None of our cooking students had tasted Clam Chowder before. But they had all eaten cornbread and were quite excited to make it adding cheddar cheese.
There was so much chopping to do that every pair of hands was needed, and all the young chefs were quickly busy at the prep counter, like sous chefs on the line. Nathan Delva bravely handled the onions, wiping away a tear or two, but not giving up. Ny’Asia Damon took great pride in her perfectly diced potatoes. “Dicing means small pieces,” Nathan pointed out. Kyle Hunter took his knife to the celery and did quite a fine job mincing. Ariannie Morales adeptly peeled and chopped all six carrots called for in the recipe, plus another for good luck.
Once all the veggies were chopped, Nathan got them sautéing on the stove.
Meanwhile, we had to get the cornbread started. That was mostly measuring and mixing, but Kyle enjoyed grating the cheese, and Ariennie demonstrated her skill at cracking eggs (and getting the errant shell out of the batter.)
We melted butter in a cast iron skilled and poured the cornbread batter into it and popped it in the oven to bake.
As the vegetables for the soup were simmering on the stove, we had to get the cans of clams opened and the juice drained to add to the soup, along with a bottle of clam juice. We also had to melt the butter and get the roux started, a mixture of butter and flour which would thicken the soup and give it its creamy texture. I think that was Ny’Asia’s favorite thing ever. “Wow, this is just so much fun!” she said. “I guess because I never get to do this!”
Ny’Asia slowly added the flour to the melted butter while Nathan whisked the mixture, careful not to let it form lumps. When it started to get too thick, we had to add hot broth from the soup. Ny’Asia couldn’t resist tasting the roux after we had added all we need to the soup. She pronounced it “as good as mashed potatoes!”
Finally we added the clams and the milk to the soup and heated it through. And by then, the cornbread was ready to come out of the oven and it was time to eat! At the first bite, the smiles and shining eyes told us this meal was a big success. Both the soup and the cornbread were just devoured.
Nathan, Ny’Asia, and Ariannie all gave it two thumbs up. Even Kyle, who doesn’t eat fish, said it was “okay.”
“This tastes like chicken pot pie!” said Ariannie. “I think this is my favorite meal so far. But,” she added, “I thought there was going to be clams in it.”
“There are, but they are minced,” I told her. “You might taste some little pieces that are a little bit chewy.”
At that point, Kyle groaned: “If you didn’t tell me, I probably would have eaten them,” he said. He lapped up the broth and vegetables and left the clams at the bottom of the bowl.