Clam Chowder

 

 

This past Sunday I went to my dad’s house on Lake Washington to celebrate his birthday. I will save the details of this tako yaki showdown for another time, but it prompted a memory of the clam chowder we made on Christmas – worth mentioning right now.

Rewind 3-ish months to when my dad, brother and I slathered bagels with cream cheese and layered each side with lox, savoring Christmas morning.

While my brother and I unpacked the too-skinny stockings my grandmother knit when we were born, my dad roared with laughter from his lawn chair (yes, he has a beautiful house but doesn’t have any furniture in his living room).

My brother pulled out a shirt that said “I love spam.” My dad threw his head back, bringing his fist to his mouth and teetering the feeble chair on its hind legs. (I remember this so clearly, and then I realized I even have a picture of this exactly moment!)

I ripped open into the tissue paper wrapping to find nail clippers with a magnifying glass attached from his trip to Japan. He laughed so hard his face was purple. I didn’t know presents could be so amusing, but he was getting a kick out of each one. Next came the surfboard beer opener, the crab cracking device and a re-gifted box of fleur de sel. Though, as random as this seems, I do love any form of fancy salt.

For Christmas dinner, we made a big pot of clam chowder. This nostalgically fatty meal, in one form or another, has always been major in my family. I grew up eating it: to-go from QFC before toddler ballet class, at seafood restaurants my dad took us to when we visited him in Seattle, and mostly, from a Progresso can.

My dad and I tried and failed to make it when I was 7.

Because of that experience, I hadn’t tried to make it again, until last Christmas. The three of us poured over ingredients in the kitchen – Duncan vigorously chopping for mise en place, my dad washing the clams and steaming them in white wine and herbs.

My dad took a break to hacky sack, which he claims is the way he is going to get in shape in 2016.

The three of us sat down to the dinner table with a loaf of homemade bread and bowls of the most perfect clam chowder. We’re all snobs, and there is nothing we would have changed about it. True to his form, Thomas Keller wrote a high maintenance recipe. I followed most of it and ditched a few things. Here is the simpler version.

Serves 6 (Makes 3 quarts)//Ad Hoc at Home

  • 8 ounces bacon (preferably slab bacon)
  • Canola oil
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped leeks (white and light green parts only)
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped onions
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 2 thyme sprigs + 1 bay leaf + 1 smashed garlic clove
  • 2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 4 pound littleneck clams or Manilla clams
  • 1 1/4 cups kosher salt for the clam washing
  • 4 1/2 tablespoons (2 1/4 ounces) unsalted butter + 2 tablespoons (1 ounce) unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup chopped shallots
  • 2 thyme sprigs
  • Kosher salt and finely ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped chives for garnish

*Note: All of the clam washing seems tedious, but there is truly nothing worse in a clam chowder than grit.

Cut the bacon into small 1/2 inch thick pieces. Heat some canola oil in an 8-to-10 quart stockpot over medium heat. Add the bacon and reduce the heat to low, letting the fat render for 20-25 minutes. The bacon should color but not become crispy. Using a slotted spoon, remove the bacon from the pan.

Add the leeks, onions and garlic to the pan and stir. Sprinkle with salt and cover with a lid, cooking slowly, until the vegetables are tender.

Put the potatoes in a large saucepan with 1 smashed garlic clove, 2 teaspoons of salt, 1 bay leaf and 2 sprigs of thyme. Cover with cold water and bring to a simmer, cooking until just tender.

Drain in a colander and run cold water over them to stop the cooking process. Discard the garlic and herbs.

Clean the clams with a scrubby brush, removing any sand. Place in a large bowl with 8 cups of water and the salt, stirring to dissolve. Make sure there is enough water to cover the clams, and let them soak for about 5 minutes, drawing out any leftover sand from them. Take the clams out of the water and rise one more time in a colander.

