CLAM CHOWDER IS A FOOD THAT SPEAKS NOSTALGIA, THE KIND THAT WANTS ME TO REMEMBER SOMETHING… EVEN IF THE MEMORY ISN’T MINE. IT’S A POWERFUL STORY-TELLER.
Today is my favourite day. Veterinarian day + Monday + The-day-I-woke-up-to-an-empty-coffee-jar day. Pure. Awesomeness.
So yes, I did. I selfishly spent every God-damn beautiful hours of this day chuckling at waffle-coned dogs through a glass-wall, powered by a state of mind as sharp as a pile of shredded cheddar cheese melting inside a hamburger. And at exactly 6:30 pm, realised that I’ve left very little time to tell you about this risotto I made last weekend. It’s my fault. The risotto doesn’t deserve this neglect. In fact, this clam chowder risotto with prosciutto-salt deserves every autumn-loving and nostalgic-holic’s attention. Thing is, I’ve always thought of clam chowders as a food that speaks nostalgias, the kind that wants me to remember something, in an almost eager manner, trying to bring out memories even if it isn’t mine. Even though I was never that girl standing on a beach of grey sands, the cold waves, that late summer, that blue wooden bench and the knitted cardigan…, the soup wants me, no, it needs me to feel like one when I eat it. Clam chowder is a powerful story-teller.
But again, people who are truly nostalgic about clam chowders probably wouldn’t do what I did, replacing potatoes with equally starchy arborio rice and chewy farro, then instead of saltine crackers, a sprinkle of finely crushed crispy prosciutto and toasted caraway seeds. What can I say, it felt almost natural to me, and even more amazing because now it tells a slightly different story. Of what, I’m not quite sure yet. I need to hear it a few more times for it to become words. Perhaps a rocky mediterranean shore… a brownish tweed newsboy hat… that old sea-port market and the stain of espresso on the napkin. Or perhaps I’m just hearing a food-coma.
How about you? Have you heard any good stories from your table lately?
The beautiful brass dinner spoon is made by the amazing Ann Ladson.
- 3oz (25 grams) prosciutto
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 tsp celcery/caraway seeds
- 1 small onion, finely minced
- 1/4 celery, finely minced
- 1 cup (195 grams) farro
- 3/4 cup (137 grams) arborio rice
- 3 cups (710 grams) chicken stock, preferably unsalted
- 2 cups (475 grams) whole milk
- 20~25 little neck clams (approx 23 oz/650 grams)
- 4 tbsp (57 grams) unsalted butter, cubed
- Torn the prosciutto into small pieces with your hands, then add into a large sauce-pot along with olive oil. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the prosciutto is very dried and crispy, approx 5~7 min. Remove the prosciutto with a slotted spoon, leaving the oil in the pot, then transfer over some paper towels and pat the prosciutto dry off of any excess oil. Toast the caraway seeds in another pan over medium heat, until they start to pop and smell fragrant. Then grind the crispy prosciutto and the caraway seeds together in a mortar until finely ground. Set aside.
- Return the sauce-pot with the prosciutto oil to medium heat. Add the finely minced onion and celery with a small pinch of salt and a bit of ground black pepper, then cook until very soft and translucent (they should NOT be browned), approx 6~8 min. Add the farrow and arborio rice, then cook for another 2min. Add 2 cups of chicken stock or until it covers the rice completely, and keep it on a gentle boil, stirring occasionally. When the liquid-level goes below the rice, add the rest of the chicken stock. When the liquid evaporates again, add 1 cup of whole milk. By the time the liquid goes below the rice again, the rice and farrow should be al dente with a bit of bite to them. At this point, add the last cup of milk and the little neck clams.
- As the risotto simmers, the clams will open at a drastically different pace. To avoid over-cooking the clams that open earlier, I like to remove them from the pot as they open. Then once the last few remaining clams have opened, return the rest back into the pot. (Farro is less starchy than arborio, so you may notice that the risotto isn't as thick as expected. If you want, you can thicken it by mixing 1 tsp of water with 1 tsp of cornstarch, and stirring it into the risotto as it cooks). Taste and re-season with a bit of salt and ground black pepper (this depends on the brininess of the clams), but keep it a little on the under-seasoned side because we're going to top it with the prosciutto salt. Stir in the unsalted butter until melted then turn off the heat.
- Serve immediately. Seasoned with a bit more ground black pepper at the table and a generous sprinkle of prosciutto and caraway seed salt.
I happened to run out of arborio rice, so I used farro to replace it. Farro has a less starchy and bouncier bite to them, and hold their texture better into the next day when reheated. But you can of course use arborio rice completely.
The prosciutto and clams are both salty, so we want to use chicken stock that is as less salty as possible.