Mexican Clam Chowder

Serves 8-10

Note: Use a dark mole that is round and rich, but not particularly sweet or fruity, such as Diana Kennedy's classic recipe.

3 to 4 cups water

1 cup farro (or rice or barley)

1/2 cup each water and white wine (or 1 cup water)

3 to 4 cups clam juice

3 pounds fresh clams, scrubbed

Olive oil or canola oil

1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped

2 medium yellow onions, diced

2 cloves garlic, sliced thinly

4 cups chicken stock

1 cup dark mole

2 to 3 limes

Garnishes:

2 scallions, sliced

Zest of 1 lime

3 tablespoons queso fresca, crumbled

3 corn tortillas, cut into strips and fried

2 small or one large avocado, diced

Cilantro sprigs

1. In a saucepan, bring the farro and 3 to 4 cups water to a boil. Lower heat, cover and simmer 15 to 20 minutes, or until farro is just tender. Drain farro and set aside.

2. Steam the clams: Place the clams in a saucepan with the wine-water mixture, cover and bring to a boil; cook until the clam shells open, about 5 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the clams to a bowl. Strain the cooking liquid through a fine-mesh sieve lined with cheesecloth or muslin. Measure the broth and add enough clam juice so you have 4 cups of liquid. Set aside.


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3. In a large, heavy-bottomed soup pot, heat a little olive oil. Add cilantro, onions and garlic; cook slowly over low heat until the onions are tender and translucent.

4. Add the 4 cups clam broth/juice, 4 cups chicken stock and 1 cup mole. Bring to a slow simmer. Add farro and clams; cook 5 minutes more. Stir in juice of 2 limes. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding salt or more lime juice to taste.

5. Ladle the soup into warmed bowls, distributing the clams evenly. Garnish with lime zest, queso fresca, tortilla strips, avocado and fresh cilantro.

-- Loretta Keller, Exploratorium