Wednesday, July 6, 2011

New England Clam Chowder à la Vichyssoise


Almost everyone has a recipe for New England clam chowder. It’s served piping hot and perfect for taking the chill off of a cool evening in the fall. But have you ever considered serving it cold? When blended and served chilled, the chowder takes on the richness of a fancy vichyssoise.

Although vichyssoise sounds very French, is an American invention. A Frenchman by the name of Louie Diat created the soup for the Ritz Carlton in New York City during his tenure as the chef. He named the soup after Vichy, a town not far from his hometown of Montmaraut, France. In 1950 in an interview with The New Yorker magazine Diat said,

“In the summer of 1917, when I had been at the Ritz seven years, I reflected upon the potato and leek soup of my childhood which my mother and grandmother used to make. I recalled how during the summer my older brother and I used to cool it off by pouring in cold milk and how delicious it was. I resolved to make something of the sort for the patrons of the Ritz.”  

Vichyssoise just might have been the soup that propelled American chef, host of No Reservations, and author Anthony (Tony) Bourdain into his highly successful food career. In his book Kitchen Confidential Tony describes vichyssoise as being the first food he ever really noticed and his first indication that food was something other than a substance one stuffed into one’s face when hungry. In the fourth grade young Tony was on a family vacation on board the Queen Mary bound for France when he ordered the soup. He says the crunch of the tiny chives and the pleasurable shock that the soup was cold to this day makes the word vichyssoise still have a magical ring to him. Now if only Tony would take on a campaign of instructing us how to correctly pronounce this rich, luscious soup of his childhood. It’s veeshee-swahze, not veshy-swah.

In this chowder, I’ve chosen to blend it and serve very cold, turning it into New England’s version of vichyssoise with clams. Packed in a thermos, it’s perfect for a summertime lunch at the beach or an elegant first course for a warm evening’s dinner party on the porch. Just don’t omit the sherry. It gives it that bit of French je n’est sais quoi that makes pronouncing veeshee-swahze all the more easier.


New England Clam Chowder à la Vichyssoise
Adapted from The Beach House Cookbook – serves 6

2 slices bacon
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 cup water
1 cup bottled clam juice
1 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme or ½ teaspoon dried
3 medium Idaho potatoes, peeled and diced
Dash of hot sauce, such as Tabasco
1 (10oz) can whole baby clams
1 (6.5oz) can chopped or minced clams
1 cup whole milk
1 cup half-and-half
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons dry sherry
½ cup snipped chives for garnish

Fry the bacon in a large soup pot until cooked, but not crispy. Drain bacon, chop and reserve. Discard all but a tablespoon of the bacon fat. Add the butter to the bacon fat and melt over low heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes.

Add 1 cup of water, the clam juice, wine, thyme, and potatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 20 to 25 minutes. Puree the soup in batches in either a blender or food processor. Return to the pot and add the canned clams and their juices, the hot sauce, and the chopped bacon and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in milk, half-and-half, and salt and pepper to taste. Raise the heat to medium and, when the soup is just barely boiling, stir in the sherry. Chill thoroughly in the refrigerator and serve very cold, garnished with the chives.

Cook’s note: Always taste anything served cold for seasonings. Cold dishes often require a bit more salt than hot ones. Feel free to blend the soup after the addition of the clams rather than before, which would make it creamier than my version.



41 comments:

  1. I don't know which I want more, the soup, or the bowls!!!! I especially like your creativity with the chives! I just throw mine on willy-nilly.

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  2. That is what I call original; looks terrific and must be perfect for a hot. Don't know about my husband though; his soup has to be boiling hot and won't eat vichissoise.
    Rita

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  3. Thanks for the story behind the soup and Anthony's revelation. It is time for cold soups and this is a great idea. Beautiful presentation too!

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  4. Two years ago I went on a clam chowder tasting with my son and, then, future DIL. They wanted to serve it as an appetizer at their Providence wedding. Some were very good and some not so good. The best was at the Brown University Faculty Club. Good thing since that's where their reception was held! Everyone agreed that it was one of the best clam chowders they'd had. Did you know there is even a Rhode Island clam chowder? Clear broth and pretty good but we didn't choose it.

    I'm going to try your recipe as we like cold soups and the weather is just right.

    Best,
    Bonnie

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  5. That's a great idea. And I love all the history behind the soup.

    BUT

    Really well done on the soup photography! I can never get that depth and character that you got for this one.

    A perfect post

    Dave

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  6. Sam, this looks very elegant for a hot summer day. It is very interesting the chemistry of cooking, and how cold, and hot can make a difference in terms of flavor. Had no idea of the origin of vichyssoise, so thanks for the touch of history!

