I was excited to create this 2017 Holiday Food Experience Challenge to begin with, and I was even more excited to take this challenge myself by learning to steam clams. I am not one to ask others to do something that I am not willing to do. So I took this challenge head on!
Planning & Research
In our family, we love the variety and diversity of foods. This includes both within and among meals. Throughout the year, I try to make a variety of meals from different countries and cuisines. We have recently started having meals that are characteristic of each of the 50 United States.
One example is the night we made Manhattan clam chowder – straight from the great state of New York! I had never made Manhattan clam chowder, so I delved into some research and found a really great recipe from the New York Times.
In doing general research, Manhattan clam chowder is a little healthier than New England clam chowder. New England clam chowder is more of a cream and butter based chowder; whereas Manhattan clam chowder is a tomato and broth based chowder. Manhattan clam chowder also has a variety of different vegetables that give the chowder a lot of color, texture, and flavor (in a word: YUM).
The chowder was also very fun to make! I was excited as I bought fresh clams. Granted, clams are not the cheapest ingredients, but if you look around your local area, you can often get quality clams at a reasonable price.
DEAL ALERT: I did find out (albeit after the fact) that Costco sells Littleneck clams for less money than other specialty stores in our local area. I’ll have to remember that for next time. I was actually surprised that Costco even sold fresh clams. Perhaps they are just selling them for the holidays. In any event, that is good news overall.
This was my first time learning to steam clams. I followed the recipe. I removed the cover of the pot to see that the clams had opened up. All of them opened, which is great (sometimes you get one or two bad clams in the bunch). They had all opened up very wide. I didn’t think much of it at the time. However, during dinner my husband noticed that the clams were kind of chewy.
They were not inedible, but we were just expecting soft and juicy clams. I thought perhaps that was just the nature of the clam. In doing some research after dinner, however, I learned that I overcooked them. When the clams open wide, they are overcooked and become chewy. When you steam the clams until they just start to open, they are tender and juicy. Next time I will keep a diligent watch over the clams to ensure they cook just right.
The chowder itself tasted wonderful! When steaming fresh clams, you actually create your own clam juice. This saves you time and money in having to buy bottled clam juice for the recipe.
After the clams are done, you run the liquid through a sieve lined with cheesecloth several times until there is no more sand left in the liquid. Then you have beautiful, tasty clam juice that is full of flavor! You then add the juice to the chowder. The chowder had a lovely array of vegetables, along with some fresh parsley on top as a garnish. You end up with a lovely vegetable seafood flavor.
The chowder was delicious! The experience of steaming the clams and making the chowder was interesting. The table experience could have been better had I cooked the clams properly.
Here are some observations within each of the six principles of positive food experiences:
I researched the clams. Using fresh vegetables helped immensely.
My husband and I openly shared ideas for perfecting this recipe. My husband noticed the chewiness of the clams. He encouraged me to do some research to refine the process. Overall, he enjoyed the chowder; it was just that one part with the clams that he suggested we perfect.
The environment was pretty standard this time.
Learning to steam the clams was a great adventure! The rest of the chowder is pretty basic and traditional soup-style. You sauté up the vegetables. You add the liquid, and let it simmer.
Interaction was undoubtedly the most prominent principle. Steaming the clams, creating the clam juice, and preparing mounts of delicious veggies really put me in tune with this chowder.
I’m going to practice more with clams so that I can perfect the steaming process and have tender, juicy clams for any dish.
So there you have it! The results of my food experience challenge! How is your food experience challenge coming along???
FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Take the #2017HolidayFoodExperienceChallenge! Let us know how it goes in the comments below or on social media!