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Cooking Clam Chowder for Two: Not Easy to Do

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

I love cooking for the masses. My husband and I host a Palm Sunday brunch in our little apartment for 20 to 25 people every year, and I've got it down to a science. How many pounds of salmon per person, how many minutes in the oven per pound, how many side dishes, how many heads of lettuce for a salad.

It's cooking for the two of us that is still a challenge.

I was reminded of this when I made Sean Heller's New England Clam Chowder, which is in the new issue of Lucky Peach.

The recipe says it makes about 2 quarts of chowder. It calls for, among other ingredients, 4 pounds of littleneck clams, 2 cups of bacon lardons, 2 cups each of diced celery, onion and leeks.

I didn't want to make 2 quarts of chowder. I had a pound of clams, and decided to scale back the remaining ingredients accordingly. Easy math. Two cups of lardons became 1/4 cup, 4 Yukon gold potatoes became one.

And instead of 2 cups of heavy cream, I needed only 1/2 cup, right?

The cream was to go in a pot with the potato and heated slowly to a simmer, until the potato was tender.

That measly little half cup didn't seem like it was going to do the trick on my big, fat potato. I figured some of the cream would evaporate in the 20 minutes it would take to cook the potato, so I kept bringing on the cream. I ended up using 2 cups of cream, the amount originally required.

And even that wasn't enough. My chowder was more "clams with cream sauce" than "clams in cream soup."

No problem, it was still delicious. But am I the only one who struggles to make a recipe's yield smaller, rather than larger?

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