Every so often, I stay overnight at my mother and stepfather's house after work. These are usually evenings when I have a late meeting or, as the case was recently, an early morning presentation. I have a really long commute to work - on average it is 2 hours each way - and my mom's house is within 30 minutes of my office.
I love these evenings for so many reasons (they'll be ending soon, because next month I'm starting a new job much closer to my house). Call me selfish, but one of the reasons I love staying overnight at my mom's is that I don't have to make dinner. Or jump up every two minutes to refill someone's juice, or hear complaints about how disgusting the menu is. Instead, these dinners are usually me and my mom in the kitchen, catching up on family and friends, me elaborating on something the kids did or the funny things they said.
That was the case two weeks ago when I arrived into the kitchen, tired from a long meeting and damp from a rainy night. My mom had a simmering pot of Manhattan clam chowder on the stove, with fluffy biscuits on the counter. I couldn't recall her ever making clam chowder in my life.
"It's the best soup," she enthused. "Aunt Etta gave me the recipe years ago."
My mom produced the recipe - "so you can write about it on your blog" - and she wasn't kidding when she said she had the recipe for years. The date on the magazine clipping: February 1976. I was in the first grade then.
I took a spoonful of the chowder, and it was indeed every bit as good as she promised it was. Comfort food in every sense of the word ... at its very best.
from Family Circle, Feb. 1976
36 large chowder clams (quahogs) OR:
2 cans (7-8 oz. ea.) minced clams (my mom used the canned clams)
1/2 stick sweet butter (I know, I know ....)
1 cup diced onion
1-1/2 cups diced potatoes
1 cup diced celery
3/4 cup diced carrots
3/4 cup diced green pepper (my mom may have left this out)
1 can (2 lb. 3 oz) Italian-style plum tomatoes, drained
1-1/2 tsp. leaf thyme (crumbled)
1/4 tsp. white pepper
1/8 tsp. curry powder
(I know my mom's version omitted the white pepper and curry powder.)
Shuck fresh clams; reserve broth; chop clams coarsely. If using canned clams, drain and reserve broth. Broth from clams should measure 2 cups. If not, add water or bottled clam broth.
Melt sweet butter in a large saucepan. Saute onions until lightly browned.
Add remaining ingredients and extra water, if needed, to cover vegetables. Bring to boil; lower heat; cover and simmer 30 minutes or just until vegetables are tender.
Add fresh (or canned) clams; turn off heat; cover and let stand 2 minutes or just until clams are thoroughly hot. Serve with warm buttered pilot crackers if you wish.
(Sorry about the terrible photo. It was taken with my BlackBerry, and I was nearly finished with my second bowl of chowder when I remembered to take a picture.)