Over the Labor Day week-end I traveled with my cousin, Alan and his partner George, to visit friends in Cashiers NC. A beautiful house nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains. A long porch faces a steep rock cascade where water courses down and runs beneath the house.
I prepared a load of food to bring with us, fresh tomato sauce and pesto, eggplant stuffed peppers, roasted peppers (of course!) all made with a backyard garden harvest – picking as much as I could before Hurricane Irene blew through. I made fresh pasta (cut papperdelle style for easy traveling) and brought along a Pannetone for breakfast toast. Laying in a supply of delicious meals that were quick and easy to put on the table made the week-end more enjoyable. I froze the tomato sauce and used 2 quarts of frozen chicken stock (frozen in flat quart containers) as ice cubes to keep the peppers and pesto cool during travel.
As a surprise Alan ordered 8 lobsters and a quart of whole clams from Grossman’s in Noank. They arrived Saturday morning and we had our NE feast Saturday night.
This past summer I rediscovered Noank (also called Rhode Island) Clam Chowder, no milk or cream. Ford’s Lobsters in Noank (just down the road from Abbott’s) has opened a lobster shack. They serve clam chowder, the B-E-S-T lobster rolls, hot dogs, and hamburgers, soft drinks. Lobster salad rolls and a just lobster roll made with lobster sautéed in butter on a toasted buttered Portuguese roll – YUM! The best lobster roll I’ve eaten that I didn’t make myself. The Noank clam chowder sans cream was also super tasty; a perfectly balanced briny salty broth, plenty of chopped clams (no sand), and not too many potatoes. My mouth had been watering for more and I knew exactly what to do with the clams that arrived in NC.
Noank Clam Chowder – serves 8
one-third cup minced salt pork – or leave as a slab
(you can omit salt pork if you wish)
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup sweet onion – diced
4 Yukon gold potatoes (about 3 cups) – scrubbed and cubed in bite size (one-half inch) pieces
1 quart fresh clams – chopped
all the clam liquor
2 quarts water or stock
Place a soup pot on stove over a medium heat and add salt pork immediately so it won’t stick to the bottom of the pot. Render the fat, about 4-5 minutes (you can remove salt pork or leave in). Add butter then onion when the butter melts, sauté until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium low, Leave the peel on the potatoes for a rustic look or peel them, add potatoes and sauté another 3 minutes. When you sauté the potatoes they release some of their starch and this slightly thickens the chowder (stir frequently, they’ll stick as they release the starch). Add the clam liquor, stock, and bring to a simmer over a medium low heat. Simmer for about 5 minutes then add chopped clams, simmer another 10 minutes.
Turn off heat and let chowder rest for a few hours. It tasted even better the following day. Re-heat and serve in heated bowls or mugs, pass oyster or pilot crackers.
You could add cream or milk to the chowder; heat cream, pour into heated bowl, ladle chowder over cream, stir and serve.