23 December 2008

Finishing the chowder

No, not eating it all, but cooking it. I started with a recipe for corn chowder that Loulou posted on her blog a couple of week ago. I recommend it. But I wanted to add some clams to it.

Amandes de mer — "dog cockles" in English.

At the supermarket I'd been looking at little clams called amandes de mer — "sea almonds." They are inexpensive at 2.00€ a kilogram. Other clams like palourdes or praires cost five to six times as much. For chowder, I thought the amandes would be fine.

I looked up amande de mer on the French Wikipedia site, where I read that it is a coquillage comestible — an edible shellfish — that lives in the northwest Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea.

Put clams for chowder in the microwave for 2 minutes on high.
They pop right open and you can pull off the top shell.

I got the scientific name, Glycymeris glycymeris, from the French site and searched for that on the English Wikipedia site. Imagine my surprise when I read there:
The dog cockle or European bittersweet, Glycymeris glycymeris, is a species of marine clam, a coastal bivalve mollusc of European waters. It is not closely related to the common cockle. This bivalve is considered not suitable to eat by humans, because the flesh is tough after cooking, hence the common name "dog cockle", which implies that it is not valued by humans, and might only be suitable as food for dogs and similar animals.
The amande is "considered not suitable to eat by humans"! Ha! Tell that to Walt, who had a plate full of them as his appetizer in a restaurant in Dieppe, up on the English Channel, a couple of years ago. He said he remembered them as being delicious.

Clams are always tough anyway, compared to scallops or oysters. For chowder, you chop the clams finely with a knife. You can even run them through a meat grinder. You could also use cockles — des coques — I'm sure, and they are easy to find here. They're not expensive, and they are tough like clams. We had them when we went to the Ile d'Oléron last spring.

I bought only a dozen amandes because I just wanted to try them in the corn chowder. That set me back a euro. So a kilo of these clams would give you about two dozen. Here's a link to a post I did about a fish monger's shop in Paris, with photos of coques, praires, palourdes, and other shellfish, fin fish, and crustaceans.

Serve the chowder with cream if you want. You can also add cream
directly to the pot, but if you serve it at the table it can be optional
and you can see how much you are putting in.

To make the soup, first you cook the bacon or lardons in a big pot to render their fat. Meanwhile, chop the clams and a couple of onions. Cook the clams and onions for 20 to 30 minutes on low in the bacon fat. Add some grated carrots if you want. Season with pepper, celery, thyme, and bay leaves.

Pour 5 or 6 cups of chicken broth or water over the cooked clams, onions, and carrots. Put in half a dozen potatoes, cubed, and a couple of cups of corn. If you want to thicken the soup, grate a raw potato directly into the pot. Or make a slurry of cornmeal and cold water and slowly pour that into the hot soup while stirring it. Then let the soup cook for 30 to 45 minutes on low. Add the bacon in at the end and serve with cream if you want it.

Winter skies at Saint-Aignan

After a good bowl of chowder, I was fortified for my afternoon walk with the dog. Actually, it's not very cold right now, and it's been fairly dry for a week or so.


  1. I find amandes de mer totally suitable for humans, at least for this human ;) But like to eat them raw, like praires or palourdes. Mmmm. delicious!

  2. Hi Claude, it would probably never occur to most Americans to eat amandes de mer or clams of any kind raw! But I'm sure that's a good way to enjoy them. When I was growing up in N.C. we used to pick clams, scallops, and oysters up along the shore and eat them right there, raw. We also enjoyed raw fish, freshly caught. But nowadays so many people are so alienated from good food.

  3. Ha! from me too. These are the clams I tend to buy because they are such good value. I can get them in London at Borough Market, btw, but I have also bought them from the shellfish stall in Preuilly market. They make a great quick cheap meal when you want something different. I usually cook them sort of Portuguese style.

  4. Can't miss this one. Verification word is PARLYEAF. Look so much like parsley leaf. Can you sprinkle parsley on top of the chowder? With or without it looks great. Wish I were with you to taste it!

  5. Yum. I like the idea of adding the cream at the end -- it looks so pretty and I'm sure it was yummy, too. We're at the lake for the week, which means I actually have time to cook! I think I'll give your chowder recipe a try. Happy holidays!

  6. Boston people eat oysters and clams raw! I had some at Faneuil Hall some 30 years ago, and saw some again back in 2006. And there were oyter bars in NYC as well...

  7. Your version looks scrumptious! (I would have to have it without the clams though...)
    Happy Holidays!

  8. so did the puppy grrl get any dog cockles?

  9. Not only did it look good, but it tasted good as well. It been raining non-stop at the cottage since Saturday, so it was a perfect time to try your chowder recipe (minus the clams). Boy, was it good.

    Happy solstice or whatever holidays you prefer.


    PS: word verification = beingshr

  10. Happy holidays to you too and you two, Susie and Ray. Hope the rain stops before you have to drive back down to the Bay Area. Chilly and gray here, but no rain for about two weeks now.

    Thank Loulou for the Corn Chowder recipe. It is really good. I've been thinking it might be good with flaked tuna in it.

    PJ, no, Callie wasn't interested in the dog cockles. I was surprised.

  11. I just encountered Amndes de Mer in the Orleans, France, for the first time about a month ago. They were delightful, and totally edible. Supposedly they get tough when overcooked, but we had them with cockles on pasta in an Italian style dish and I loved them.


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