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Monday, August 18, 2008

New Place stirs up an Old Favorite: Recipe

My husband and I just returned from four days in Block Island where we went to share in the wedding of a close friend of mine. She was simply gorgeous, as was her awesome spouse, but this was the first time we had been to "The Block," as it's affectionately called, and we were stunned and overwhelmed by this great space between Montauk, Long Island and Rhode Island. It was wonderful - laid back and relaxed yet active and busy. I took a photo at a four-way intersection that seemed to describe the Island...organized chaos, I called it. The photo shows cars, bicycles, pedestrians, and motorcycles all in one spot. And that's it - right there! You can bike or walk or ride or drive to wherever you're headed and once you get there the options are abundant. Swimming, surfing, lounging, hiking, running, biking, riding, eating, etc., etc.

The food was great, too. Among others, we had an incredible meal at The Atlantic Inn where we started off with tapas and cocktails on the lawn overlooking the Atlantic. What a site. We moved inside for dinner and had a four-course prix-fix meal for a reasonable $54 per person (of course, as we usually do, we added on and the bill never had a chance to stay at $108 plus tax/tip). I had the most unbelievable monkfish I've ever eaten. The choices were great - something for everyone.

But all of this made me long for an old favorite - New England Clam Chowder. Of course we had it on the Island (my husband ate it twice!) and it was great, for sure. I knew that when I returned I would have to take a crack at it myself. Even though it's desert hot outside here at home, I still needed a bit of soup to rekindle the memories of Block Island.

An Islander's New England Clam Chowder
2 doz. clams, washed and scrubbed well
1 2/3 cup water
1/3 cup sherry
4 oz. prosciutto, cubed into tiny squares
2 onions, chopped fine
2 leeks, sliced thin
3 celery stalks, sliced thin + 1/4 cup celery leaves, chopped
3 carrots, sliced thin
4 cups of potatoes (about 4 or 5 large ones), peeled and diced
2 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. fresh Thyme leaves + 4 sprigs
1 ear of corn, cooked and removed from the cob
1/4 cup flour
2 bay leaves
2 Tbsp. salt (more to taste)
1 1/4 cup milk
1 1/4 cup heavy cream
several grindings of fresh pepper

In a large soup pot, combine clams, water, and sherry. Cover and put on med-high heat for about 15 minutes - until all clams have opened. Remove clams from shells and place in a small bowl to cool completely. Strain liquid and set aside in another bowl. Once cooled, chop the clams.

In the same pot, cook prosciutto over medium heat until fat begins to release about 5 minutes. Add butter and melt and then add onions and leeks. Saute until soft - about 10 minutes. Add thyme leaves, carrots and celery plus celery leaves. Saute another 10 minutes. Add in the flour and mix well for about 5 minutes. Do not let it burn. Then add in the bay leaves, some salt and pepper, the reserved clam liquid, and the potatoes and the thyme sprigs. Simmer on low for about 15 minutes. Stir once.

Then add the corn and the clams and allow to simmer another 15 minutes. Finally add the cream and milk, more salt and pepper, and simmer about 10-15 minutes.

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