It seems that clams are in season right now. On Japanese television, clams feature in every cooking show right next to fresh bamboo shoots (I want to get one shoot to experiment, but they're so expensive!). Fresh spring potatoes and fresh onions are also appearing in super markets, but the weather is wet and uncomfortable for someone who loves to take her bike everywhere like me. So, I decided on clam chowder yesterday.
It was my first time cooking clams, so I had to look up the basics of handling them. Apparently, clams are fresh if they are tightly closed. About half of mine were open when I took them out of the refrigerator the same day I bought them, but when I tapped their shells, they closed again, indicating they were alive and fresh. To get the sand out of the shells, you're supposed to soak the clams in salt water, but clams from the supermarket are usually already clean.
When finished, the soup was lightly creamy and infused with clam juice (since I'd cooked the clams whole with the rest of the soup) and the flavors of roasted onions and butter. The clams were not chewy, the potatoes smooth in texture and the onion gentle in flavor. It was perfect for a rainy, unfavorable evening watching the fifth season of Sex and the City.
Clam Chowder (クラムチャウダー)
(adapted from the Japanese Staub cookbook, Staub de Jinwari Hokkori Shiawasena Reshipe by Shigenobu Hatsue)
First, I chopped up 1 onion and 2 fresh potatoes (left unpeeled but scrubed thoroughly) into rough chunks. The onions entered la cocotte over low heat along with 1 tablespoon butter, and I stirred the onion chunks constantly until they were lightly browned around the edges and verging on translucent (about 5 minutes).
Then into la cocotte went the potatoes and 9 oz. clams for a minute, followed by 1 cup water, sea salt, and freshly ground pepper. I brought the water to boiling, turned the heat to low, and let it cook for another 5 to 6 minutes while I made a fresh salad with balsamic vinaigrette.
During this cooking time, the clams began to pop open, indicating they were done.
Finally, I added 1 cup milk to the pot and let the soup come back to a gentle boil. With the color from the browned onion and the clam juice, the soup was irresistible and lived up to its appearance when devoured shortly thereafter.