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  7. First of all your presentation is so pretty and secondly, that chowder looks divine! Love Love Love it! The flavors just pop in your mouth. I can tell just by looking at your ingredients!

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  8. Looks delicious Sam especially in your gorgeous glass bowl - now if it's good enough for Anthony Boudain it's good enough for me!
    Thanks for the insight into the origins of this dish - I would have thought French but alas non!
    Have a wonderful week and keep safe.xx

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  9. What an innovative idea Sam. Ths sounds like a soup I would really get my teeth into.

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  10. I love this idea, Sam! And your presentation is gorgeous. What beautiful bowls and just the perfect garnish on top of your soup. Not that a thermos full of it wouldn't be wonderful for a picnic.

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  11. I've never had or made vichyssoise and what a clever idea to turn clam chowder into a cold soup. Beautiful photo! I tried photographing a soup in clear dishes last winter and coulnd't figure out how to make it look right. Your background is perfect.

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  12. I love vichyssoise, but not clam chowder...I wonder if this would make me change my mind. It sounds wonderful!

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  13. This sounds wonderful and I just love your dishes. Diane

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  14. That looks really delicious, Sam. Wish you had a scratch-and-sniff website! :-)

    This recipe is a keeper. I don't think we have clams on Abaco, but with Maxwells here now, almost anything is possible!

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  15. Yummy! We just got back from a long weekend in Boston & enjoyed some wonderful chowder. Can't wait to try this recipe.

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  16. Interesting. I love clam chowder, but I admit I've never thought of having it served cold.

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  17. Chowder is something I absolutely have to make next winter. Yours looks delightful!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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  18. "But have you ever considered serving it cold?" No but after reading this I certainly will - I love vichyssoise.

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  19. I think my husband would love this..such an interesting post..Thank you.

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  20. Looks great and really delicious!!! Have a good evening!!!

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  21. Great idea ... and stunning presentations/photos! Good work Sam!

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  22. I make vichysoisse every August without fail when the leeks are in. I'm with Anthony Bourdain on the crunch of the chives! I have always preferred the tomato based clam chowder over New England's - but - now that you have it cold - I am enchanted. And the photos are mouth-watering.

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  23. What a great post and your pictures are wonderful. Have a fun weekend.

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  24. What a good idea! We are very fond of cold potato soup (which is what I make when I don't have leeks) and a cold clam chowder sounds wonderful.

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  25. I enjoyed reading the background history of Vichyssoise! This sounds like a wonderful idea for clam chowder too. I'm going to add this to my list of ideas for next summer's gourmet menu!

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  26. Very interesting idea to serve clam chowder as a cold soup. I'm imagining how great it would taste.

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  27. adore your blog Sam pure genius and you cook with such style

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  28. I never dreamed of chowder served chilled, but I certainly think this would be delicious! Chilled, it can travel~I love that idea! Thank you so much for sharing!

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  29. What an interesting twist on a classic soup-serve it cold! Why not, it's a great idea!

    Have I mentioned that the presentation of your clam chowder is beautiful? Stunning.

    Velva

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  30. I don't have a recipe for New England clam chowder ;-) Yours looks mouthwatering!

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  31. Sam a very innovative and creative dish....looks divine!!

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  32. We love soups and the flavors are so divine!

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  33. Gorgeous presentation, Sam. This also sounds very refreshing.

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  34. Sam,
    The New England Clam Chowder looks so good. I love your dishes, too. What a joy to visit your blog. You always post delicious dishes.

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  35. Actually, I do not have a chowder recipe:)

    I need to try out more cold soups in the summer, they are the perfect way to cool things down. It just still seems weird to me to have "cold soup".

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  36. I love chilled soups in the summer and have just about overdosed on gazpacho - hah! I will add this one to my hot-weather menu... merci!

    Bises,
    Genie

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  37. I admit in all my years of making clam chowder I have never thought to serve it cold. I'm so curious about this and will definitely try this presentation when I make it next. Your pretty bowl and chive garnish make a lovely picture, Sam.

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  38. It sounds wonderful and I have all the canned clams in my pantry. You are so clever...why hasn't some famous New England chef thought of this. My hats off to you!

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  39. Oh, I'd really love to give this Clam Chowder a try; with all its wonderful components, it has to be as delicious as it looks! Thank you!

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  40. Beautiful presentation! I will try this next week. Yum!

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  41. What a delish soup that I can no longer enjoy due to my shellfish allergy since 1983. I can, though, savor the memories of this soup, although not your recipe. Thanks for sharing on Fresh Food Friday last week; a great contribution! Love the dishes; I have something very similar from Walmart, of all places!

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I enjoy reading each and every comment. I appreciate your taking the time to visit my blog and I hope you'll return again soon.
Sam