It’s going to be vegetable time very soon. But not just yet.

Merrimack Valley Clam Chowda

Mrs. Hamilton, who you’ll remember from her ambrosial Mac & Cheese contribution last month, has just upgraded my weekend with the following recipe. I met Mrs. H while working at a medical device corporation with an admirably/frustratingly low smoking rate. By our second shared constitutional, we were each getting that “she looks like she can keep a secret” feeling about the other. Smoking turned out to be only one of the things we have in common, which include homicidal-fantasy-inducing disdain for ineptitude at the executive level, matching herniated L-4 discs, and get-back-on-the-horse attitudes about surgery; I visited Mrs. H in the hospital several weeks ago a few hours after she had her disc snipped into line, and I found her walking around the recovery room, collecting her things and signing check-out forms. She’s also a trained cake master and certified esthetician, just in case she wasn’t already keeping me on my toes. Here’s why Mr. H is one of the happiest fellas on the eastern seaboard.

7 small to medium red bliss potatoes, diced
5 celery stalks, diced
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 tbsp minced garlic
1 lb bacon
4 cans chopped clams (with the juice)
2 pints heavy whipping cream
1 quart half & half
1 tbsp butter
salt and pepper

Parboil the potatoes, drain and set aside. Cut the bacon into bite-sized pieces, fry, drain and set aside. In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat and, once the foaming subsides, add the onions, celery and garlic, then sauté for 5 minutes. If all three components finish simultaneously, you’re one slick son of a bitch. Stir the cream and half & half into the vegetables, followed by the clams, clam juice, bacon and potatoes. Season with salt, pepper, and a sprinkle of marjoram, and simmer over low heat for 1/2 hour, stirring occasionally.

This is on the thinner end of the New England chowda spectrum, but you can up the heft by adding 1 tbsp of flour to the vegetables while they sauté (or, Mrs. H offers, you can boil and puree a few extra potatoes and add them after the cream and half & half, but that makes me uncomfortable). Allow the finished chowder to cool to room temperature before chilling for several hours. Reheat over low before serving; I don’t trust the microwave with dairy.

As always, Mrs. H wishes you bon appétit and an early night with an enthusiastic “shyum!”

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