Creamy Clam and White Bean Chowder
- ACTIVE: 1 HR
- TOTAL TIME: 1 HR 50 MIN plus 2 hr soaking
- SERVINGS: 8
White beans substitute for the usual potatoes in this chowder, made with sweet butternut squash, briny littleneck clams and smoky bacon. Rancho Gordo cellini beans give the soup a buttery richness, but Great Northern beans are terrific as well.
- 1 1/4 cups dried cellini or Great Northern beans, rinsed and picked over, then soaked for 2 hours
- Kosher salt
- 1 1/4 pounds butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice (2 cups)
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- Freshly ground pepper
- 3 dozen littleneck clams, scrubbed
- 6 thick slices of bacon (4 ounces), cut crosswise into 1/4-inch strips
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 medium onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice
- 3 large celery ribs, cut into 1/2-inch dice
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 4 large garlic cloves, minced
- 1 1/3 cups dry white wine
- 1 cup heavy cream
- Garlic Bread, for serving
- In a saucepan, cover the beans with 2 inches of water and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 1 1/2 hours; add water as needed to keep the beans covered by 2 inches. Season the beans with salt and let stand for 5 minutes. Drain the beans, reserving 1 1/2 cups of the cooking liquid.
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375°. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss the squash with the oil; season with salt and pepper. Bake for 20 minutes, until browned.
- Set a colander over a bowl. In a skillet, cook the clams and 2 tablespoons of water over moderately high heat, covered, shaking the skillet a few times, until the clams open, 5 minutes. Transfer the opened clams to the colander; discard any that do not open. Remove the clams from their shells. Strain and reserve 1 cup of the clam broth.
- In a saucepan, brown the bacon over moderately low heat, about 4 minutes. Stir in the butter. Add the onion, celery and crushed red pepper, cover and cook, stirring, until softened, 8 minutes. Add the garlic, cover and cook until fragrant, 4 minutes. Add the wine and boil until reduced by two-thirds, 6 minutes. Pour in the reserved clam broth, the reserved bean cooking liquid and the cream; simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in the beans, squash and clams; simmer just until heated through. Serve the chowder in bowls with the Garlic Bread alongside.
This bacony chowder needs a full-bodied white winein other words, buttery, oak-inflected California Chardonnay. Good Chardonnay producers farm vineyards to keep the grapes' acidity high, which prevents robust whites from becoming cloying.
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Congratulations to Mei Lin, winner of Top Chef Season 12.