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.

Bon Appetit to Me! (Or I Try the Pork and Fennel Ragu Recipe from the October Bon Appetit)

I have had a subscription to Bon Appetit for more than ten years, and I adore it. Like, you have no idea. Each month when the new issue arrives, I get so excited you’d think Tory Burch was handing out free riding boots in my lobby or something. I have received about 120 issues over the last ten years and the excitement is yet to wane.

Let’s be honest: the only other creatures capable of displaying more enthusiasm are perhaps my dogs.

This big blur is my very excited Boxer who displays unbridled zeal for essentially everything.

This month, the first recipe that caught my attention was a pork and fennel ragu in the r.s.v.p. section of the magazine. If you’re not familiar with Bon Appetit, first of all, shame on you. Second, I’m not sure we can be friends — online or otherwise. OK, maybe I didn’t mean that last part, but you should probably get a subscription anyway. It’s like $12 a year here.

You’re welcome.

ANYWAY… the r.s.v.p. section is a feature where readers write to the editors and request recipes for their favorite restaurant dishes. The pork and fennel ragu I made this week is from Oenotri in Napa Valley. Next time I head up to northern California, I think I need to try Oenotri’s version. I mean, my ragu was pretty good, but I bet theirs is better.

You can find the recipe here. It’s great the next day, and it freezes well.

Make this pork and fennel ragu from Oenotri. You will thank me.

(Oh, and BTW, I used penne instead of garganelli, and it was a solid substitute.)

Supper and the Single People (Or How to Make Zucchini Lasagna)

This recipe uses the same marinara sauce as the spinach manicotti I made earlier. Total time saver.

Even though I like to cook fairly elaborate dishes that include expensive ingredients, I’m always looking for ways to cut costs or make the dishes simpler to prepare. Sometimes that means cutting back on the more items expensive like the lobster in this seafood macaroni and cheese or making dishes I can freeze easily like this sausage and white bean dish. Other times it means repurposing an ingredient or an element of a dish.

This week, I used the same marinara sauce for two different dishes, and I will be freezing extra servings of both.

See, I have lived alone for more than ten years, so unless I’m throwing a dinner party for like 25 friends, I’m probably eating alone. Since I don’t like eating the same meal more than twice a week, this means the freezer is my friend.

What’s this about living alone? I have been keeping you company in the kitchen for like five years, lady. I don’t do it for the celery that sometimes falls from the counter either.

And if you really live alone, then who is this enormous animal using your pillow?

OK, point taken. I haven’t exactly lived alone for the last ten years, but it’s not like the dogs sit at the table for meals, though.

Oh, never mind. I’m losing this argument.

Let’s just get to the lasagna recipe.

It’s my aunt’s recipe and it probably came from a 1980s issue of Bon Appetit, but I can’t find any links to it online.

Zucchini lasagna

Marinara Sauce
(I made extra marinara when I made the spinach manicotti and saved it for the zucchini lasagna.)

4 T olive oil
1 C finely chopped onion
5 garlic cloves, minced
2 celery stalks
2-1 lb can diced tomatoes
4 T minced parsley
4 T tomato paste
1/2 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, juice, parsley, tomato paste, wine, and half of the basil. Season with salt and pepper and simmer for about 45 minutes.

Add the remaining basil and simmer for 5 more minutes.

Filling

1/2 stick of butter
2 small zucchini, sliced into ¼” slices
1/2 lb crimini mushrooms cut into 1/4” slices
1/2 C whipping cream
4 T,  plus 1/2 C fresh grated parmesan
8 oz provolone cheese
salt and pepper

Lasagna noodles

Preheat oven to 450.

Cook lasagna noodles until al dente. Drain and set aside. (Or you can use the no cook noodles. Either works.)

Melt the butter in heavy skillet over high heat. Add zucchini and mushrooms to the butter and sauté until the zucchini are lightly browned. Reduce heat and stir in the cream. Cook until the mixture is reduced to a smooth consistency. Add 4 T parmesan, salt, and pepper and mix to blend.

Put a thin layer of marinara in the bottom of a 2.5 quart casserole dish. Next add a layer of noodles, followed by a layer of filling and a layer of cheese. Repeat the layers of marinara, pasta, filling and cheese. Top the stack with the remaining marinara sauce. Sprinkle with freshly grated parmesan.

Cover with foil and bake at 450 for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and cook for an additional 5-10 minutes until the lasagna is bubbly and the cheese is lightly browned. Allow the lasagna to stand for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Note: If you wish to make a 9×13” pan, you will need to double the recipe and it may require additional baking time.