When the vegetables are tender, increase the heat to medium and add the 4 1/2 tablespoons butter. Once melted, add the flour to coat the vegetables and continue to cook for 2-3 minutes. Whisk in the milk and cream, season to taste with salt and pepper and bring to a low simmer.

Melt the 2 tablespoons of butter in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and thyme sprigs, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring for about 1 minute until tender. Add the wine, bring to a boil and cook for about 2 minutes to evaporate some of the alcohol. Add the clams, cover the pan, and cook for about 4 minutes, removing the clams as they open. Strain all of the clam liquid through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl.

Shell the clams and set aside.

Gently stir the clam liquid to taste into the soup pot (avoiding adding any visible sand if possible). Season the chowder with salt and pepper to taste. Add the potatoes and about two thirds of the clams.

Garnish the soup with remaining clams, bacon and chopped chives.

 

 

 

 

Split Pea Soup

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The longer you go without blogging is similar to going without exercise or making pie crust. It seems more daunting and doesn’t come as naturally. You have a squishy butt and empty countertop. I’ve experienced all three of these recently. While trying to make my coworker a pie, I rolled out my dough onto the counter right above the dishwasher that was running. The steam melted the butter chunks so quickly, I had to peel it from the hot counter. The crust grew tough. Whatever happened to baking pie for a living? Oh, right.

I got a 9-to-5 job managing restaurants for a food delivery startup in downtown Seattle.

I used to have my hands in dough daily and drift into my own thoughts, usually crafting a blog post or article to pitch. I would stroll the short walk home and have half the day to sit at my computer to transcribe the thoughts I had while sifting flour and pulling pies from the oven.

Now, I sit at my computer every day and instead, I stare at spreadsheets comparing enchiladas to burritos to quesadillas – not that I am complaining.

In an attempt to get back to last December – when I was writing an article about holiday cheese balls – I made split pea soup.

Thomas Keller, who’s book this is from, seems to overcomplicate many of the steps. What should be a really simple pureed soup is made fussy. There were several moments where I grew frustrated and went rogue. My boss used to work for him at The French Laundry, and today she said her few grey hairs are from him. Surely, if you follow his recipe exactly, you will be salt-and-pepper-chic. I preferred not to prematurely grey and instead found a much simpler, likely as good, version.

So here I go, blog post #5 billion, which really feels like #1 again.

Serves 6-8//A much simpler version than Ad Hoc at Home’s

  • 3 tablespoons canola or olive oil
  • 2 cups thinly sliced carrots
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped leeks
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped onions
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 smoked ham hock (about 1 pound)
  • 3 quarts chicken stock
  • 1 pound (about 2 cups) split peas, rinsed and picked for stones
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups peas (2 pounds in the pod) blanched (optional)
  • 1/2 cup creme fraîche
  • Mint leaves

Heat the oil in an 8 to 10 quart stockpot over medium heat. Add the carrots, leeks and onions with a generous pinch of salt. Reduce the heat to medium low and cook until the vegetables are tender.

Add the ham hock and chicken stock, bring to a simmer, and continue to simmer for 45 minutes. Remove about half of the cooked stock vegetables and toss.

Add the rinsed split peas and bring to a simmer once again. Cook for an hour, or until the split peas are completely soft.

Remove the soup from the heat. Take out the ham hock and set aside. Season the soup with 1 tablespoon of vinegar and salt to taste. Use an immersion blender (or transfer in batches to a blender) to puree completely.  Taste for seasoning, adding salt, pepper or vinegar if necessary.

Keep on low while you pull the meat off the ham hock, tossing the fat and skin. Cut the ham into small pieces and stir into the soup (or reserve some to put on top).

Serve the soup with creme fraîche, chopped mint and extra ham hock. If it’s spring time and you can find fresh peas, sprinkle those on top as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vanilla Pear Galette with Mascarpone

Happy New Year!

