Friday, September 29, 2006

Soup Night (9/29/06)

Feeling a bit better today, so I'm back to cooking. My appetite isn't completely back (hey, that's a good thing) and things are still a little off, but otherwise okay.

My boys both adore New England Clam Chowder and have been after me to make it for a long time. I don't have a tried and true recipe yet, so I decided to go with a recipe from Never Trust a Culinary Student. The recipe, from her studies at culinary school, was vague, but it gave me the basic building blocks I needed.

I think that New England Clam Chowder may be one of those recipes where less is more. Like homefried potatoes. My DH and I had a competition many years ago to see who could make the best homefried potatoes. The only constant was that it had to be Lyonnaise - with onions. We went nuts - putting in all kinds of herbs, spices, even hot sauce. In the end, we realized that all you really needed was onion, salt, pepper and butter (although technique was extremely important, but that's another story). Sometimes less is more. The same may hold true for clam chowder. There are ways to fancy it up that are perfectly delicious - for example, Cooking Light has a wonderful Southwestern version - but sometimes you just want the basics.

The trail version came out very well. It had that classic NE chowder flavor, but it also had a bit more color than some chowders. For one thing, I used baby red potatoes since that's what was on hand, and I left the skins on. Certainly not traditional. It worked pretty well, but I think a russett potato would hold up better in soup.

I didn't make a roux - instead I used a slurry of equal parts flour and water, whisked together. Not only did this make the soup simpler to prepare, it also lowered the fat content. I ended up adding a 1/4 cup of flour and it still wasn't thick enough for our tastes, though by no means thin. I'd like to figure out how to thicken it a bit more next time.

I have decided that using real cream in simple, creamy soups is a must. You can do a lower fat version, but more than likely, you're going to have to compensate by adding other ingredients to help boost the flavor. While that can be fine, sometimes you want the main ingredient to shine through - fat, though maybe not the healthiest choice, is still one of the best ways to boost the flavor of your main ingredients without competing with those flavors. And at a 1/2 cup of cream for 6 servings, this recipe is not exactly swimming in fat. In fact, according to Mastercook (a great way to organize your recipes on the computer), this recipe would qualify as low-fat, or pretty close, with 33% of the calories coming from fat.

I'll most likely be experimenting with other recipes before deciding on a keeper, but this was a great start.

Stay tuned for more to come from the kitchen this apple butter, muffins and other tasty treats.

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  1. Ohhhh, someone made a recipe from my blog - how exciting. We had the choweder the other day and I only had fat free milk and half/half on hand. It still turned out great. But like you said: In simple cream soups you should go with the real stuff ;-)

  2. Hi Dani - Thanks for sharing the recipe. I definitely need to make a double batch next time - my boys love it and they are beginning to have adult-sized appetites!

  3. Oh, I hear you. I made a huge pot too and there were no leftovers - and it's only the two of us.

    I'll start new classes tomorrow - I am so looking forward to it.