a can of Chincoteague sea clam juice, and I adapted a recipe from The New Best Recipes.  Basically, I cooked the clams in a tiny pot, then followed most of the recipe along the way.

Today's Catch is really worth your drive to Wilde Lake.  It's a small place with a focused selection.  But the fish is superb, and the folks there can really answer your questions.  It's the fishy version of Laurel Meat Market.  If you want to make a different kind of seafood soup, check out the trimmings that they sell for $10 a pound -- cubes of salmon, rockfish or whatever else they're butchering, ready to make into soup.

Call ahead if you have a chance to talk to someone.  I bought two clam packages Sunday.  They may not have restocked yet.  They said clams are a standard product that they can get most of the year.

Clam Chowder a la Today's Catch
Adapted from The New Best Recipes

1 container of frozen clams from Today's Catch, defrosted
4 slices of bacon, cut into small pieces
1 onion, chopped
2 TBL flour
13-14 oz Chincoteague sea clam juice (or a similar clam juice)
1 pound new potatoes, chopped
1/2 tsp (or more) dried basil or thyme
2 TBL chopped parsley
1/2 c. heavy cream (and maybe a dash more)

1) Heat a heavy pot or dutch oven and saute the bacon over medium heat until the fat renders and the bacon crisps.  Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon.  Pour off all but a few tablespoons of bacon grease.

2) Put the clams and two cups of water in a small pot.  Heat the water gradually until the clams are cooked.  They'll become opaque and firm.  The water will become milky and taste of clam.  Remove the claims with a slotted spoon and chop them.  Reserve the milky water.

3) While the clams cook, add the onions to the heavy pot and saute them in the bacon grease until they soften.  Add the flour and stir for a minute or so until the color darkens slightly.

3) Add the sea clam juice and one cup of the milky water to the heavy pot.  Add the potatoes, the crisp bacon, and the dried herbs.  Cook about 10 minutes until the potatoes become tender.

4) Add the chopped clams and the cream to the soup.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

5) If you want a slightly thicker soup, add a little more cream.  If you want thinner, you should have a cup of milky water that you can add as well.

6) Add the chopped parsley and serve immediately.


SWR said...

Wow, that looks amazing. I really like Franks, but also the WL seafood market.. good to know they've got this - way better than the cans off the supermarket shelf, which never taste right.

Mary Catherine said...

The fresh rockfish is excellent there and they have great shrimp and will patiently explain exactly how to steam it or otherwise prepare it. (A "C", not an "O"- thanks, Bill!)