Photo and text by KARA DiCAMILLO/ecoRI News contributor
We are lucky here in Rhode Island that we have so many farmers’ markets that happen each weekend around the state. Even better is that we have access to many of them in the winter as well.
Last weekend, I found the Coastal Growers Market through Farm Fresh Rhode Island. It takes place Saturdays in the Lafayette Mill in North Kingstown from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. throughout the winter. This was my first time at the Coastal Growers Market, and I was excited to see so many vendors and so many people supporting them. It was a very friendly atmosphere and, though I wasn’t sure what I was going to cook, it ended up being the perfect inspiration for this week’s recipe thanks to the (surprisingly) many choices.
I couldn’t pass up the shellfish from Matunuck Oyster Farm. Looking around as to what else could possibly go with the littlenecks I had just bought, a clam chowder came to mind after seeing that I could get some of the ingredients right there. I bought my onions from Zephyr Farm, my potatoes from Schartner Farms, and I had bacon in the refrigerator from my CSA with Simmons Organic Farm.
This clam chowder is easy and only takes about an hour to make. It’s the perfect meal, with some crusty bread, for a light dinner and you’ll have enough left over for lunch. You might find that the potatoes have absorbed some of the liquid the second time around, so you’ll need to add clam juice, which can be bought at your local seafood market.
Looking at the oysters from the Matunuck Oyster Farm stand made me have a serious craving, and aren’t they always better when someone shucks them for you? After the Coastal Growers Market, I headed directly to their restaurant in Matunuck to get my fill. Simply delicious.
Farmers' Market Clam Chowder
Serves 6-8 (depending on your appetite)
2 dozen littleneck clams
8 cups of water (2 cups for steaming the clams)
3 tablespoons of olive oil
3 medium-sized white potatoes
2 small onions
4 stalks of celery
4 strips of cooked bacon
1.5 tablespoons of fresh thyme
2 tablespoons of flat leaf parsley
1 teaspoon of freshly ground pepper
Place the littleneck clams in a steam basket and then place the basket in a stockpot with 2 cups of water. Cover and turn the heat to high. Steam the clams until they open, about 5 minutes. I like to remove them as each one opens, otherwise they get rubbery from waiting until the others open. Removing one by one, place them in a bowl until they are cool enough to touch. Pour steaming water into a bowl and set aside, because this is where the flavor comes from and will be the base of your soup.
Meanwhile, cube the potatoes, dice the onions, dice the white part of the leek and chop the celery. Coat the bottom of your stockpot with the olive oil and turn the heat to medium. Once the olive oil has heated, add the onions, leek and celery, and sauté, stirring constantly until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Return the reserved water to the stockpot and add the remaining 6 cups of water. Add the potatoes and simmer until they are soft, about 15 minutes.
While the potatoes are simmering, remove the clams from their shells and chop them along with the bacon. Once the potatoes are soft, add the thyme and parsley. Simmer for a few more minutes to let the flavors blend and finish the soup by adding your clams, bacon and pepper to taste.
Serve with fresh crusty bread from your favorite local bakery and enjoy the flavors.