|Photo courtesy of thewellseasonedcook.blogspot.ca--sorry, loaned my camera to one of my teens...|
I thought I hated clam chowder when I was younger. Of course, I had only ever tasted the canned versions which were sweet and full of corn and red pepper chunks. Ewww.
So of course, more than a decade ago now, when visiting a friend over a lunch hour and she offered me clam chowder I said "no thank-you" as politely as possible. But she looked me square in the eye and called me out on it, saying, "That's because you've only ever had the canned soup kind of chowder. That stuff is pure crap. Try this," And I did, because she was my friend and I was a guest and all that, and....she was right. Her chowder was creamy but not sweet, smooth and silky and did not have a hint of corn in it. The secret, she swore, was bacon. Yup. She said that it helped to mask the texture of the clams, for those who weren't used to it's slight...chewiness. I was sold. And, she added, don't add the actual clams until the very end, or you'll get a lot more chewiness than you can handle. Fair enough. Don't need to tell me twice on that one.
It took me a while to wrap my head around how I was going to make this one a little more healthy--that chowder I'd fallen in love with (and had converted the rest of my clam-chowder-hating family into loving) had both white potatoes and navy beans. Let's just say there were some disappointing early attempts.
But the other day, when my CSA veggie box arrived with Jerusalem Artichokes, I finally had an idea... This was going to work out after all. And it did. It was awesome. (The box also included parsnips and fresh sage, so into this recipe they went...)
Ever cooked with Jerusalem Artichokes/sunchokes? Me neither. Never even seen them before this. That's one of the things I love about getting a food box--you get things you have never cooked with, and you have to Google them just to know what you can do with them.
So I learned that sunchokes are related to sunflowers, that they are tubers (like potatoes are), that they can be eaten raw or cooked, peeled or unpeeled, that they are slightly sweet, mild-tasting, and waaay less starchy than potatoes. They can be boiled and mashed, made into french fries, roasted, shredded and served in coleslaw or over salads. But more importantly--they are full of the prebiotic inulin. In plain English, that means that they can cause a bit of extra gas. Yup. So at first, a little can go a long way. That is why I used a blend of sunchokes and cauliflower for the base of this soup. If it weren't for that gassy side-effect, I'd say they were a perfect substitute for white potato for the starchy-carb-adverse population out there. Don't let that one thing put you off trying them, though. They are tasty little gnarly things. And this is pretty awesome chowder.
1 1/2 c Jerusalem artichokes, peeled and chopped
1/2 head of cauliflower, chopped small
3-4 slices bacon
3 c chicken broth
1/2 c parsnips or carrots, chopped into coins
1/2 c onions, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 cans baby clams
1 tsp ground celery seed
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 Tbs fresh sage (or 1 tsp dried)
1 c full-fat cream (can substitute coconut milk, but will effect flavour a bit)
First, chop all your veggies. Open your can of clams. Saute bacon until crispy. Chop bacon into bits.
While bacon is frying, pull out your dutch oven or large heavy-bottom pot and heat it up over medium heat. In fat of choice (I used butter), saute onions, parsnips, and celery. When onion is translucent, transfer veggies to a plate and set aside.
Add broth and juice only from canned clams. Add celery seed, garlic powder, and sage IF using dried sage. Add sunchokes and cauliflower and bring to boil. Simmer over medium heat until cauliflower and sunchokes are tender.
Use either an immersion blender to puree, or move carefully to a food processor and puree until smooth. Return to pot, reduce heat to med-low. Add sauteed veggies back into the pot now, add canned clams, bacon, fresh sage and cream. Stirring frequently, heat through but do not let it come to a boil. Add salt and pepper to taste.