Calamity Chowder

It’s been a rough week… perhaps that is an overstatement, but several random calamities have kept me from my usual posts.

The chaos started with an event that was a long time coming… the loss of my final baby tooth. You’d think that after 30 some-odd years, it would be ready to go. And in fact, it was… starting to get a little jiggly and a bit painful when chewing. So, at my last cleaning, my dentist stopped in and said, “So, do you think it’s time?” and I agreed and set the date of last Wednesday to have it removed.

Removing a baby tooth isn’t nearly as traumatic as removing permanent teeth like wisdoms, but it’s not exactly a day at the beach. Even though dentist Chandler in AZ is a sage with steady hands… There are needles and pliers involved, a big gap results and they don’t give you particularly good drugs for the after-effects. So, that afternoon, hoped up on Advil as the numbness wore off, I didn’t get to all of the photos and blogging that I had planned and I didn’t go near the kitchen. Instead I just sat on the couch and vegged, figuring that I had the rest of the week to get caught up.

Thursday, the storm hit in Seattle, and that continued to derail my activities. While I got through a bit of work, I also spent over 2 hours stuck in traffic in the midst of one of the craziest storms I’ve been in. Streets in downtown Seattle and Capital Hill were basically rivers, with water coming up to the wheel wells on the car (thankfully, our Jetta handled it all quite well). Power, of course, went out that night and although the power returned in the morning, our Internet did not. An afternoon looking for local cafes that both had an inch of space available and working wireless, gave me about an hour of online time before Cam and I decided to take advantage of one of the more positive outcomes of the storm… 58cm of fresh snow up in Whistler.

We piled in the car at 5:30 on Friday night, thinking that even if the snow was heavy, at least there would be Internet. Much to our surprise when we arrived, and tried to log in, we still couldn’t get online. A fiber was cut somewhere between Whistler and Vancouver, and Internet was out for the whole town… with expected downtime of between four and ten days. No blogging, no email, no nothing. As Cam likes to call it, we had to go “pioneer style.” (For those curious, the snow was legendary…)

Now, back home, with net access restored, things are quickly coming back to normal. I’m starting to be able to eat again, and my temporary tooth… more like a retainer than a tooth… is starting to settle in (this will get replaced sometime in January with a tooth implant… oh boy, more oral surgery!). After all the mayhem, I’m in the mood for comfort food. In particular, soft comfort food. Like soup. Like a warm, creamy bowl of calming clam chowder to ease the stress from all the calamities (try saying that 10 times fast).

Calamity Clam Chowder
(adapted from “Williams-Sonoma Collection: Soup & Stew p 66)

1 lb littleneck clams
1 cup smoked salmon (not lox!), crumbled into small chunks
2 T unsalted butter
2 leeks, cleaned and sliced
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 large sunchokes (Jerusalem artichokes), chopped (or substitute 1 1/2 cup chopped new potatoes)
1 red bell pepper, seeded and julienned
4 cups fish stock (or substitute 3 cups vegetable stock + 1 cup clam juice)
1 cup dry white wine
pinch of saffron
1 cup heavy cream
1 bay leaf
1 t rosemary
salt and pepper to taste

Fill a bowl with cold water, and set the clams in to rinse. Leave for at least 30 minutes.

Heat a frying pan on medium, and add the butter. When melted, add the leeks and onions. Reduce heat slightly, and allow the leeks and onions to soften. When they become slightly translucent, raise the heat to medium, add the sunchokes and cook for 5 minutes. Then, add the red pepper and saute for about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a large soup pot, bring the stock, wine and clams to a boil and reduce slightly, about 10 minutes. Add the cream and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the smoked salmon, saffron, bay leaf and rosemary and simmer for another 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Discard any clams that haven’t opened. Stir in the vegetables and simmer for a few minutes more.

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