Thursday, May 29, 2008

clam chowder and, more importantly, mini corn muffins

When a new resident moves to Maryland, they are forced to do two things - 1) Pay exorbitant tax on any car they wish to register and 2) you must agree to consume at least 3 pounds of Old Bay Seasoning a year while living in the great state of Maryland. I must say that number 2 has been much easier for me to accomplish! I kid, of course (about the state forcing you to eat Old Bay, not about actually eating that much)!

We had clam chowder last night (seasoned with Old Bay, of course) and while it was simmering, I realized that I really wanted corn muffins to go with it. Not just corn muffins, but mini corn muffins. So cute and really tasty. I asked the man who lives with me if he wanted mini corn muffins with the chowder and he said, "Oh, yeah!" in that kind of "we haven't had mini corn muffins in forever" way.

Okay, recipe time -

clam chowder
4 strips of thick bacon cut into 1/2 pieces
1 sweet onion, diced
2 stalks of celery, also diced finely - I love the taste of celery but absolutely do NOT want to bite into a firm piece of celery in my soup
3 tablespoons of AP flour
3 medium russet potatoes, diced into 1/2 inch pieces - the love affair continues between me and the russet
1 10-ounce can of whole baby clams, liquid reserved
3 cups of whole milk
1 tablespoon of Old Bay seasoning
1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon of dried dill
1 teaspoon of kosher salt
1 teaspoon of cracked black pepper

Heat a big pot over medium heat, spray with non-stick spray and add the bacon. Cook the bacon until crisp and all the fat is rendered out. Remove the bacon with a slotted thing and set aside. You should have about 3 tablespoons of fat in the pot. Add the onions and celery and cook until the celery is tender. Add the flour and stir until dissolved - about 45 seconds, really. Slowly add the reserved clam juice and stir until thickened. Slowly add the milk - 1/2 cup at a time and letting it thicken between additions - this will prevent the roux from settling on the bottom and burning. Not good chowder at all. Once all the milk is added, add the potatoes and stir in all the seasoning. Reduce the heat so it simmers but does not boil or it will burn. Some folks pre-cook the potatoes but I want the starch from the potatoes in the soup for the flavor and the thickness. So, simmer the potatoes in the milk for about 15 minutes stirring so it doesn't burn or stick but gently so the potatoes don't get too broken up. Once the potatoes are done, turn off the heat and add the clams and half of the cooked bacon. Canned clams are already cooked, so they just need to be heated through. If they cook again they will get tough and rubbery. I like to serve the chowder with a little shake of Old Bay, some sliced green onions, and a little of the bacon on top.

mini corn muffins - make 24 minis or 12 full size
3/4 cup of corn meal
1 1/4 cup of AP flour
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 cup of sugar
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1 cup of milk
1 egg, lightly whisked
1/4 cup of vegetable oil

Whisk together all dry ingredients. Add milk, oil, and egg and stir until just combined. Spray a mini muffin tin with non stick spray and add muffin mix. I use two teaspoons to scoop up the batter and then push it into the muffin cups for the minis and a spring style ice cream scoop works well for full size jobbers. I cook them for about 20 minutes at 400 degrees. Obviously, I am like completely crazy about these things. I must say that they are awesome for breakfast the next day, too.

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