Photos: Ray and Robert: Partners in crime and 4 of the 5 soups
I was looking foward to soup class. After all, one of the best parts of fine dining for me has been eating the soups. There is a restaurant in Fredericksburg, Texas, The Nest, where I always look forward to the soup as a first course. Even ingredients I don’t normally like, such as mussels, taste wonderful in soup prepared by Chef/Owner John Wilkenson, a graduate of the CIA. Over the years I’ve had all types of creamy vegetable and other soups there that I have yet to find as good anywhere else in the country. Maybe I was hoping I could learn to make really, really good soup. I was therefore a little disappointed to learn we would be making the following soups:
Puree of Split Pea
Beef and vegetable
Vichyssoise (Cold Potato-Leek Soup)
Fresh Peach and Yogurt
New England Style Clam Chowder

Personally I am not a fan of cold soups. On a trip to Switzerland in 2005 we ended up in a restaurant with a menu we couldn’t read and a waitress who didn’t speak English, although she did say, “Oh shit!”, and I ordered soup, expecting a nice hot bowl of soup. Instead I got a bowl of cold soup which was probably a vichyssoise, although I didn’t realize it at the time. I did not eat it. So, needless to say, I wasn’t to enthused about making cold potato leek soup, but volunteered to make it anyway, as a joint effort with Ray.
Fortunately Robert had practiced making split pea soup at home and volunteered to make it.
Split pea soup is another soup I could live without–the color is nasty to me. Ray said he’d make the beef soup, and I was happy to make the clam chowder, a soup I actually like. The clam chowder turned out very well and was not too difficult to make. Our other soups got good remarks from the instructors except for our not white vichyssoise. We used a darkish stock so it was not the right color and our peach soup had too much yogurt and not enough peach. Robert’s split pea soup scored a 9 our of 10, and my clam chowder got positive remarks.
I brought the clam chowder home and served it for dinner with rave reviews.
New England Style Clam Chowder
Adapted from On Cooking, Fourth Edition

1 qt canned clams with juice
approx 3 cups water or fish stock
1 large potato, diced
4 oz bacon, chopped
1 large onion, diced
1 rib celery, diced
2 T flour
2 cups milk
4 oz heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste
tabasco sauce, to taste
worcestershire sauce, to taste
fresh thyme, to taste

Drain clams, reserve clams and liquid. Add water to liquid to total 4 cups. Simmer potatoes in this clam/water liquid until nearly cooked. Strain and reserve the liquid.
Fry the bacon, add the onions and celery and sweat until tender. Add the flour and cook to make a light colored roux. Add the clam liquid, whisking to avoid lumps. Simmer for 30 minutes, skimming as necessary. Bring milk/cream to a boil in another pan, and then add to the soup.
Add the clams and potatoes, seasonings and cook at a simmer for a few minutes. Enjoy!

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