America is a melting pot that was formed by the hard-working people who migrated here from lands as far east as China and Japan and as far north as Russia and Europe. They utilized American supplies and prepared them in ways that they had prepared them in their homeland.
True American food is a collection of these culinary traditions passed down from generation to generation. Each culture brought their cooking methods, food, and spices to America. They farmed the soil, hunted game, and incorporated their ways into the food of America. This series is about what they cooked.
From Manhattan to New England, clam chowder is known for its competing varieties as much as for its comforting briny flavor. It seems every state on the East Coast has its own take on the popular soup
New England clam chowder is the most well-known and popular clam chowder. Though it’s named after New England and associated most with Massachusetts and Maine, food historians believe that French, Nova Scotian, or British settlers introduced the soup to the area and it became a common dish by the 1700s. The soup continued to gain popularity throughout the years and, according to “What’s Cooking America”, was being served in Boston at Ye Olde Union Oyster House (the oldest continuously operating restaurant in the country) by 1836.
New England clam chowder, occasionally called “Boston Clam Chowder,” is made with the usual clams and potatoes, but it also has a milk or cream base. It is usually thick and hearty; Today. the soup can be found all over the country but is still most popular in the North East.
I serve the chowder with crusty Italian bread and a Romaine Salad dressed with a Parmesan Vinaigrette.
New England Clam Chowder
Yield: 8 to 10 servings
3 strips thick-cut bacon
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 medium onion, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1 medium leek, washed and sliced
2 celery ribs with tops cut into 1/4-inch slices
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon seafood seasoning (Old Bay)
3 medium-size white potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 cup all-purpose flour (I use Wondra-no lumps)
4 cups seafood stock or bottled clam juice, divided
1 pound chopped fresh clam meat with juices or 2 (6.5 oz) cans of clams in broth
Kosher salt to taste
2 cups half & half
1 teaspoon white pepper
Chopped fresh parsley for garnish
Place a 4- to 6-quart pot over medium-low heat. Add the bacon and cook, turning occasionally, until crisp, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove the bacon, leaving the fat in the pot, and crumble into small pieces onto a plate; set aside.
Add the butter, onion, leek, celery, thyme, seafood seasoning and bay leaves to the pot. Cook, stirring often, until onions and potatoes are tender, 6 to 8 minutes.
Return the bacon to the pot and increase the heat to medium-low.
Dissolve the flour in 1 cup of the clam broth or seafood stock. Add the mixture gradually, stirring continuously, until incorporated. Stir and cook 5 minutes.
Increase the heat to medium and slowly add the remaining clam broth or stock, 1 cup at a time, incorporating it into the mixture before adding more.
Increase the heat to medium-high and add the clam meat with its juices. Keep stirring 5 minutes, until the clams are tender.
Add the cream slowly; then stir in the white pepper.
Discard the bay leaves before serving. Garnish each serving with chopped parsley.
Many supermarkets carry frozen, chopped clam meat in 1-pound containers, which is fresher than canned and just as convenient. Simply defrost before using.
Romaine Salad with Parmesan Vinaigrette
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan, plus extra for garnishing the salad
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 hearts of romaine lettuce, chopped
Whisk the Parmesan, mustard, vinegar, and garlic in a small bowl. Whisk in the oil. Sprinkle the vinaigrette with salt and pepper. Toss the lettuce with the vinaigrette. Serve immediately.