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Contrary to my hermit personality, I went out on New Years Eve. I even had people over. We dressed up, took pictures in front of a white sheet, ate cheese and popped champagne. I wore a velvet dress and gold heels. Tommy arrived wearing a tie adorned with rockets.

2014: Year of the donut
Some things never change. We can’t take a normal photo.

Though Tommy and I pulled out our best dance moves at the club, the best part of the day was eating this pear galette with Julie. We had our late-afternoon coffee to rev up for the evening and paired it with forkfuls of flaky pastry. I used a galette dough recipe by Kate Lebo and stuffed it with sliced pear tossed in Vanilla Bean Purely Syrup. Purely Syrup is a line of organic syrups made in Northern California. Though they are intended for cocktails, I used it for baking. Why not? The syrup added a light sweetness with a touch of vanilla bean.

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After it came out of the oven I topped it with a dollop of sweetened mascarpone and a drizzle of honey. Later we sipped on a drink of 2 ounces of vodka, 1 ounce of pure cranberry juice, 1 ounce of Ginger Root Purely Syrup and a splash of club soda shaken with ice.

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Galette dough//Kate Lebo

  • 1/4 cup sour cream or room temperature cream cheese
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) cold butter
  • 1 egg (For egg wash)
  • Turbinado sugar for sprinkling

Whisk the sour cream, lemon juice and water in a 2-cup spouted liquid measuring cup and put it in the freezer during the next steps.

In a medium bowl, mix the flour and salt. Cube the butter and cut it into the flour using a pastry blender until the butter is mostly pea sized.

Take the liquid out of the freezer and pour in a steady stream into the flour mixture, stopping halfway to toss the dough with your fingers. The dough should hold together and feel a little wet. You may not need all of the liquid.

Gather the dough into a ball, make a disk and wrap with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least an hour or up to 3 days before rolling.

For the filling

  • 3 pears
  • 1/3 cup Vanilla Bean Purely Syrup

For the mascarpone topping

  • 1 cup mascarpone
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 cup powdered sugar
  • Honey for drizzling

To assemble

Heat oven to 450 degrees F.

Remove the dough from the fridge and divide it in half. On a floured surface, roll each into a circle about 6-7 inches in diameter.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. I use my pizza stone and flour it. Place each circle onto the sheet.

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Slice pears 1/2-inch thick and toss with the syrup. Arrange the pears in the center of each dough, leaving about a 1-inch border. Fold the border in on the pears, creating an edge.

Mix the egg with 1 tablespoon of water and brush the edges of the dough. Sprinkle with turbinado sugar.

Bake until flaky and golden, about 25 minutes. Watch carefully as this may vary.

Meanwhile, with an electric mixer, whip mascarpone with vanilla extract and powdered sugar.

Remove galettes from the oven. Let cool slightly and move to serving plate. Spoon half the mascarpone onto the top of each galette. Drizzle with honey and serve.

Chard and Sausage Strata

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Christmas morning my mom and I woke up and cleaned the kitchen. I looked down at the dishes I was scrubbing and said, “Mom remember when I would wake up at 6 am Christmas morning and sprint to my presents? I want to feel that sugar plum fairy excitement.”

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Presents no longer seem to give me that feeling like they did when I was a kid, but Christmas brunch does. I pulled my grandmother Bunny’s coffee walnut chocolate chip muffins out of the oven, a sentimental smell permeating the room. My mom made a citrus salad. We bantered back and forth about how much honey to drizzle over the top. My brother and dad knocked on my door. My dad told my mom she really needs to start aging and then they bonded over their mutual plantar fasciitis. (I’m going to get a text from my dad after this post goes up saying yet again I’ve put him on “blast.”)

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We opened our stockings, and I pulled my strata out of the oven. We swooned over the soft, custard center with a crunchy top. The bread was crusty in all the right places with ribbons of chard throughout. Everyone loved it.

