Friday, February 5, 2010

THE Best Clam Chowder EVER

Our family has vacationed on Captiva Island in Florida for many years. When we first started traveling our beautiful island getaway, the place had the feel of 'old' Florida. The charm of the place led us to keep coming back despite the move to bring Captiva into the 21st century.

One of my early food memories of Captiva Island was lunch at a local watering hole called Timmy's Nook. We would sit there with the best bowl of clam chowder I had ever tasted and linger over every spoonful. Timmy's Nook has long since disappeared and been replaced by a monstrosity thoroughly modern restaurant on stilts as required by code.

When the new property owner tore down Timmy's Nook, I was prepared to never again taste the velvety goodness of that wonderful chowder. I tried many recipes but none could live up to what I remembered of the chowder at Timmy's Nook. There was a depth missing that I had failed to recreate.

Well, after all these years, I believe I've come very close. Perhaps my memory has faded just enough to call this a good replica but this IS the best clam chowder I've had since Timmy's Nook. Perhaps the best clam chowder ever!

Can you see its rich, velvety goodness? Trust me, this chowder is perfect.

Clam Chowder

2 - 10 ounce cans of baby clams

Drain over:
1 cup diced potatoes
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup diced onion

Reserve drained clams in refrigerator for later.

Cover veggies with:
4 cups of water mixed with 4 teaspoons of *clam base
(add a little more water if necessary to cover vegetables)
1 tsp. each basil, marjoram, and thyme (optional - dill)
Cayenne pepper to taste

Simmer veggies until tender.

Cook until crisp and crumble:
1/2 pound bacon
Reserve for later.

In another pan, make a white sauce:
Melt 3/4 cup butter or margarine
Add 3/4 cup flour. Stir for one minute.
Add 4 cups of half and half or a combination of half and half and milk.
Cook until thick and bubbly.

Add white sauce to vegetables and clam broth; stir until mixed well.

Just before serving, add clams - they only take a minute to cook.
Add crumbled bacon and 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar.

Now, if I could just get to my island paradise...

*Clam base - the secret to this chowder's rich, velvety taste. When I found it on my grocer's shelf I was ecstatic. It has long since disappeared from the shelf so I now order it online.

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