Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Clam chowder 2.0

Clam chowder, round 2: Remember sometime back when the husband took over the kitchen to make clam chowder and I played sous chef? The recipe, courtesy of Esquire, was good, but not great. At the time, I talked about tweaking it to get it just right. Well, eight months later, no tweaking has occurred, but I did discover a better recipe.

I actually made this sometime in January, just never got around to posting it. This one is courtesy of Tyler Florence and is very, very good, the only complaint I have being that it is ever so slightly on the thick side. Don't get me wrong--I like creamy chowder. But this was maybe a little too.

Also, it made a lot. Too much for two people. We ate it for dinner, we ate it for lunch. And lunch again. And then (my dad will roll over in his grave) I had to throw some out (well, compost. That's better, right?). Clams just don't need to stick around for days on end, and after awhile, we were chowdered out.

Still, this is a keeper, a vast improvement on the Esquire attempt (not a huge surprise that Tyler Florence would come up with a better recipe than the one from the magazine with Mila Kunis wearing a pair of undies on the cover--recipe testing might not be their focus, and home cooks may not be their target audience). With a hunk of sourdough bread, you'd be hard-pressed to find a cozier dinner during these damp, winter months.


Secret geek: Most of my friends (and probably my family) don't know this, but I'm basically addicted to crossword puzzles. Specifically, I do them at night before going to sleep.  

I first got hooked on the New York Times crossword about 12 years ago, when I met the husband. He had already been doing them for years and was quite good.  Rapidly, I began to like doing them as well. It fed my slightly obsessive side, yet also my short attention span. Crosswords are small, and you can do them for a little while, go away, and come back to them (which, incidentally, is the best tip for frustrated puzzlers--put it down and come back later and I guarantee you'll find answers you couldn't before.)

For anyone not familiar with the Times puzzle, they start out easy on Mondays and get progressively harder throughout the week. Saturday is the hardest day. Sundays they run larger puzzles that are about the difficulty of a Thursday. 

The puzzles tend to have clues that are a little less about knowing facts and more about interpretation, especially as the week goes on.  On Mondays, you get things as easy as "Politico Palin." By Wednesday, you're starting to see clues like "Some museum pieces." By Friday, the clues seem downright obscure. If you do the crossword often enough, though, you start to see recurring clues. For example, "Eagle's nest" (aerie) and "Actress Hatcher" (Teri) are strangely popular ones that I now think of as freebies.

I can usually get through Wednesdays and sometimes finish a Thursday, but that's where I drop off. Meanwhile, the husband can nearly always finish Friday and often Saturday. And while I might take a few days to work on a puzzle (at night, you see), he frequently does them all at once. I've seen him complete both Saturdays and Sundays in single sittings.

For some reason, the fact that my crossword growth is stunted in this regard does not bother me. I just accept it, the way I accept that I will never grow taller than 5'7" and will never have anything other than stick-straight hair. I just keep doing them anyway, like a dumb little robot.

As to why I do them before going to sleep, a number of years ago when I had a short bout with insomnia, I started doing puzzles at night, just for something to do. Now, though thankfully I generally sleep quite well, I still like the habit of working a little bit on a crossword before turning out the light. It both requires focus and yet demands that you clear your mind of your real life--work, errands, what's on your to-do list for the next day. It kind of asks your mind to become a blank slate, which, (un)fortunately for me, is pretty easy to accomplish.

I have read over the years that doing crosswords is good for your brain and might even stave off Alzheimer's. This may or may not be true, but I'd personally like to do anything that might decrease my chances of dementia. I mean, wouldn't you?


  1. That chowdah looks tempting - thanks for the research. I'm a Scrabble fan, myself, and love playing on my iPad, as the computer plays his turn immediately and I can take as long as I want. :-)

  2. I love good chowder. Does it really need to have the clams with the shell? Or is that more aesthetics? I love how you subconsciously (or intentionally?) wrote "With a hunk of sourdough bread..." Admit it, you had Tyler Florence on your mind! ;-) .... I've never been a crossword person, because I'm the one that gets frustrated. But I'll take your tip to put it down and come back later. Maybe that'll get me into it.

  3. zoom: Never got very good at Scrabble myself...perhaps I should revisit!

    Ben: The shells are just for aesthetics. They did make it much prettier (otherwise it would be quite pale) but they were sort of a hassle to eat. Nice catch on the hunk! ;)

  4. I love the NYT crossword puzzles, too; don't like most others. I'm proud to say I kick Saturday's ass nearly every week. Your description of the increasingly cryptic clues was very good.
    Chowder looks great!

  5. i'm a crossword puzzle junkie! i know a lot more latin and musical phrases than i used to, and i've picked up a lot of useless and archaic terms along the way. :)

  6. Cookie: look at the big brain on you! Saturdays just seem impossible to me. Thanks about the chowder!

    grace: Another junkie, yeah!

  7. I LOOOOOVE crosswords though I haven't done them as much lately. NYTimes was my fav, esp. Thursday if it had tricky configurations or symbols. I could sometimes complete Friday but would allow myself to cheat with Internet in order to do Saturday. Therefore I'm very impressed with Danny's crossword prowess. They are educational too as I (a non-sports fan) now know who coach ARA Parseghian, baseballer MEL OTT and Golfer Ernie ELS are (at least by name if not by rep).

  8. Oops! The above Anon comment was from Pete

  9. Anything Tyler Florence makes has to be good. I wish I saw his show more often...he is such an enthusiastic chef!
    I used to do crosswords...not so much anymore. Guess I better start doing them again, before I forget how. :) Had no idea how the NYTimes crosswords were set up. Enlightening post!

  10. No doubt this clam chowder is high above Esquire magazine.

    I can't say that I have ever gotten into doing crosswords, but I have a friend who always gives me the food section of the newspaper each week, the crossword puzzles are always completed. She loves them. At night I find myself playing with Words with friends-that's addictive too.


  11. Pete: How did I not know you were a crossword fan too? I agree--I have learned a great deal about sports and other subjects I am otherwise uninterested in/ignorant about through doing the crossword.

    Barbara: I never seem to catch his show either. I have met him in person though!

    Velva: Words with Friends must be downright addictive...I feel like everyone but me plays it!

  12. The chowder looks so velvety! I love seafood but I've never had chowder, can you believe that? I am also not a crossword puzzle fan, I tend to over-read the clues, then give up in frustration :) But you know what I read the other day that gave me hope? Apparently, baking cupcakes is just as good to help stave off dementia. Who knew?