Obviously, I’m easily distracted by recipes. When I start looking for inspiration around a general idea of a dish, I end up wanting to try every version of that dish I discover along the way. Sometimes it takes a couple of tries to get it right or to end up with what I thought I wanted in the first place. Most recently, this happened because of corn. Our last two deliveries from our CSA included corn, and since it is officially fall, I started thinking about corn soups and chowders. At first, I got carried off in the direction of a pureed corn and potato soup with roasted peppers and cotija cheese for garnish. It was a perfectly great soup, but as soon as I sat down to a bowl of it, I realized a chunky chowder was what I was really craving. So, when corn appeared in our box again with the next delivery, my recipe search was more focused. What got my attention this time wasn’t really a soup recipe at all but some cute, little cracker-like biscuits. I have a file full of those perforated recipe cards that always appear in Living magazine. In September 2002, the recipe cards included Grilled Striped Bass to be topped with a Corn and Clam Chowder Sauce and served with Oyster Biscuits. Those biscuits are thin, homemade recreations of the type of crackers usually paired with clam chowder. And, the chunky Corn and Clam Chowder Sauce from that recipe card could easily be made into a soup by adding some milk. I knew I was on the right path.
The biscuits come together easily, and you can make them in a food processor or by hand. Since it’s such a small amount of dough, I made it by hand and skipped having to wash the parts of the food processor. Flour, salt, baking powder, ground cumin, and ground coriander were combined in a bowl. I worked in two tablespoons of butter by hand until the mixture was crumbly. A half-cup of milk was added and stirred to form the dough. The dough was kneaded briefly on a floured surface and then rolled to a quarter-inch thickness. One and a half-inch biscuits were cut and placed on a baking sheet. I brushed the biscuit tops with water and sprinkled with salt and pepper before baking at 350 degrees F for about 20 minutes. As the biscuits cooled, I started on the chowder. First, the clams were steamed in white wine to which I added a big pinch of crushed red pepper flakes. When the clams opened, they were removed to a plate, the wine was strained into a cup and set aside, and the pan was rinsed and placed back on the stove. Next, butter was melted in the pan, and shallots and celery were cooked for a few minutes before chunks of potatoes were added with a bay leaf. The reserved wine was added along with a half-cup of water since I needed a little more liquid to form a soup rather than a sauce. I left the potatoes to cook for about ten minutes. Then, two cups of corn kernels were added along with one and a half cups of milk and one cup of cream. The soup was left to simmer until the corn was tender. The clams were returned to the pot to warm through before serving.
This time I got it right. The chunky potatoes and sweet kernels of corn with the clams were what I wanted all along. And, the little, barely puffed, cracker-like biscuits were perfect on the side. I guess I don’t mind meandering around various recipes as long as a craving is eventually satisfied.