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The feast before the feast: simple and satisfying – Festive Clam Chowder – Speedy Breadsticks


Article and photo by Lisa Crockett

It’s the night before the big holiday and everyone is hungry. Now. You have a house full of company and a refrigerator full of food . . . for the big meal tomorrow. But how do you feed hungry tummies the evening before the big day? Take out can be tasty and fun, but if you’re looking for something you can quickly whip up at home, nothing beats a warm, hearty bowl of soup. With ingredients that come largely from the pantry – dry noodles, canned beans or canned clams – your ingredients won’t take up precious refrigerator real estate and many soups and chilis can be made early in the day and dumped in the Crock-Pot to simmer while you prep treats for the feast.

To make a soup supper truly special, whip up a batch of these super simple homemade breadsticks. They’re not as resilient as regular rolls, but they can be out of the oven just a half an hour or so after you pull the ingredients out of the cupboard. Warm out of the oven they’re simply delicious. They’re great plain, but to dress them up you can sprinkle them with sesame seeds, poppy seeds, seasoned salt or even cinnamon and sugar just before you bake them.

If you’re really crunched for time, bake the breadsticks and serve a good-quality premade soup from a can or carton adorned with bacon bits, shredded cheese and chopped scallions. Slice some beautiful fresh fruit and perhaps a crunchy carrot or two to serve on the side for a pop of color and taste. And dessert? For tonight, simply wish everyone sweet dreams. Skipping a goodie tonight means more room for something a little decadent tomorrow.

A simple meal of soup, fresh fruit and homemade breadsticks is a satisfying prelude to holiday feasting.

Speedy Breadsticks

In order for these breadsticks to rise properly, you must use quick-rise yeast (available at the grocery store) and knead in a mixer or food processor (not by hand.)

1 ½ cups warm water 3 ½ to 4 cups all-purpose flour
2 packages quick yeast (or 4 ½ teaspoons) 1 teaspoon salt
½ cup sugar 4 tablespoons butter, melted

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Pour warm water in bowl of mixer or food processor and add yeast and sugar, allowing yeast to dissolve for a minute or two. Add salt and three cups of flour and mix thoroughly with dough hook attachment. Then add a bit more flour, a few tablespoons at a time, until a very soft, sticky dough forms. Let mixer knead the dough for 10 minutes. Turn dough out onto a well-floured surface and cut into 20 equal parts. With floured hands, roll and twist dough into breadsticks. Place sticks on a lightly greased 9 x 13 pan or a jellyroll pan. Brush sticks with melted butter. If desired, sprinkle with a small amount of seasoning salt, poppy seeds, sesame seeds or cinnamon sugar.

Bake breadsticks for 12 minutes or until lightly golden. Serve warm.

Festive Clam Chowder

3 6½ ounce cans of clams
¾ cup flour
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 quart half and half
1 cup finely chopped celery
1 ½ teaspoon salt
2 cups medium diced potatoes
Dash of pepper
¾ cup butter

Drain clams and pour juice over vegetables. Add enough water to cover vegetables completely and simmer over medium heat until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, in another pan, melt butter, then add flour and cook for about two minutes. Add half and half and cook until smooth and thick, whisking constantly with a wire whisk. When mixture is thick and bubbly, pour over vegetables and add clams. Stir and warm through. Serve immediately.

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