Happy New England Clam Chowder Day!

Did you know that January 21st is New England Clam Chowder Day? Now you do. Reading is magical! Come on in and let me show you how I make a perfect bowl on the cheap!

Mmm! Chowder… eventually.

On the way home from work I heard some random DJ mention that it was New England Clam Chowder Day. I’m glad someone told me before I missed it. I LOVE New England clam chowder. So I kept listening as the DJ and his companion babbled on and on about where to get the best chowder, and I couldn’t help but notice that the prices kept going up and up the longer they talked. I soon realized these people were talking themselves into buying a $10 bowl of what is basically slightly thickened potato soup with a few clam bits thrown in. I have a problem with this. New England clam chowder is not a gourmet food. It is a hearty, traditional American food meant to nourish and warm you after a day of work in the harsh New England cold. And it’s soup. Soup should not cost ten fucking dollars. You know why? BECAUSE IT’S FUCKING SOUP.

So, because I’m a sweet guy and I love ya so much, I’m going to share my top secret method of taking any given can of cheap New England clam chowder and turning it into something that will taste ten times better than anything you’ll be overcharged for in a restaurant. You’re welcome.

Because I was miffed at the very concept of a $10 bowl of New England clam chowder, I decided to react in the least mature way possible and augment my chowder with the cheapest ingredients I could find. This actually worked out for the best, as these $1 shakers of dried deliciousness were manufactured too cheaply to contain flavorings, preservatives or anti-caking agents. Just pure garlic and pure parsley. Plus they were cheap as hell; win-win for Chris. Then again, these do have the concerning label “Product of the US and China,” so it’s possible that I may have to reconsider my luck while I’m in my hospital bed, dying painfully of chemical and heavy metal poisoning. Oh, well; you pays yer money and you takes yer chances.

After you get your cheap ingredients, find your best oversized New Englandy looking bowl. This bowl was actually made in England, so I guess this is more of an Old Englandy looking bowl, but it was the best I could do on short notice. Coat the bottom with a layer of garlic powder. I like using patterned bowls because I get a better sense of the thickness of the garlic powder layer. Make yours about like mine – where you can still partially see the pattern – and you’ll be fine.

“But, Chris! You’re using an inferior ingredient! I watch Food Network and I think I’m a chef because I know what crème fraîche is, and I can tell you that you should be using only the freshest garlic bulbs that you roast for yourself then sauté in clarified butter. Plus, you didn’t measure anything, and that’s not the way you’re supposed to…”

SHUT.

THE FUCK.

UP.

I am SO god damn sick of people who have never tried my food telling me that I’m cooking it wrong because they heard Rachael fucking Ray say so. Well, fuck her, and fuck that. Lots of very well paid, highly trained food scientists worked very hard to develop the process by which that garlic was cooked, dehydrated, powdered to a specific, uniform grain size which maximizes it’s usefulness and flavor, and delivered with consistent quality and minimal spoilage to my grocer. Fuck you if you think it’s inferior. If your food doesn’t taste good with garlic powder, that’s because YOU have been using it wrong.

As much water as reasonably possible has been removed from that garlic. Did you rehydrate yours first before you used it? Or did you just throw it into your already cooking food, without first taking the time to understand how heat and acidity will ruin it before it has the chance to release all that awesome garlic flavor? And then you overused it because it didn’t taste strong enough, and the food came out kinda funky tasting, so you bitched about it and said that garlic powder sucks, when the whole time it was you that was the problem? You know what? Don’t answer. We both know which one you did.

After you’ve laid down your garlic powder, you rehydrate it. Pour a SMALL amount of water on it, just enough to get all of it wet. Stir to make sure there are no clumps. Now, brace yourself, because next comes the hardest part in this whole process. You have to walk away. Seriously. That garlic’s not gonna soak up all that water instantly, and you’re just going to be impatient and likely to use it too soon, so get the hell out of the kitchen and leave that garlic alone. Let it swim for at least ten minutes. Seriously. Get the hell OUT.

After ten minutes the garlic will have soaked up enough water to make this rather unappetizing looking slurry. Smells great, though.

Next, add half a can of corn. I would have used sweet white corn, but I was committed to the low cost route, and I had corn at home, so I skipped buying any. Your measurements don’t have to be exact, just eyeball half a can. Don’t go more than that, though. This is not corn chowder. Corn can’t be allowed to take over. Because it will if you let it. Corn is like that. One second it’s on the cob all innocent and yellow, and the next thing you know it’s all up in your business, fuckin’ up your chowder. Do not hesitate to beat your corn down and keep it in its place. Sometimes you just got to choke a bitch.

Next, crack some black pepper on it. Because I am not a pussy, and because when I put black pepper in a dish I expect to taste it, I use a lot. You can use whatever amount you like, or none at all if you’re a weak ass punk who can’t handle a little spice and cries to your mommy when the big, bad peppermill burns your widdle tongue. Do whatever you want, man, you’re the one that has to live with yourself.

Now we add the parsley. Add as much as you want; we’re really only using it for color. If you add too much your chowder will taste like… chowder. Seriously, it’s parsley. Don’t beat yourself up over it.

Hey, do you know how hard it is to get an action shot of your own hand shaking parsley in mid air while holding the camera with your other hand, maintaining a good focal distance from the food, while not accidentally adding more parsley to the dish than you want? Sometimes I feel like you don’t appreciate the things I do for you. You know, it wouldn’t kill you people to say ‘thank you’ once in a while.

Once you have enough parsley, stir the corn thoroughly and then microwave it for five minutes on your microwave’s highest setting. Yeah, I said five minutes. We want to cook off some of that water left over from hydrating the garlic, as well as some of the water in the corn. The bowl will be REALLY fucking hot when you take it out of the microwave, so be sure to put the number of your local burn center on speed dial before you touch it. It’ll be a lot less painful if you only have to press one button.

Remove roughly 2/3 of the corn from the bowl, leaving behind as much of the garlicky corn juice as possible. We’re gonna use that to flavor the soup. Pour in the whole can of whatever New England clam chowder you can find on sale. Why on sale, you ask? Because soup should not cost ten fucking dollars. BECAUSE IT’S FUCKING SOUP. I’m not backing down on this, ever!

You’ll notice that the chowder is unnaturally white and kind of creepy looking. It’s less like soup and more like unusually chunky paint at this point. Stir in the corn and parsley mixture we left in the bowl, and it will start to look like something more foodlike. See how that parsley is working in the dish? Looks appetizing doesn’t it? You’re welcome.

Nuke the chowder for five minutes, stopping at the two and a half minute mark to stir.

After the soup has been thoroughly heated and is bubbling around the edges of the bowl, remove it from the microwave. Hit it with a few more twists of the peppermill, then garnish with the remaining corn in the center of the bowl.

“But, Chris! Corn is a grain! It’s a staple food! You can’t use it as a garnish!”

Well, I’ll be damned if I didn’t just do exactly that. The photographic evidence is right there. I’ve used meat as a garnish before; I’m certainly not going to hesitate to use corn. Not only does it look good, but it adds a great flavor and a little toothiness to the chowder. Try it and see for yourself. Serve the chowder with a hearty, rustic Italian bread hot from the oven and slathered with salted butter. As you eat it, be sure to thank whatever gods you may believe in that you know me and have benefited from my wisdom and culinary benevolence. Amen.

And that, my friends, is how you enjoy an enormous $2 bowl of New England clam chowder that will beat the hell out of any restaurant chowder you will ever taste. Happy New England Clam Chowder Day, everybody!

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