Controversial California Clam Chowder

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Listen, here’s the thing. I know there are some ingredients you wouldn’t find in clam chowder very often. Like goldfish crackers and Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning. I also know you usually would cook this with fresh clams, but I like the smoked flavor you can get from tinned clams and that you don’t have to fight anyone to rinse off sand. So if I acknowledge that this could be controversial and label it as Californian, perhaps I won’t offend diehard New England chowder aficionados.

First, we make a roux. Melt two tablespoon butter in a small pan then add in two tablespoons of flour. Allow to cook for about five minutes over medium-low heat. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a large soup pot, heat 1 tablespoon butter over medium heat. Add 1 large diced onion, 3 finely sliced stalks of celery, one finely diced leek, greens removed, 1/4 cup minced garlic, 3 bay leaves, one large carrot, peeled and shredded, 1 russet potato, washed, peeled, and diced, 4 strips of cooked and diced bacon, and 1 teaspoon dried thyme. Stir frequently and allow vegetables to soften, about five minutes. Add 1 3/4 cup half and half and 2 tins smoked baby clams. Cook until reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add 2 cups clam juice (two 8 oz. bottles). Cook 15-20 minutes, then stir in roux. Cook at a gentle simmer for an additional 15 minutes. Finally, remove bay leaves and stir in 1/2 teaspoon pepper and 2 teaspoons Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning.

Pour into bowls and top with Goldfish crackers in lieu of oyster crackers. Trust me.

 

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Mango-a-go-goes with Lime

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I often find that graham cracker crusts are a bit heavily flavored for me and then pies have to be sweeter to hold their own. Plus, the idea of a citrus fruit with shortbread makes me think of Scottish lemon curd on shortbread, which I love together. This tart is my answer to a cheesecake, but this feels a lot lighter and less sweet but still very flavorful.

Shortbread tart:

Combine 1 cup salted butter, 2 cups all-purpose flour and 1/2 cup powdered sugar. When thoroughly combined, press into a pie pan, tart pan, or a springform pan, as I used. Press as thin as you can, and leave a bit going up the walls of your dish, to hold the tart filing later. Cook at 350 for 17-20 minutes. Leave inside your baking dish.

Mango Lime filling:

Puree the flesh of two mangoes, then press the puree through a fine mesh strainer so you’re getting the smooth juice. To that juice, add the zest and juice (about 3 tablespoons) of two limes, one 14 ounce can of sweetened condensed milk, 4 egg yolks, and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt. Whisk that all together, then pour into your tart shell. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes.  Cool on a rack for an hour, then in the fridge for two hours. Serve alone or with whipped cream.

Tajin Whipped Cream:

In a bowl that’s been in the freezer for at least 20 minutes, use a hand or stand mixer to whip 1 cup of cold heavy whipping cream, 1 tablespoon powdered sugar, 1 teaspoon lime juice and 1/2 teaspoon Tajin or chili powder.

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Gooey Greens and Two Kinds of Cheese

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Very lightly butter or brush olive oil on two slices of sourdough. I used seeded sourdough, but this tastes great on plain sourdough, too. This will be the outside of your sandwich. If you use butter, you should try lightly dusting finely grated parmesan on the butter.

Spread a thin layer of basil pesto on the inside of each slice of sourdough. If you’ve got a tree nut allergy, blend together two tablespoons of olive oil, a packed handful of fresh basil, 1-2 cloves of garlic and two pinches of salt to use instead. Pile a slice with crumbled goat cheese, spinach, arugula, avocado and sliced swiss cheese. I like to add a secret sprinkle of crushed red pepper flakes. Cook both sides over medium heat. I like to use a cast iron pan to get a nice crisp on the bread. You don’t want it too hot or you’ll scorch the bread before the cheeses have an opportunity to melt. Serve hot.

 

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Apricot Scones

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Scones are one of those things that feel intimidating and fancy, but really shouldn’t. They come together quite easily and are pretty versatile.

In a large bowl, combine 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour with 1 tablespoon baking powder, 1/4 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon cardamom, 1 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/2 cup cubed cold salted butter. Mix together with your hands until it looks like coarse crumbs. Fold in a heaping 1/2 cup diced dried apricots (I used half regular dried apricots, and half chocolate covered dried apricots we had in the pantry) and 3/4 semi-sweet chocolate chips.

In a separate bowl, whisk together one egg and 2/3 cup heavy whipping cream. Add to dry ingredients, stirring to combine. Knead lightly approximately 30 seconds, until everything comes together. If it feels too wet and you’re having a hard time pulling your hands out cleanly, add a tablespoon of flour at a time until it you can shape the dough without it sticking to you much. It should look a lot like cookie dough.

Pat the dough into a ball and transfer to a parchment or silicone lined baking sheet. Flatten into a 1″ disk. Use a butter knife to carefully cut the disk into eighths. Brush with additional heavy whipping cream, then sprinkle with sugar. Cook about 17 minutes at 425.

If you prefer savory scones, omit the cardamom, cinnamon, vanilla, apricots and chocolate. Instead, half the sugar (use 2 tablespoons instead of 1/4 cup), add 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon onion powder, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 cup grated sharp cheddar and 1/4 cup fresh chives.

 

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