Thursday, November 4, 2010

Tis the season for soups,stews, and chowders.


     Time is flying by, I feel like, I just accepted the fact that summer was over.  Now, I have to agree to play nice with winter.  Ugh, I despise winter.  Maybe it is because you are limited in what you can do, unless you are a snow person. I am a snow person to the extent of admiring it from the window. The sun sets sooner, and you feel that you are racing the clock to get things done.  Whereas in the summer ,lady leisure is the co-pilot.
     Last night, I took my youngest son to karate and for a moment I lingered outside. The dojo sits by the West River in Vermont, and looking out over the water it seemed very still, as though it was too accepting that winter was coming. The Canadian geese noisily announcing their departure and the smell of a distant woodstove all confirmed my suspicions.
     During the winter, I love to make dishes that warm the heart and soul. Soups, stews and chili's, hit the spot when it is chilly outside. I love to fill the house with the smells of winter, apple pie, chicken soup and fresh baked rolls. What I need to do, is try and learn to cook for just 4 people and not 14. I have been trying for 25 years, to tone it down, to no avail.  I hope my sons have lots of children and manage to bring their brood to my house, because let me tell you, I have eating covered. Or I open a soup kitchen, and be content for life. I gotta play more Mega Bucks.
     Thinking about what soup, I wanted to share was tough, because I have so many favorites. Where I work, I get requests all the time.  The top five are Clam Chowder, Chicken and Dumpling, Chicken Corn Chowder, Italian Wedding and Broccoli Cheddar. So I thought that during the course, of when and if , I become a great cookbook writer, I would try to share all of them with you. Perhaps you have a better way, or maybe you have a great soup,stew or chili that you would like me to share with the world. I am here, waiting for that knock at the door.
      I remember when I was living in Alaska, and working at Charley's Restaurant, the chambermaids  knew way more about cuisine than me, at the tender age of 21.  This was the first time, I heard of fish head soup, I kid you not. These ladies that cleaned the rooms of the Ingersoll Hotel, on the island of Ketchikan, Alaska were serious, when they asked me for the heads of the salmon that I filleted. You know what?, 20 years later, I would sprint back to that moment and ask what,why,when, and how. I was young, very engrossed in myself.  All I have to say is, Darn it!, wish I knew then, what I know now. I was very blessed to have been apart of filleting 50 plus pound salmon, or helping my boss fillet a 200 pound halibut. Seafood in those parts are just ginormous. There is no reasonable excuse for the seafood that one pulls out of the water. I miss that. I also miss the laid-back attitude of my western friends. Everyone is in such a freaking hurry here. Hurry up it is winter? Do you see the insanity in that?
     So in these parts, Chowder is as important as Reindeer sausage in the Pacific Northwest.  A good chowder defines a establishment. Imagine the pressure one might feel? I have the pleasure of being from a really New England family.  My Mom's mom was swimming in New Englandish. In fact, I can remember laying on her living room floor and watching, depending on the year, the Red Soxs,the Patriots, the Celtics, and the Bruins. Her garage was even adorned with lawn chairs, TV and astro turf.  Those who were too vocal about a game, were sent to the garage. No heat and black and white TV. Funny, my Grandma would roll over in her grave if she knew I was a Yankee Fan.
    Chowder is my first secret to share.  A good chowder always includes key components, bacon, potatoes and cream. When I left the west coast for culinary school, there is a certain code of ethics that one has to follow for Clam Chowder. I learned from my first externship the correct way to make a chowder, and after all these years, I have never forgotten. Wink, wink Ann :)

Clam Chowder
1 pound of Good quality Bacon
3 cups rough chopped celery
3 cups rough chopped onions
1 tablespoon minced garlic
3 pounds mixed fresh shucked clams
1 2.5 oz envelope of St. Ours Clam Broth
1 gallon of hot water
1/2 cup sherry
1/2 cup white wine
8 oz butter
16 ozs flour
2 each bay leaves
2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
8 large potatoes, peeled and diced.
2 tsps, dried thyme leaves
1/2 tsp dried dill weed
1/2 tsp dried basil leaves
1 tsp black pepper

In a soup pot, render the bacon until crispy. Add the 8ozs of butter and melt.  Add the celery, onions and garlic and saute until translucent and sweet smelling.  Add the sherry and white wine and saute for a few minutes. Turn the heat down on the soup pot, and add the flour straight to the pot and mix well. Be sure that you mix it well, and on low heat.  Otherwise the flour will stick to bottom and give your chowder a burnt flavor. In a another saucepan cook the cut potatoes until they are soft but not falling apart.  Drain and set aside. In a container, mix the gallon of hot water with 2.5 oz envelope of St. Ours Clam Broth, and add to the soup pot.  Allow the chowder to thicken and get yummy.  Add the heavy cream and stir, add the seasonings and serve hot with Vermont Common Crackers.

"Good manners: The noise you don't make when your eating soup."~Bennet Cerf, humorist, publisher(1898-1971)

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