Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day Tutorial: Cooking Up A Plan To Hook A Husband; French Food? Whatever It Takes To Get The Job Done

When we were in our very early twenties, my sister and I had a great idea on how to hook a husband. We weren't desperate to get married but somehow the old chiche "the way to a man's heart is through his stomach' got hold of us and we began cooking with a vengeance. Coq au vin, strawberry tart, quiche and crepes Suzette were our specialities...very doubt inspired by Audrey Hepburn in the movie 'Sabrina'. We tried out our French fare on my boyfriend (now husband of 30+ years) and a succession of my sister's boyfriends (she being more popular than me) culminating with her husband (also of 30+ years). So I suppose you could say we were successful! Seriously, what male college student wouldn't jump at the chance of a home-cooked meal, experimental though they were, prepared by two ambitious sisters on a mission. Of course they didn't know what the mission was but ....details....details......

Audrey Hepburn at a Paris cooking school
in the movie 'Sabrina'.
Once we walked down the aisle, the cooking didn't stop through there were quite a few uninspired food years when we were busy raising our families. But we did marry men who loved to eat and that brings me to my post today. I really couldn't say what my husband's favorite food item is but something he's ordered consistently over the years is New England Clam Chowder. We've enjoyed it in the best (and sometimes worst) of places including the source, having sipped the swarthy soup at Boston's Faneuil Hall Marketplace where preparing it truly comes from the heart. I don't believe I've ever made it from scratch so today, Valentine's Day, I decided to prepare the soup for dinner.

The recipe I'm following is pretty basic, no need to mess with a classic, and I'll serve it tonight with oyster crackers and pumpernickel bread.

Classic New England Clam Chowder

Makes 8 servings
4 slices bacon, diced
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1 1/2 cups water
4 cups peeled and cubed potatoes
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
ground black pepper to taste
3 cups half-and-half
3 tablespoons butter
2 (10 ounce) cans minced clams

  • Place diced bacon in large stock pot over medium-high heat.
  • Cook until almost crisp; add onions, and cook 5 minutes.
  • Stir in water and potatoes, and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, and cook uncovered for 15 minutes, or until potatoes are fork tender.
  • Pour in half-and-half, and add butter.
  • Drain clams, reserving clam liquid; stir clams and 1/2 of the clam liquid into the soup.
  • Cook for about 5 minutes, or until heated through. Do not allow it to come to a boil.

I should not, in all fairness, implicate my other two sisters in our culinary chicanery. Actually they were too young back then but they eventually married and today are talented and inventive cooks. Food preparation might be in our genes: our great-aunts were cooks and domestics when they arrived on these shores from Ireland many years ago. My mother was great in the kitchen as well though truthfully most of our soups came from a can. I'd be remiss not to mention that there is a brother in our family and as far as I know he's not much of a cook. He did however marry well: my sister-in-law makes a mean sweet-potato casserole.

But it all ended well and our many years together as couples gives legitimacy to our original plan. I love it when a plan comes together.

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