Thursday, October 15, 2009

Boston Dinner Date!

The idea for this dinner date was born (pun intended) out of an intense pregnancy craving for a giant bowl of New England clam chowder. I was hesitant at first to make it for the girls because clam chowder doesn't scream 'toddler food' but after some thought I decided that kids in New England have probably been warming themselves up with hearty bowls of chowder during chilly autumn months as long as New England clam chowder has been around. I'm a firm believer that the earlier a kid is exposed to a food the more likely they are to appreciate it in adulthood. I ate sardines and pickled herring with my Grandpa when I was very young and will happily eat either today.

I poked around at a couple chowder recipes for reference and quickly learned just how RICH (to put it nicely) it actually is. I considered (for a quick minute) trimming the fat and replacing some of the cream with milk, omitting the bacon fat (yes bacon fat), etc. but here's the thing...I really, really wanted GOOD, restaurant good, clam chowder. I'll justify my final ingredient choices by saying that its fall, winter is right around the corner and our little girls are truly little girls who could stand a little winter insulation. ;o) Plus, I'm pregnant...so there.

Million Dollar (read: RICH) New England Clam Chowder
(aka "Cracker Soup")
(serves 8)

Ingredients:
8 slices of bacon (I have learned that this is the essential KEY to the best of the best clam chowder. If you make this recipe you will understand why its so important.)
8 small to medium potatoes (I used russet), peeled and cut into small chunks
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 8oz bottles clam juice
1/2 c. butter
4 Tbsp. all purpose flour
2 c. half and half
1 c. heavy cream
3 cans minced clams
Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

1. In a large saute pan fry the bacon until most of the fat is rendered. Remove bacon (I'm saving mine for a bread I'm trying later in the week).
2. Add potatoes and onions to the bacon drippings and cook over medium heat until onions begin to become translucent.
3. Add the clam juice and cook over medium high heat until potatoes are tender.
4. In a large stockpot melt the butter over medium heat.
5. Gradually add the flour to the butter, whisking constantly, to form a roux. I like my chowder soupy but I think most people like it thick. 4 Tbsp. of flour will make a more soup-like chowder so if you like it thicker adjust with flour at this step.
6. Gradually whisk in the half and half and heavy cream.
7. Stir in the potato and onion mixture.
8. Drain one of the cans of clams and stir into chowder. Add the remaining two cans (juice and all).
9. Salt and pepper to taste. Simmer over medium low heat until desired temperature is reached. Serve with some oyster crackers on top!

My original plan was to make homemade sourdough bread bowls to serve the soup in and I started gathering ingredients for the bread and learned that the starter you need to make for sourdough bread takes about 4 DAYS to make! Whoops. I made the starter anyway and am dreaming up a concoction for the weekend. (Hint: It involves the bacon I saved...and some maple syrup....)

This was stellar chowder...no joke. It might be the best chowder I've had and I'm not kidding. Neko ate it and showed absolutely no aversion to it. Abby took one big bite and said "Mmmmm,..mmmmm" but then refused to eat it and said it wasn't good. However, I started calling it "Cracker Soup" and that seemed to pique her interest a little. We cleared the table after we thought they were done and when she realized her bowl was gone she got very upset. I'm taking it as a good sign.

So every good fattening dinner needs a fattening dessert to go with it right? In further celebration of Boston I created:

Two Bite Boston Cream Cupcakes
(The picture makes it look giant but it really was 2 bites worth...We cut this one in half and Kara ate her half in a bite and I ate mine in a bite.) ;o)

Ingredients:
For the cupcakes-
I just used a box vanilla organic cake mix I found at Whole Foods and prepared according to package directions (baked in a mini muffin tin for about 10 minutes)
For the filling:
2c. milk
1/2 c. sugar
3 Tbsp. corn starch
1 Tsp. vanilla extract
1 Tbsp. butter
For the topping:
1c. heavy whipping cream (plain heavy cream works too)
2 Tbsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. cocoa powder
1 Tsp. vanilla extract

Trader Joe's Chocolate Syrup (no yucky ingredients)

Instructions:

Filling:
1. Heat the milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat until bubbles begin to appear around the edges (not boiling)
2. Gradually whisk in the corn starch and sugar.
3. Cook until filling begins to thicken and coats the back of a metal spoon. (I didn't cook it quite long enough so it was a little runny for what I wanted so I would shoot for slightly thicker than runny in the pan (it will firm up a bit more in the fridge).
4. Remove from heat and stir in the butter and vanilla. Transfer to a glass bowl, cover with saran wrap and cool completely in fridge (at least 1 hour).

Topping:

1. Beat the cream on high speed, gradually adding the sugar and cocoa powder. Beat until peaks form (slightly thicker than whipped cream consistency works best.)

Assemble the cupcakes:
1. Slice a cupcake in half.
2. Top the bottom half with a dollop of the filling. Put the top of the cupcake back on.
3. Frost the top layer with the chocolate whipped cream.
4. Drizzle with chocolate syrup. Enjoy! 1. Chomp...2. Chomp...mmmmm

Needless to say the girls devoured these without any nudging. (The Mommies did too.)

2 comments:

Carrie said...

YUM!

maryanne said...

Sounds like a delicious Bostonian treat!