SERIOUSLY SIMPLE: An hommage to clam chowder perfect for a summer first course
There is a great divide between flourless East Coast clam chowder and all the other approximations of the form that resemble and taste like glue with bits of clams. I am always surprised when restaurants proudly serve this gloppy rendition.
Author Stephanie Izard grew up on the East Coast, where she learned the fine art of great New England clam chowder. She has a clever way with reinterpreting classic dishes. When I eyed this recipe in her book "Girl in the Kitchen," I had to try it. I think of it as clam chowder revisited. No flour, nor is it soupy -- just the essential clam chowder flavors coming together in a fresh approach. Indeed, she has created a wonderful summer first course. Bacon and clams is surely a match made in heaven, and the corn adds an extra sweet layer of flavor.
Unless you are living on the East Coast, where clams are plentiful and very fresh, it's essential to find a reputable local fishmonger who sells really fresh clams. Littlenecks, which are hard-shelled clams, should be even-colored and firm, and have tightly closed shells. If a shell has opened slightly, tap it; it should immediately close tightly; if not discard it. Hard shell clams require a good scrubbing under water to clean them thoroughly.
Lazy, relaxed summer evenings call for casual dishes like this one, served family-style. Serve with ice-cold beer or chilled Rose. The author suggests serving Irish stout because it has the same creaminess that plump steamed clams do, and the toasted malts go beautifully with smoky bacon. Make sure to have an empty bowl for the discarded the shells.
Clams Steamed with Corn, Bacon and Fingerlings
Reprinted with permission from "Girl in the Kitchen" by Stephanie Izard (Chronicle Books, 2011)
Serves 2 to 4.
12 ounces fingerling potatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil