For over two decades, I’ve made clam chowder for Christmas Eve. This year, I am going to be with my daughter, Melanie , and her family in Oklahoma, for Christmas. So before I leave, I am doing the clam chowder (and broccoli cheese too) tonight for my kids who live close by.
Today as I was preparing the vegetables, my mind drifted to memories of Kelly and I chopping the vegetables, working together to make the soup. He was always so precise, cutting the potatoes into uniform small pieces. And me, if I was the one cutting the potatoes, then ended up in haphazard chunks. But they were still good to eat. I make the chowder with butter and cream most years, a rich wonderful blend. In leaner years, I used butter and half-n-half or milk, along with the potatoes, celery, onions, and of course the clams, and it was still good. Some years I made cornbread to go with it and got the cute little oyster crackers, other years it was saltines and toast, or fancy crackers and dinner rolls. And of course my Christmas dishes, which I earned through selling Tupperware. Boy were they a fancy touch for our table. Add eggnog in fancy glasses, and it was Christmas.
But always the soup, clam chowder, the recipe and the tradition handed down from Kelly’s parents. I remember many Christmas Eves spent at their home, Farrell and Nanette in the kitchen, chopping the vegetables and making the chowder for Christmas. Farrell chopping precisely, and Nanette making sure everything else was ready.
In the years since Kelly died, making it year keeps me close to the promise of forever. Until then, I will continue to make it for my children and grandchildren, a legacy from their father’s family of warmth and laughter, and good food. Soup, a humble dish, fills hunger and sustains life — much like our Savior, who was born in humble circumstances, fills our lives and sustains us, if we will but let him in.
Christmas Clam Chowder
(My take on Nanette’s original recipe.)
6 – 8 potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 onion chopped
3 – 4 stalks (ribs) of celery diced
1 carrot peeled, grated
1 can minced clams (or use fresh if you prefer & can get them)
1 can chopped clams
1 1/2 cube butter
1 quart half-n-half
salt and pepper
Melt 1/2 cube of butter in saute pan; Saute onions and celery in butter just until tender. Set aside. In large pot boil potatoes just until tender. When potatoes are nearly done, start white soup base. In heavy bottomed soup pot make a melt 1 cube of butter over medium heat until it is completely melted, stirring constantly with a whisk. Add about 1/2 cup flour, whisking quickly to prevent lumps from forming. As the flour/butter mixture thickens slowly add half-n-half starting with about 1/4 cup, whisking after each addition, letting the sauce thicken each time, continue adding and stirring until sauce is thick and bubbly. Reduce heat. Add potatoes, onions, celery, and drained clams. Stir in shredded carrots. Add salt and pepper to taste. If sauce is too thin, mix a tablespoon of flour into a half a cup of milk, stir with a fork or small whisk and add to simmering soup to thicken.
Serve with crackers, cornbread, toast, or rolls.