Dispatches from Fenwick Island

If you’re on the Delaware shore, on an unexpectedly windy day, there’s a very good possibility that you might find yourself clamming. A wonderful way to pass an afternoon, if you ask me.

That being said, there are some important things you should know before you begin:

Those little black rock-like things at the bottom of the water?

Yep, they’re baby horseshoe crabs.

You’ll want to avoid them at all costs. If you need to jump and scream a little to do so, do it quietly, lest your companions think that you’re not an outdoorsy type.

Clam rakes are surprisingly sharp.

Take care to make sure that your toes are not in the path of your rake as you skim the sand beneath the water. I won’t admit to knowing anyone who would forget something so obvious—in my defense it’s really easy to get distracted by the fact that there as so many clams. Clams! Fresh from the sea! and forget all about your feet—but, I will say that you can take comfort in the fact that, should you slice your toe open, the salt water cleanses all. In other words, it won’t prevent you from continuing on with your pursuit.

And, finally, you may end up getting greedy in the pursuit of more and more.

Say, ending up with more than three dozen clams when your party is only comprised of four, one of whom abstains from shellfish.

At a certain point you’ll find that, although freshly steamed clams are delicious, especially when dipped in clarified butter, you cannot possibly eat any more.

Then, the guilt will set in because, after all, you did harvest these clams yourself—living things—and it would be more than a shame to let them go to waste.

Luckily, that guilt will prove to be fleeting once inspiration hits: clam chowder!

So, you’ll make soup. Quarts and quarts of clam chowder.

And then you’ll want to do it all again.

Of course, this time, you’ll watch the rake’s path in the water.

Delaware-Style Clam Chowder

Obviously, clamming is not a requirement for this recipe, but I would recommend steaming the clams yourself as they’ll taste much fresher and the broth that’s leftover after the steaming adds another dimension of flavor to the soup.

Note, that this recipe, more than most, should be used as a guide with the caveat that it varies, based on what’s on hand. The most important things are the clams and the steaming liquid. Take it from there.

And, lastly, use the biggest pot that you can find. This makes a lot of soup.

3 dozen clams, steamed and chopped, with at least 2 cups of steaming liquid reserved
8 cups vegetable stock (water will work here, too)
1/2 cup white wine
2 cups heavy cream
2 medium onions, finely diced
6 cloves of garlic, minced
2 leeks, diced
4 carrots, finely diced
6 celery ribs, finely diced
6 strips bacon, diced
6 medium or 4 large potatoes, peeled and diced into 1″ cubes
2 ears of corn, hulled, with the cobs reserved
4 TBS butter
2 TBS olive oil
8 TBS flour
3 bay leaves
1 TBS old bay seasoning
Salt and Pepper to taste

Using a medium flame, heat the bacon for 5-10 minutes, until it is crisp and the fat has rendered.

Add butter and olive oil until heated. Do not allow the butter to brown.

Add the onions, seasoning with salt and pepper. When the onions have turned translucent, add in the garlic, leeks, carrots, and onions. Saute them all until they have caramelized, about 10 minutes.

Deglaze the bottom of the pot with white wine, scraping the brown bits off of the bottom.

Add flour and old bay seasoning to the pot and saute for 5 minutes, until the flour is well incorporated.

Add vegetable stock and the reserved steaming liquid and bring to a boil. Once the liquid is boiling, add in the bay leaves, corn, corn cobs and potatoes. Simmer until the potatoes are cooked, about 15-20 minutes.

Add in the clams and the heavy cream, stir and allow to simmer another 5-10 minutes to let flavors combine. Taste and add additional salt and pepper as necessary.

Be sure to remove all of the bay leaves and corn cobs before serving.


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