The Issues That Truly Divide: Manhattan versus New England Clam Chowder (Or I Like My Clams with Cream)

OK, now that some of the presidential election insanity has blown over let’s move on to other divisive issues like: Manhattan versus New England clam chowder.

Given my love of dairy and my somewhat complicated relationship with tomatoes, my choice is clear: New England in a landslide.

Last weekend, I defied mother nature and her unreasonable, unseasonable heat, and I made a pot of creamy New England clam chowder while watching football. I’ve tried countless recipes over the years and so far this is my favorite.

The recipe is below.

I have a weakness for New England clam chowder… and boys from Boston. The latter is  probably a problem.

New England Clam Chowder
Adapted from Bon Appetit

3 8-ounce bottles clam juice
1 pound potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 T unsalted butter
3 slices bacon, finely chopped
2 C chopped onions
1 1/4 C chopped celery
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 bay leaf
1/4 C all purpose flour
6 6 1/2-ounce cans chopped clams, drained, juices reserved
3/4 C half and half
1/2 C whipping cream
1 tsp hot pepper sauce

Bring the bottled clam juice and potatoes to boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer until the potatoes are slightly tender, about 7 minutes, before removing the pot from the heat.

Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add bacon and cook until the bacon begins to brown, about 8 minutes. Add onions, celery, garlic, and bay leaf, sautéing until the vegetables soften, about 6 minutes. Stir in flour and cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. (Do not allow the flour to burn.)

Gradually whisk in the reserved juices from the canned clams. Add the potato and clam juice mixture, clams, whipping cream, half and half, and hot pepper sauce. Simmer for about 5 minutes to blend flavors, stirring frequently.

Season the chowder to taste with salt and pepper. This chowder can be made one day ahead and also freezes well. If you like your chowder to be thicker, try substituting heavy cream for the half and half or the whipping cream.

I’m a Copycat (Or How to Make Panera’s Cheddar and Broccoli Soup)

Last week I came across a copycat recipe for Panera’s cheddar and broccoli soup on a really fun blog called Yammie’s Noshery. I’m a sucker for almost anything laden with cheddar and cream, so I decided to give it a try.

The soup is pretty easy to make, and it’s quite good. I would use FAR less nutmeg next time, however. The recipe calls for 1/4 tsp but I think I would reduce it to more like 1/8 tsp or even a dash. I love nutmeg, but I often find it a bit overpowering, particularly in savory dishes. Maybe it’s just me, though.

Either way, you should give the soup a try. Since it’s back up to 93 in LA today (for.the.love.of.all.that.is.holy.please.make.it.stop), I’m freezing the rest of the soup for later in the month. I’ll probably have to do the same with the New England clam chowder I made this weekend as well. Look out for that recipe later this week because it’s amazing.

I’m sure it’s not 93 where you live like it is here, so you should make this soup.

I’m off to donate blood now. My plan to do yoga this afternoon has been scrapped due to an unfortunate collision involving a very small toe and a very big dog crate.

Pain.ful.

Of the Mess in My House and Manicotti (Or How to Make Spinach Manicotti)

Spinach manicotti is the perfect meal to freeze for housesitters. Or something.

It’s time to talk about manicotti. Why? Because I made it this week and it wasn’t just for my own amusement (or consumption).

It’s the sort of dish you can make ahead and reheat before serving, which is essential if you’re busy and come home ravenous on a regular basis. (This is basically me, always.) Plus it’s the sort of thing I can freeze for my housesitter.

See, my whole family is flying back to Michigan for my Grandma’s birthday, and I’m going to have someone staying in my place for a few days to feed my fish and scratch the spoiled dogs behind their ears.

We’re not spoiled, lady. We’re just refusing to look at you until you return with bison biscuits.

When I have houseguests or house sitters, it gets me thinking about all kinds of things. Like, scrubbing my shower with a pot scraper. And hiding my good knives. I’m kidding.

Kind of.

I mean, I have some knives that shouldn’t go in the dishwasher and instead of seeming like an ass for saying so, I just hide them in the linen closet. Or behind the Xbox.

Also, it’s common for me to take a pot scraper to the shower just to relieve stress, but I become more motivated to do this sort of thing when I know someone else will be standing in it.

See, my grandmother, whose birthday we’re celebrating, is Swiss. And she has made us all mental about matters of housekeeping. It has been said the Swiss make the Germans look like Italians… and if my family is any indication, this is not an understatement. I mean, my aunt vacuums every day. Just let that sink in for a moment….

So she’s nuts.

Anyway… on his deathbed, my grandpa told his wife, “Glady, you need to travel more and dust less.” I’m getting half of the equation right by going home, but I’m failing on the second part because I’m getting out the bleach at the thought of anyone staying at my place.

Oh, Lord, I just looked up and realized I need to dust my ceiling fan as well.

OK, so back to the manicotti because you don’t care about my crazy family and our obsession with filth.

Spinach Manicotti with Marinara Sauce

Marinara Sauce

4 T olive oil
1 C finely chopped onion
5 garlic cloves, minced
2 celery stalks, finely diced
2- 1 lb cans of diced tomatoes
4 T minced parsley
4 T tomato paste
½ C red wine
fresh basil, torn in small pieces
salt and pepper

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium high heat. Add onion, celery, and garlic and cook until softened, about 5-7 minutes. Stir in tomatoes with juice, parsley, tomato paste, wine, and half of the basil. Season with salt and pepper and simmer for about 45-50 minutes.

Add the remaining basil and simmer for 5 more minutes.

Manicotti

2 ½ C frozen spinach
2 C ricotta
2 eggs, beaten
3 T butter
3 T finely diced shallots
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 C fresh grated parmesan, divided
2 T chopped fresh basil
prosciutto, torn, optional
pinch of nutmeg
salt and pepper

8 oz package of manicotti shells

Carefully place the manicotti shells into a pot of boiling water, cooking until al dente. Do not overcook.

Drain the noodles and set aside.

Place the spinach in a colander and run hot water over it to thaw. Squeeze spinach to dry. Heat butter in heavy skillet over medium heat. Add shallots and cook until translucent, about 3-5 minutes. Add garlic and spinach and cook for 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Transfer spinach mixture to a medium bowl. Mix in ricotta, eggs, 1 C of parmesan, nutmeg, and basil. If you’re adding prosciutto, mix it in now.

Transfer mixture to a pastry bag (or a Ziploc bag with a corner cut off) and carefully pipe the ricotta mixture into the shells.

Place 2/3 C of marinara on the bottom of a 9×13” pan. Place the shells on top of the marinara and cover with remaining marinara and 1 C of parmesan. Place foil over the baking dish.

Bake at 350 for 25 minutes. Remove the foil and cook for another 5-7 minutes.