if you know me at all, you’re probably aware that i’m not exactly a typical new england girl.
my parents (and basically my entire family) are all from the west coast, so in spite of spending most of my life living in new england, i’ve never quite fit in here. i don’t like cold, snow, or ice. i don’t do any winter sports…though i’ve been known to join skiers and snowboarders after their days on the mountainside, sharing a few drinks. i don’t even have a boston accent.
most of the year, this doesn’t really matter. after all, i am a diehard new england patriots fan. i love cranberries, cheese, and real maple syrup, especially from vermont. and most of the year, living here is pretty okay. spring in new england is basically mud season, but summer is beautiful, if humid, and autumn is spectacular…but right now it’s january, and all of my real new england friends are constantly complaining about the lack of snow and ice. freaking out that it’s not cold enough and that they can breathe without wheezing. lamenting the fact that the city hasn’t shut down from a nor’easter and that it’s still easy to drive around without skidding over black ice on the way to work. because doesn’t that sound like a blast?
i think you’re all nuts.
in spite of my numerous complaints, there’s one thing that new england has to offer that i absolutely never get tired of – and would miss desperately if i were to move away. (i mean, besides going to foxboro for patriots games. and my friends and family and stuff. whatever.) other regions have their own versions, but they’re just not as good. it’s new england clam chowder, and it’s the best chowder (chowdah!) out there. i’ll just say it. you can complain all you want in the comments, but you’ll never convince me that any other region can do it better.
boston has about a million different places to get chowder, and probably half of them have won awards and accolades that state that their chowder is the best. don’t worry, they’re all wrong. the search is over. mine is the best.
just kidding. sort of.
i’ve had some great chowders in my day, but my favorites all have the same things in common – thick, rich, creamy broth. big chunks of clam, potato, bacon, and onion. smoky, comforting layers of flavor. and obviously, lots of oyster crackers on the side.
now, i know that you’re going to look at the following recipe and get a bit mad. i’ll just prepare you now: i used canned clams. what??! you wonder. this girl constantly carries on about farmer’s markets and fresh ingredients…and she lives in boston, land of fresh seafood. i should write her a nasty email. please don’t. i was sad too. i went to buy some fresh littleneck clams for my yummy chowder, then realized that they were priced per clam and it was going to cost a small fortune to purchase as many asi would need. it was disappointing, but times are tough and i can’t rationalize spending my entire paycheck on one meal…so i went for the cans. if you can get fresh clams, by all means, do it – fresh is always better. but if you’re a little poor, like me, it’s okay to use cans every once in awhile. i won’t tell anyone.
new england clam chowdah
8 medium yellow potatoes, peeled and diced into 1/4-1/2 inch cubes
16 ounces heavy cream
1/4 pound center cut bacon, finely diced
2 medium onions, roughly chopped
3 stalks celery, roughly chopped
1 large clove garlic, pressed or diced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup white wine
15 ounces canned chopped clams, with about half of the juice
8 ounces bottled clam juice
2 whole bay leaves
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 tablespoon dried thyme
salt and pepper to taste
approximately 1/2 cup roux
put diced potatoes and heavy cream into slow cooker and turn up to high. allow to heat up while you prepare the other ingredients.
in a large saucepan, cook diced bacon until fat is rendered out and the pieces are crispy – about five minutes. add onions, celery, garlic, and butter, and saute for five more minutes, or until onions are translucent. deglaze pan with white wine, and allow to come to a simmer.
add bacon and vegetable mixture to slow cooker, stirring well to combine. add canned clams, clam juice, bay leaves, parsley, thyme, salt, and pepper. add roux to thicken, and stir well. cover and allow to simmer on high in the crock pot for about five hours, stirring occasionally and tasting – i added regular salt as well as smoked salt for extra flavor. you can also set it for low and cook for about ten hours, if it suits your schedule better. garnish with fresh chopped parsley and serve with oyster crackers and crusty bread. (or try these yummy-looking bread bowls and send me photos.)