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Generally we make Grandpa Mackey’s famous breakfast casserole with white bread and cream of mushroom soup among other things. It’s one of those really bad Midwest treasures that is remarkably satisfying. This year my dad requested that we take it up a notch.

Makes 1 hefty casserole//Dahlia Bakery Cookbook

Ingredients

  • 1 loaf of rustic bread, about 1 1/2 pounds
  • 1 pound bulk Italian sausage
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for the pan
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 12 ounces wild mushrooms like shiitake, chanterelle, button or oyster, sliced
  • 1 pound chard, stems removed
  • 2 teaspoons thinly sliced chives
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 12 ounces cheddar, grated
  • 6 large eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Butter a 9 x 13-inch baking pan. Cut bread into 3/4 to 1-inch cubes. You should have about 6 cups loosely packed bread.

Place sausage in a skillet over medium-high heat, breaking it up with a spatula. Cook until no pink remains, about 10 minutes.

Remove the sausage with a slotted spoon and set aside. To the same pan, add the onion and cook over medium heat until soft. Add the butter and olive oil to the skillet and toss in the mushrooms. Cook until tender and then transfer to a bowl.

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the chard and cook until tender, about 2 minutes. Drain the chard and plunge the chard into a bowl of ice water. Drain again. Squeeze out as much of the water as possible. Roughly chop and add to the bowl of mushrooms and onions. Add the sausage, bread, chives and thyme. Reserve 3/4 of a cup of the cheese and then stir in the remainder. Transfer the contents of the bowl to the greased dish.

Whisk the eggs, cream, salt and pepper. Pour over the rest of the ingredients. Use a spatula to press down on the bread and submerge it as much as possible. Sprinkle the reserved cheese over the top. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a couple hours or overnight.

When you’re ready to bake, remove the plastic wrap and heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake until the top is golden and the center is firm. Allow to cool for 10 minutes and serve.

Bucatini with Butternut Squash Cream Sauce, Prosciutto and Sage

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This week was nothing short of nuts. First, I got a kidney infection. Then 14 cheeses arrived at my door. Both made my cry. As something of a cheese-fanatic, receiving cheese in the mail is somewhat of a dream. BelGioioso Cheese Inc. sent me a dreamy package containing 7 of their popular cheeses. I used their American Grana to make this bucatini dish, which is now featured on culture: the word on cheese’s website.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • ½ cup olive oil, divided
  • ½ tablespoon butter
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • ¼ of a yellow onion, sliced thinly
  • 1 pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into ½ inch cubes
  • 8 slices prosciutto
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • ¼ cup half and half or heavy cream
  • ½ cup BelGioioso American Grana, grated, plus more for sprinkling
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • ¾ pound dry bucatini
  • 8 sage leaves
  • Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. With the skin still on, loosely wrap the garlic loosely with foil and drizzle with 1 teaspoon of olive oil. Roast for 40 minutes until soft.

Heat 1 teaspoon of olive oil and ½ tablespoon of butter over medium high heat in a sauté pan (I use a cast iron pan). Add sliced onions and sprinkle with a pinch each of salt and pepper. Stir frequently until the onions begin to soften, about 8 minutes. Lower the heat to medium and stir occasionally until they turn a deep golden color and are caramelized, about another 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the cubes of butternut squash in a glass 9×13 pan. Drizzle with 1/8 cup olive oil and toss to combine. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of both salt and pepper. Cook until fork tender, about 30 minutes.

Raise oven temperature to 375 degrees F. Lay 8 slices of prosciutto on a foil-lined baking sheet. Crisp in the oven for about 15 minutes, flipping once. Set aside.

Bring a pot of salted water to boil.

For the sauce, squeeze the garlic out of their peels into a blender. Add half of the cooked squash and all of the caramelized onions. Then add chicken broth, cream, cheese and nutmeg. Blend until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Add bucatini into the boiling water, cook until al dente. Drain. Return to pot and toss with sauce and reserved cubes of squash.

