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The Latvian Soup Spoon Stirs Again: Portuguese Clam Chowder

June 13, 2010

My mom and sister have traveled to Iowa from their opposite corners of the country, and we’re spending a week together in the Heartland.  They arrived amidst clamorous Midwest thunderstorms, so soup and freshly baked bread seemed a natural choice for dinner.  My mom is originally from Madeira, Portugal, and we are all big fans of Portuguese style soups (the result of years of delicious culinary indoctrination by my Avó).  On our way home from the airport, we stopped at Gateway Market in Des Moines, where we picked up Portuguese style chouriço (similar to Spanish chorizo).  The first time I found chouriço in Des Moines, I nearly teared up with joy — it is even the same brand (Amaral’s, made in New Bedford, MA) that I was raised on in New England.

Inspired by the favorite Portuguese combination of sausage and shellfish (especially bivalves), I put together this spicy, hearty soup.  If I were in New England, I would use fresh clams, but out here I have to settle for canned.

Portuguese Clam Chowder

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 Vidalia onion, chopped

3 carrots, chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

2 large cloves garlic, minced

1/2 lb. chouriço, sliced into half-rounds

4 small Yukon Gold potatoes, chopped

1 (15 oz.) can diced tomatoes

1 cup bottled clam juice

1 bay leaf

1/2 bunch Lacinato kale, chopped or torn into pieces

2 cans chopped clams

salt, pepper, and fresh chopped herbs to taste
(I used thyme and sage)

In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat until shimmery.  Add the “Holy Trinity” (onions, carrots, and celery) and cook until the onion softens and starts to become translucent.

Stir in the minced garlic and chouriço and cook for about 2 minutes.  Add the potatoes and stir to combine.  Pour in the diced tomatoes with their juice, the bottled clam juice, and just the juice from the 2 cans of chopped clams, reserving the clams themselves to add later.  (If you add them now, they will get tough and chewy.) Add the bay leaf and bring the soup to a simmer.

Stir in the kale and keep at a low simmer, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork.  Add the reserved chopped clams, chopped herbs, and salt and pepper to taste.  When the clams are heated through, ladle the soup into bowls and serve with thick slices of bread.  Mmm.  This soup keeps well in the fridge, and tastes even better the next day!

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