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My husband is a big fan of clam chowder. When he’s working on Fridays, he always likes to eat lunch out because he can get his favorite soup then. I, on the other hand, haven’t eaten clam chowder in years. I vaguely remember ordering it occasionally when I was little, but I would just eat the broth and potatoes and avoid the clams…I found them weird. Eventually, I just quit eating it all together.

A couple of weeks ago, I was making corn chowder for dinner on Friday night, and my husband was giving me a hard time because it wasn’t clam. (Teasing me is one of his hobbies.) Well, I thought, why not? I‘m sure I could find a recipe. So the next day I combed through my cookbooks, settling on a standard-sounding recipe from Taste of Home Big Book of Heartwarming Soups (a wonderful wedding present). At the grocery store, I steeled myself and bought canned clams and (here’s the worst part) clam juice. Gross. I’m sorry, it just looks and sounds gross.

I planned to make my soup on a  Friday, but school commitments interfered, so I postponed it until a Wednesday. I don’t think it hurt the overall finished product.

Here’s the lineup of ingredients: bacon, celery, onions, garlic, potatoes, chicken bouillon, pepper, thyme, clams, and clam juice.

First things first: fry the bacon in your pretty red dutch oven. (Although, much as I love it, I still kind of wish I had opted for the blue one.)

When it’s all beautiful and crispy, remove it to a paper-towel covered plate to drain….

…and crumble it up to top the soup with later.

Now, back to that pot full of bacon drippings. Chop up some celery and onion, throw them in, and saute until tender, adding the garlic to cook briefly at the end.

Next, toss in potatoes, water, bouillon granules, pepper, thyme, and….clam juice.

This whole clam chowder business might not weird me out so much if it didn’t involve a product titled clam juice. Why don’t they call it clam stock? You don’t buy “chicken juice” or “beef juice” when you’re making other soups. It just sounds revolting.

While we’re at it, I’d just like to point out the existence of this product:

It’s basically like tomato juice + clam juice. Whose wretched idea was this and how can they in good conscience sell it? Yuck.

Anyways, back to the chowder. Despite the weirdness of the clam juice, go ahead and pour it in with everything else.

Now it has to simmer for a while. The recipe claims 15-20 minutes, but I have never in my life been able to boil potatoes to the point of tenderness in that length of time. Maybe I buy the wrong kind of potatoes. Expect more like 25-30 minutes.

Next, it’s time to get your soup thickened. Whisk the flour into half of the half-and-half (try saying that five times fast), then gradually stir into the soup. Bring the whole mess to a boil and cook and stir until thickened.

(It’s basically potato soup with clam juice, at this point.)

Now open up those cans of clams (if you’re like me, and slightly paranoid about canned seafood, breathe through your mouth the whole time) dump them in with the rest of the half-and-half. Cook and stir till heated through–but don’t boil. (I’m not sure why…I guess it must damage the clams or something).

Clams are kind of weird looking, don’t you think?

OK, now you’re done, so ladle it out, sprinkle with crumbled bacon, and enjoy! Really, despite some of my comments here, I was pretty pleased with the result. I still think clams have kind of a funny texture, but the overall effect of the soup is good.

Here’s the recipe in easy-to-read format.
New England Clam Chowder

4 center-cut bacon strips
2 celery ribs, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
3 small potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 cup water
1 bottle (8 oz) clam juice
3 teaspoons chicken bouillon granules
1/4 teaspoons white pepper (I didn’t have any, so I used black)
1/4 teaspoons dried thyme
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups half-and-half cream, divided
2 cans (6 1/2 oz each) chopped clams, undrained

1. In Dutch oven, cook bacon over medium heat until crisp. Remove to paper towels to drain; set aside. Saute celery and onion in the drippings until tender. Add garlic; cook 1 minute longer. Stir in the potatoes, water, clam juice, bouillon, pepper, and thyme. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 15-20 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

2. In a small bowl, combine flour and 1 cup half-and-half until smooth.
Gradually stir into soup. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 1-2 minutes or until thickened.

3. Stir in the clams and remaining half-and-half; heat through (do not boil). Crumble the reserved bacon; sprinkle over each serving.
Yield: 5 servings.

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