White Clam Soup is a simple Lenten recipe (March 30, 2011)

“Lent is a season of intense prayer, fasting and concern for those in need. It offers all Christians an opportunity to prepare for Easter by serious discernment about their lives, with particular attention to the word of God which enlightens the daily journey of all who believe…. Our goal should not be the benefit of a privileged few, but rather, the improvement of the living conditions of all.” — Pope John Paul II, Lenten message 2003

The bumper crop of advertisements in this week’s newspapers – all you can eat fish dinners at area restaurants, big bucks off on all manner of seafood – gives the impression that Lent is one big supersize meal after another, provided, of course, the main course has fins.

Msgr. Richard C. Brietske, diocesan Chancellor, recalls a simpler time when Lenten dinners were basic fare: “fish, noodles and things like that. Nothing special and no big deal.”

Though the food may not have been special, the setting was. The meals were shared around the family table and there was a focus on the sacramental essence of a season devoted to penitence, prayer and charity, he said.

Maybe the collective memory of these times is fueling the popularity of “simple suppers” abounding now at churches and in homes around the diocese.

Msgr. Brietske, who prepared this week’s recipe for White Clam Soup, applauds the concept of the simple supper. “It’s a way to remind us of the meaning of sacrifice that is so much a part of Lent,” he said. “As long as it isn’t a veneer but instead inspires us to look deeper, it’s a wonderful thing. What the Lord wants from us during Lent isn’t a surface commitment. He wants us to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless and redress injustice.”

As we walk toward Jerusalem with Jesus during Lent, focusing on prayer with Grace at meals, a family Rosary and an additional Mass during the week are worthy efforts, he said. Keeping a mite box or the box from Operation Rice Bowl on the table during Lent so that parents and children can contribute daily, even if it’s only a few pennies for the children, to a charity or worthy cause is another good idea.

Other suggestions include making special efforts to visit people who are sick or sponsoring someone participating in walks or bicycle rides for organizations. Bringing donations to food banks is a good idea.

For his simple supper recipe, Msgr. Brietske offered a favorite soup that is sure to please.

Msgr. Brietske, who cooks as a hobby, said this is one of his favorite recipes. “I found the original recipe in the New York Times some time back and nuanced it until I came out with this product.

“It’s very simple and very tasty,” he said.

He serves it topped with thin sliced French bread and a generous dusting of Parmesan cheese.

White Clam Soup
– 8 tbsp. butter
– 1/4 cup celery finely chopped
– 4 cloves garlic finely chopped
– 4 tbsp. flour
– 4  8 oz. bottles of clam juice
– 1/4 cup parsley, finely chopped
– 3 tbsp. finely chopped pimento
– 3 tsp. thyme
– 5   6.5 oz. cans of minced clams (with juice)
– 1” slices of French bread (baguette style) lightly toasted according to need
– grated Parmesan cheese for sprinkling over the bread
– salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
In a four-quart saucepan, heat the butter (do not burn); add the celery and cook until soft. Add the garlic and cook for one minute. Take the pan off the heat and with a wire whisk, stir in the flour. Return to heat and add clam juice while stirring.

Add the parsley, pimento, thyme, salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and cook gently for 10 minutes. Do not boil. Stir occasionally.

After 10 minutes, add clams with their juice and bring to a simmer, again, without boiling. Remove from the stove when soup is well heated. Serve in bowls topped with a slice of French bread and a hearty dusting of Parmesan.

This recipe makes two quarts of soup.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus Christ, may our Lenten fasting turn us toward all our brothers and sisters who are in need. Bless this table, our good food, and ourselves. Send us through Lent with good cheer, and bring us to the fullness of your Passover. Amen.
— Catholic Household Blessings and Prayer

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