I've never experienced a nor'easter, but last week experienced the Georgia version: a sopping wet day, sometimes a gully-washer, other times just drizzly, but overall, a day to spend indoors, stirring at something on the stove. Which implies that I have all the ingredients on hand for something on the stove. Which I don't. Which is why, on a truly nasty rainy Friday morning I went to Wal-Mart, of all places, to find ingredients for my soul-satisfying Seafood Chowder.
This is how I make it:
1. Start with a good size Dutch oven. I use my All-Clad stainless and put it on a medium heat. Take five or six slices of bacon, stacked and sliced in 1/4 inch lengths. Fry the bacon until crispy and the drain in paper towels, reserving the grease. Pour the grease into a separate metal container and measure out two tablespoonfuls back into the pan, still on medium heat.
2. Chop two medium-size onions and sizzle those in the bacon grease with the barest pinch of salt, if you must. Everything in this chowder has salt in it, so go easy. You can always adjust the seasonings at the end. After the onions are soft and bacony, add 3 minced cloves of garlic, and stir for just a minute. Chop one stalk of celery and add to pot, cooking until soft.
3. Add one 15 oz. can of low sodium chicken broth, or water, plus one small bottle of clam juice. Open three cans of chopped clams (I prefer the chopped to minced, which look like cat food), and add to the soup, juice and all. Toss in three bay leaves and a bit of freshly ground pepper, perhaps a few thyme leaves if the plant is near the kitchen door.
4. Peel three medium all-purpose potatoes and cut into 1/2-inch dice. Put these into pan and let simmer away. When the potatoes are soft, add one pound of frozen flounder, chopped into 1-inch squares. You may also want to add sea scallops, if you have those, too. Shrimp are nice, but an extravagant touch if you ask me. Let the seafood cook through, perhaps five minutes or so.
5. Just before serving, add a staggering amount of half-n-half, perhaps three or four cups, warm up the soup, then adjust the seasoning. Serve with warm cheesy garlic bread, or just the little hexagonal soup crackers. This will restore your soul on a lousy day.