Friday, December 18, 2015

French Saffron Dill Clam Chowder







     A Nice Light Clam Chowder!
     Chowder was originally created in France.  The first chowders were very simple and milk was not always part of the recipe.  Local folks simply gathered clams and mollusks along the shoreline in Northern France, then simmered the shellfish in a broth or water with mild herbs and salt pork.  Western world ingredients, like potatoes, were added to the recipe later in history.
     Even in modern times, many chowders are not made with milk.  By far, the most popular are Manhattan Chowder and Bahama Chowder.  Both of these chowders feature tomato and mild peppers.  Along the American Northeast Coastline, there are a few local chowder recipes that are only made with clams, onion, bacon and potato.  These clear broth chowders are also satisfying on a cold day.
     I used to sell plenty of today's rustic French style Saffron Dill Clam Chowder in Florida during the hot humid summer months.  A great French chef taught me how to make this chowder at a small café.  This chowder has a light thin body and it has a great flavor.  Clam juice is not used to make the broth.  The broth is made with light chicken stock.
     I usually make my clam soups and chowders with fresh clams or fresh frozen clams.  Where I currently am located in Chicago, the fresh seafood has not been looking too good for a few months.  It pays to be careful about choosing fresh seafood and canned clams are always an option for chowders.
     For today's recipe, I chose to use canned baby clams.  If there is not any good fresh clams available, then canned baby clams are a good choice.  Both canned baby clams and tiny Ipswich Clams are very tender, when compared to canned chopped large ocean clams.  Canned chopped large ocean clams do tend to be tough and rubbery.
     We used to garnish this soup with a few toasted croutons at the French café in Florida.  For today's chowder presentation, I chose Indian Masala Khakhara Bread.  Masala Khakhara is a very thin unleavened bread that is flavored with turmeric.  Masala Khakhara can be found pre-made in Indian markets.
   
     French Saffron Dill Clam Chowder: 
     This recipe yields 1 large portion of chowder!  (About 2 1/4 cups)
     Step 1:  Heat a sauce pot over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of minced garlic.
     Add 3 tablespoons of finely chopped celery.
     Add 3 tablespoons of finely chopped onion.
     Sauté till the onions turn clear in color.
     Step 2:  Add just enough flour to absorb the excess butter while stirring.  Stir till the butter is absorbed and a roux forms.  (2 teaspoons is plenty)
     Step 3:  Raise the temperature to medium heat.
     Add 3 cups of light chicken stock, while stirring.
     Stir occasionally, till the chowder starts to boil.
     Step 4:  Add 3 ounces of canned baby clams.  (Do not add the clam juice to this soup!)
     Add 1 bay leaf.
     Add 1 pinch of Crocus sativa Saffron (or 2 pinches of Safflower Saffron).  (Rub the saffron between your fingers, so the full flavor is released.)
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of chopped fresh dill weed.
     Add 1 pinch of turmeric.
     Add sea salt and white pepper to taste.
     Step 5:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Gently simmer and reduce the chowder, till the volume is about 2 1/4 cups
     Step 6:  Remove the bay leaf.
     Ladle the chowder into a shallow soup bowl.
     Garnish with a few toasted French bread croutons.
     Garnish with an Italian Parsley sprig.
     Optional Garnish:  Crack a large Masala Khakhara Bread into 4 pieces.
     Place the Masala Khakhara pieces in the chowder, so they lean against the rim of the soup bowl.
   
     The light chicken stock adds a very soothing flavor to this French style chowder.  The Masala Khakhara adds a nice touch to the presentation. 

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