Tag Archives: Soup

New England Clam Chowder


As a kid I LOVED Campbell’s New England Clam Chowder.   As I began cooking more for myself, there’s no comparison between canned soup and homemade.  Gumbo is the biggest example of this disparity.  Canned gumbo and actual gumbo are two entirely different species.  Would homemade New England Clam Chowder be that much better?  I had to find out.

I also vividly remember the moment when I, as a child,  ordered Clam Chowder at a restaurant and something very much not New England Clam Chowder was put in front of me:  Manhattan clam chowder.    For the longest time, I just thought it was me who found the Manhattan version awful.  When searching for a recipe to try for New England Clam Chowder, I came across James Beard’s opinion on the Manhattan Version.  In his introduction to Miss Farmer’s Recipe for Rhode Island Clam Chowder his American Cookery:

This is the closest bridge I have found to that rather horrendous soup called Manhattan clam chowder.  It is a sensible recipe and takes away the curse of the other, which resembles a vegetable soup that accidentally had some clams dumped in it.

Pretty much sums up my feelings on the non-New England version.

Now, I am usually all about using the traditional old recipes.  But in this case, a slightly more modern version ended up being more simple and easily done.  Traditional clam chowder has the following narrative:

Cook clams, chop clams, reserve cooking liquid.  Render fat from salt pork, sauté onions in salt pork fat.  Parboil potatoes for 5 minutes.  Arrange onions in the bottom of a heavy sauce pan and top with a layer of half of the potatoes.  Add the salt pork pieces, chopped clams, second layer of potatoes and salt and peppers.  Cover with boiling water and cook.  Add scaled milk, bring to a boil, add crackers soaked in milk and the reserved clam liquid.  Lastly, add a bit of flour and butter that have been kneaded together, return to the boiling point and serve.

You can find the above version in Fannie Farmer and other famous New England cookbooks.  I agree with James Beard that it appears this recipe allows the clams to cook for too long.  Plus, I would worry the onions would burn.  I’m sure they wouldn’t, but didn’t see the point of testing it out.

So, I came across a little recipe in Beard’s American Cookery that seemed easy, yet captured the spirit of the New England Clam Chowder.  As a plus, it is cracker (and gluten) free!  As an extra bonus, this recipe is shockingly cheaply made.  At Whole Foods, I grabbed a pound of frozen clam meat for $6.99.   Heavy Cream was an additional $4.99 for a quart (I don’t use it all), add a couple of potatoes, an onion, few stalks of celery, and a few strips of bacon and you are good to go!    The recipe below was inspired by Beard’s “My favorite Clam Chowder” recipe from American Cookery.  The family loved it and I’ll never eat canned chowder again.  It was really, really good!! It also makes a great weeknight dinner!

New England Clam Chowder
Serves 4
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes

3 slices of thick slab bacon
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 stalks of celery, finely chopped
2 cups of water, salted
2 medium potatoes, thinly sliced
Salt and Pepper
1 pound frozen clam meat with frozen clam juice (or cooked clam meat with juice)
3cups heavy cream (may substitute half and half)
Chopped parsley

Cook the bacon in a sauté pan over medium heat, until fat is rendered and bacon is crisp. Remove bacon and add the onion and celery and sauté until translucent, or just slightly brown and remove from heat. In a 4 quart sauce pan, bring the salted water to a boil. Add the potatoes, cooking until just tender. Add the bacon, onion, celery, salt and pepper to taste, and the clams and heavy cream, simmering until the clams are no longer frozen. Bring to a boil and remove from the heat. Correct the seasoning. According to Mr. Beard, serve with a “dollop of butter, merest pinch of thyme, and a bit of chopped parsley”.

Clam Chowder

Clam Chowder

Kale and Andouille Soup


Here’s a quick post about a soup recipe that my family loves.  Even the kids!  We got this from adapting Emeril Lagasse’s recipe:  http://www.emerils.com/recipe/3934/Kale-and-Andouille-Soup.   I am a huge Emeril fan from way back.  I went to law school in New Orleans in the 1990s, and because you can’t have too much graduate school loan debt, I also got my MBA.   My graduate school debt will be paid off in 2028.  I kid you not.  I will have retired before then.  But, I’m not bitter.  🙂

Anyway…. At the same time I was in grad school, Emeril was on this little network called the Food Network.  You remember that network? The Food Network used to show viewers how to cook food, with chefs like Mario Batali, Emeril Lagasse, Sara Moulton.  Of course, that before the network became reality TV food programming.  Seriously, can Chopped be on more?

But I digress, Emeril was also chef and proprietor of a couple of restaurants in New Orleans.  Whenever my parents came down to visit (which was surprisingly often…), they always wanted to eat at Emeril’s.  And why not?  The service was amazing and the food was outstanding, plus the chef was famous.  Way back then (GET OFF MY LAWN!!!!), the “famous chef” just wasn’t the norm as it is now.  One night, my dad and I were eating at Emeril’s and we asked if they had any signed cookbooks we could buy for my mom’s birthday.  Emeril himself came to our table with one of his cookbooks!  He chatted with us for a bit and then signed the book for my mom.  AMAZING.  He was very nice and it was just such an incredible moment.

New Orleans is an fantastic city and just a complete culinary extravaganza.  My mother and I were really inspired to cook by the city.  You just can’t find New Orleans-type food here in Maryland.  So if you want gumbo, étouffée, dirty rice, or bread pudding, you need to make it yourself.

