Dear SOS: On a recent trip to Boston, my husband and I had some of the best chowders ever eaten, and I would love it if you could get the recipe for one. We had a fabulous New England (of course) clam chowder at Legal Seafoods in Cambridge, Mass.
Dear Terry: Several readers have requested the recipe, and for good reason. I enjoyed the soup thoroughly on a recent visit to Boston, as well. However, don't expect the home recipe to be an exact reproduction. Recipes tend to alter in texture and flavor once broken down from a quantity recipe. The Legal Seafood people advise that you don't try to economize by cutting back on the amount of clams or cream. "The chowder will never taste as flavorful as ours if you do," said a representative.
LEGAL SEAFOOD CLAM CHOWDER
4 quarts littleneck clams
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 cup water
2 ounces salt pork, finely chopped
2 cups chopped onions
1/4 cup butter
6 tablespoons flour
3 cups fish stock
1 1/2 pounds potatoes, peeled and diced into 1/2-inch cubes
2 cups half and half
Oyster crackers, optional
Clean clams and place in large pot with garlic and water. Steam clams just until opened, about 6 to 10 minutes, depending on size. Drain and shell clams, reserving broth. Mince clam flesh and set aside. Strain clam broth through coffee filters or cheesecloth and set aside. Liquid should measure about 4 1/2 cups.
In large saucepan, cook salt pork to render. Remove cracklings and set aside. Slowly cook onions in fat remaining in pan, stirring frequently, about 6 minutes or until tender but not browned.
Add butter and melt. Stir in flour and cook, stirring, about 3 minutes. Add reserved clam broth and fish stock. Whisk to remove any flour lumps. Bring liquid to boil, add potatoes, reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.
Stir in reserved clams, salt pork cracklings and half and half. Heat chowder through. Serve in large bowls with oyster crackers. Makes 8 servings.
Dear SOS: My son returned from a cruise with a sailboat full of boxes of soggy Ritz crackers. As they were discussing whatever to do with them, he remembered that I used to make a Mock Apple Pie using Ritz crackers. It was very good and really did taste like the real apple pie. Well, alas and alack, I have looked everywhere, asked friends about it and have not had any luck whatever. Is there any chance that you with your vast file might have the recipe tucked away somewhere?
Dear Elizabeth: We have been sharing the recipe for this old-time cracker pie for at least two decades. The Nabisco Brands Inc., which produces Ritz crackers, reports that the crackers were developed and released in 1943, and the recipe for Mock Apple Pie had been on the box since the late '40s until recently. Any further information about its origins is unknown. "We don't know who came up with the recipe or how it was developed. Origins seem to have been lost in the sands of time," said Caroline Fee, the public relations manager at Nabisco.
MOCK APPLE PIE
2 cups water
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
22 Ritz crackers
Pastry for double-crust pie
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Combine water, sugar and cream of tartar in saucepan and bring to boil. Add crackers and boil 1 1/2 minutes.
Roll out half of pastry and fit into 8- or 9-inch pie plate. Turn cracker mixture into pie shell. Sprinkle with nutmeg and lemon juice. Roll out remaining pastry, fit over filling and crimp edges. Cut slits in top of crust.
Bake at 450 degrees 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake 20 to 30 minutes or until crust is browned. Makes 6 to 8 servings.
Dear SOS: It finally happened. I lost the recipe for Fiddler's Three Cheddar cheese soup. It was printed many years ago and I want to serve it for a family gathering in February.
Dear Gloria: So happy to accommodate you with the recipe.
FIDDLER'S THREE CANADIAN CHEESE SOUP
1 cup shredded carrots
1 cup thinly sliced celery
2/3 cup thinly sliced onion
2 1/2 tablespoons chicken soup base
2 1/2 cups water
1/3 cup flour
3 cups milk
1 pound sharp natural Cheddar cheese, shredded
Add carrots, celery and onion to chicken soup base with water. Cover and simmer 10 to 12 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
Blend flour and half of milk and add to vegetable mixture, stirring well. Add remaining milk and cook until thickened, about 15 minutes. Add cheese and stir just until melted. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Makes 4 to 6 servings.