In the same pan you used to cook the onions, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium high heat. Once hot, lay the sage leaves into the oil. Cook for about 30 seconds, flipping once. Cool on a paper towel.

To assemble, use tongs to move noodles to individual plates, letting excess sauce drip off back into the pot. Crumble the prosciutto over the noodles. Top with two sage leaves each. Sprinkle with extra grated American Grana and pepper. Serve immediately.

Caramelized Carrot & Leek Hand Pies

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I thought waking up at 3:30 a.m. for my baking shift would be the end of me. Turns out, I love getting home from working at approximately 9:15 a.m., caffeinated, with a day’s work under my belt and a cookie in my bag.

I also thought baking for a living would deter me from baking at home. Wrong again. I happily made these hand pies with half spelt flour, half all purpose. This has become my thing. I love the color spelt gives pastry, not to mention the nutty bite.

After biking to the Ballard Market last Sunday, I ate a hand pie with a salad made of the freshest, crispest greens. While the farmer bagged my greens, another woman broached the stand with a mellow baby flopped in a front pack. The farmer bagging my greens asked the mom if the carrots she was waiting to purchase were to make homemade baby food. The mom said yes, and the farmer gave her the carrots for free saying, “It’s a good cause.”

Makes 6 hand pies//Adapted from The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook

For the pastry

  • 1 1/2 cups (6 3/4 ounces) all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cups (7 ounces) spelt flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, freezer cold, diced
  • 1/4 cup (2 1/4 ounces) sour cream
  • 3/4 cup plus 1 to 2 tablespoons ice-cold water

Begin the pastry by putting the flours, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse. Add the butter and pulse a few times until the butter is crumbly and in the size of peas.

Add sour cream and pulse a few times. Add 3/4 cup of ice-cold water and pulse again. Remove the lid of the food processor and pinch the dough between your fingers to see if it will come together. If the dough seems too crumbly still, add more cold water a tablespoon at a time.

Dump the dough onto a floured work surface. Gather it together and form a flattened rectangle about 5 by 6 inches. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill for at least one hour.

For the filling 

  • 1 medium large leek (about 14 ounces), white and light green parts only
  • 2 teaspoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 1/2 pounds carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4 to 1/2 inch dice
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh or dried thyme leaves
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
  • 1/2 cup (4 1/2 ounces) soft fresh goat cheese

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Slice the leek in half lengthwise and run it under water to wash. Slice into half moons.

Heat the butter and two teaspoons of the olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add the sliced leek and stir with a pinch of salt. Continue to cook until caramelized and golden. If they are cooking too quickly, turn the heat down.

Put carrots on a baking sheet with 1/4 cup olive oil, salt and pepper. Mix. Roast until the carrots are soft, about 30 minutes. Remove the pan and sprinkle with garlic and thyme. Return to the oven for about 10 more minutes.

Put half of the roasted carrots (about 1 3/4 cups) into the food processor and puree until smooth. Stir in leeks. Taste for salt and pepper. Gently fold in crumbled goat cheese, leaving it in crumbles as much as possible.

Unwrap the rectangle of dough. On a lightly floured surface, cut dough into 6 equal pieces. Using a rolling pin, roll each piece into a 8 1/2 by 6 inch rectangle.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Put a rectangle of dough down with the short end facing you. Make an egg wash with the egg yolk and one tablespoon of water. Brush a 1-inch border of egg wash around the edges of the rectangle.

Place about 1/2 cup of the filling on the rectangle of dough, placing it closer to one of the short edges. Slightly flatten the filling.

Fold one short edge over the other, folding over the filling. Use a fork to crimp the edges to seal. Trim the edges with a knife if needed to make straight lines. Repeat until all of the hand pies are formed. Place them on two parchment-lined baking sheets. Brush the tops with egg wash and using a knife, cut two little slits into the tops to vent.

Bake the pies until they are golden brown, about 30 to 35 minutes. Serve warm.