Needless to say, we have all of Emeril’s cookbooks.  Some recipes are crazy fussy and you won’t see me do them here.  Real and Rustic  and his holiday cookbook-ette are the most used.  But this recipe makes a really quick, easy and superbly good meal.  The recipe is especially useful if you have lots of kale on hand to use.

I made a few adjustments, however.  As we made the soup as part of our regular menu, we realized that not many of us actually ate the potatoes Emeril includes in his recipe.  Also, sometimes we don’t want the spiciness of the andouille and sub out kielbasa for the sausage.

Kale and Andouille Soup
Serves 8

1/4 cup high heat fat (lard, bacon drippings, vegetable oil)
1 medium onion, diced
3 stalks of celery, sliced thin
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 bay leaves
2 pounds of smoked sausage (andouille, kielbasa, chorizo, etc.), sliced into rounds
3 quarts of chicken stock
4 cups of kale, rinsed, stemmed and torn into manageable pieces
Salt and Pepper

In a large pot suitable for soup, heat the fat over medium heat. When heated, sauté the onions and celery until translucent, but not browned. Add the garlic, thyme, and bay leaves and cook until fragrant (1-2 minutes). Add the sausage and cook another minute.

Add the chicken stock. In thirds, add the kale, stirring between additions, and let boil. Reduce heat and let simmer for 20-30 minutes, until the kale is sufficiently tender. Taste the soup and add salt and pepper as necessary.




Matzo Ball Soup

My husband makes me Pho when I’m sick.  How awesome is he?  From scratch, broth and everything.   In return for his many turns at making Pho, he asked that I make his favorite:  Matzo Ball Soup.


As background, my husband is from New York. Queens, New York.  I am not, I am from the great State of Maryland.  We in the mid-Atlantic have managed to get him to like crabs, oysters, and call “stripers” “rockfish”.  His accent is almost gone, which is sad because it wasn’t really super-pronounced, but it was cute.

He loves Jewish delis and worships the foods contained therein.   I have never been to a Jewish deli.  I never had Matzo Ball Soup until December 2012.  The hubs was so excited to find a real Jewish deli near his work that he brought home a container of Matzo Ball soup last winter for me to try.  It was really, really good.  But as I looked at the ball in the soup and what I remembered a Matzo to be, I couldn’t see how the transformation was completed.  When he came down with a cold, he asked me kindly to make the soup.   How could I say no?  Every time I’m even slightly under the weather, he makes me Pho.  No small undertaking that deserved to be rewarded.

So, I looked through all of my iconic cookbooks and found no reference to this soup.  That happens, as there are some recipes you are just supposed to “know”.  After searching the internet, I came across a recipe from Deb Perelman from Smitten Kitchen  that seemed to be very easy.

First, the stock.  I throw the carcass  of the pastured chicken we had the night before into a 12 quart stock pot.  Along with the carcass (I like that gross word for some reason), I threw a few carrots, two onions, few stalks of celery, few cloves of crushed garlic, couple of bay leaves, 1 teaspoon of thyme, 1/2 teaspoon of tumeric (for color), a small handfull of peppercorns and 2 tablespoons of vinegar into the pot.  I covered with water  (and then some) and let simmer most of the day.

Vinegar?  Did I write that?  Yes, yes I did.  You are putting so much water in the pot, you won’t taste it.  In my 1800s cookbooks, they advise the addition of vinegar to help draw the nutrients from the bones.


Occasionally during the simmering, you are going to want to skim the broth of the fuzzy white stuff shown above.  Just take a spoon and lightly skim the surface.

Matzo Ball Soup

Matzo Balls
1/2 cup matzo meal
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons reserved chicken fat or duck fat (I had this on hand)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons chicken stock or seltzer

For soup
2 to 3 quarts prepared chicken stock (recipe above)
1 tablespoon of butter
1 carrot, thinly sliced
1 onion, small dice
6 mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 pound of chicken meat (dark preferred), cubed
2 celery stalks, thinly sliced

Now, traditional Matzo Ball soups add a sprig of dill in the recipe with the carrots and Matzo Balls and call it a day.  I, however, am a blank slate with this soup and thought that it seemed awfully carb heavy as written.  So, I added veggies and some of my leftover chicken to the soup to make it more of a “meal” for my beloved patient.  Plus, after all of this work, I didn’t want to have to cook dinner for the kids.

Apparently, what I did is considered defaming this great soup. In my defense, there were no leftovers.

Combine the ingredients for the Matzo Ball together in a small bowl. Cover and place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.


Bring 4 quarts of well-salted water to a brisk boil in an 8 quart pot.

Reduce heat to allow water to simmer. Thoroughly wet your hands. Form matzo balls grabbing a golf ball sized amount of matzo ball batter into the palm of your wet hands and rolling them loosely into balls. Drop them into the simmering salt water one at a time. Cover the pot and cook them for 30 to 40 minutes.



Just about 20 minutes before the matzo balls are ready, bring prepared chicken stock to a simmer with chicken meat, allowing the meat to cook thoroughly. As the chicken is cooking, heat the butter in a medium saute pan and saute the carrot, onion and mushrooms until soft and place in the chicken broth. Ladle some soup and a matzo ball into each bowl and top with a couple snips of dill (if desired). Eat immediately.