Go, go, go.

On the menu: New England Clam Chowder

New England Clam Chowder ~ Documenting our Dinner.

Do clams have a season? I live on the ocean and am married to a guy who studies clams. I should probably know this. But it’s winter, and winter is cold…especially this one…and cold means soups and stews of all sorts are in order. It’s soup season. So let’s have some clam chowder!

New England Clam Chowder ~ Documenting our Dinner.

Holy cow; spring semester starts next week. I got shit to do. I should be doing it right now, actually. But sometimes my brain needs a break from all the reading and thinking and writing all academically and things, even when I’ve only been back at it for a few days. The enormity of my task list has yet to set in. Winter break has been pretty rad. I was home for a week and a half, during which time I went all over Wisconsin and Minnesota with a quick visit to Michigan. I was everywhere. I ate a lot. I slept a little. I baked things and cooked things and threw my best friend a bridal shower. I drank way too much wine one night. I think this is what holidays as an adult are like. Just go, go, go, then go back to normal.

New England Clam Chowder ~ Documenting our Dinner.

Normal was a week at home, recuperating and staying out of the umpteenth snowstorm of the season. We stayed in New Year’s Eve. We snuggled with the cat. We missed a massive ice storm while we were away. The whole state lost power. We came home to a non-functioning refrigerator and freezer and lost a lot of…really old condiments? Thank goodness we had cleaned out before we left! This winter in Maine has been like so many I grew up with, and I’m loving it. I actually had to buy real winter boots because of all this snow. There’s no fur on them, not anywhere. They’re actually men’s boots. I rock them. I’ve been eating all the blood oranges. We went snowshoeing. We started up a hill, which really sucked, but then it tapered off and was beautiful. Now all the snow is covered in ice because it was 50ºF! the other day and it rained and rained. And then that polar vortex froze everything.

I guess a rainy January day or a frozen January day could call for some clam chowder. Thick, loaded with vegetables, and briny with that signature funky bitterness of fresh clams, clam chowder from scratch is surprisingly simple and comes together quicker than you’d think. It’s kind of a cuddly concoction, really. We served it with my favorite biscuits, tender and loaded with thyme. And it’s way better the next day.

New England Clam Chowder ~ Documenting our Dinner.

New England Clam Chowder
adapted from the Joy of Cooking

serves 4

5 lbs littleneck clams
1 cup water
2 slices of bacon, chopped
1 large onion, diced into 1/2 inch pieces
1 cup chopped celery
2 tablespoons butter
1 bay leaf
1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
2 lbs waxy potatoes, cubed (peeled first, if you so desire)
1 cup heavy cream

First, we clean the clams: Wash the shells with a small brush, then soak clams in enough cold water to cover, add 1/4 cup salt, and let sit for 30 minutes. This causes the clams to expel and sand they have inside. Then we make clam stock: put clams and water in a saucepan, bring to a boil, and cook until the clams open, about 10-12 minutes. Drain, reserving the cooking liquid, and discard any closed clams. Let clams cool, then remove meat from the shells and cut into 1/2 inch pieces.

Saute bacon in a Dutch oven until fat begins to render, then add onion and celery and continue cooking until bacon crisps and vegetable soften. Add clam stock, bay leaf, thyme, and potatoes, bring to a boil, then simmer until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Add chopped clams and cream and simmer for 5 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

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16 Responses to Go, go, go.

  1. emma says:

    Mmmm! Darn you polar vortex, I’ve been chilly:)

    I had pipes free on me in two locations last Thursday…. that just shouldn’t be allowed.

    • Brianne says:

      I can’t even imagine being you in this crazy cold. I feel like I shouldn’t complain because it’s so much colder where you are! Pipe freezing blows. I’d be real mad if I had to deal with it twice in one week. I hope you’re staying as warm as you can and eating lots of soup!

  2. shannon says:

    you are so right about the holidays for adults: a series of events, a constant rotation of food and cooking and some wine thrown in and more cooking and eating, doing all the things, and then you wind down when you’re done and home again. It’s like the reverse of kid holidays (and at those times, often i miss being a kid, when all i had to do was not get out of bed, have my mom make the food, and zone out on games all day).
    i love clam chowder: like, love it. and this kind – the new england sort – because i’ve never truly figured out the use for the manhattan one. So happy you had a great time this winter break! And i’m happy you’re back safely. :)

    • Brianne says:

      I want to have kiddo holidays forever. Last year I was home for two weeks and changed out of my sweats maybe three times. And I read a whole book! Christmas this year was so crazy! Is it because I’m married now? I don’t even know…Kevin wasn’t with me! And–dare I say it–I really want to try Manhattan clam chowder, just to see what it’s like. It’s intriguing, you know? Broth and tomatoes and clams…like, what is that? I gotta know.

  3. elizabeth says:

    I’m so glad I found you via the Just One Question project!

    As someone who lives in lower New England, I will say that clams (and oysters, and mussels) have no season, because between the chowders and the clam bakes, there is always a reason to eat them. And one of the nice things about this time of year up here is that you have the perfect excuse to hunker down, make awesome meals, and not venture out to visit anyone else for a while.

    • Brianne says:

      Hi, Elizabeth! Nice to meet you :) I’ve heard the only eat oysters in months that end in “R” rule debunked many times, and we rarely eat mussels because even though PEI is like 2 feet away (okay, not really, but compared to the rest of the country, we’re pretty freakin close), the mussels we find at the store are always in terrible condition. Now I’ll eat clams all the time! As long as they’re part of a warm and comforting meal.

  4. Mandy says:

    oh My! those giant clams you got there! Lucky you… I’m going to have to substitute it with sad sad mini clams… or… turn this into oyster chowder.

    • Brianne says:

      Oh my God, OYSTER CHOWDER for the win! My grandma made oyster stew every Christmas when I was growing up…oysters floating in butter and milk. I hated it then, but I long for it now. And she made the best seasoned oyster crackers to go on top. I really should try and make it myself, but I can’t because I know it will be nothing like my Grandma’s. But if you chowderize it…that could definitely work!

  5. I love hearing you describe the weather there, I feel like that’s what winter should truly be!! Even though it doesn’t get near as cold as that in Oregon, it definitely does feel wintery. Southern California however….not so much. But my lord, were you busy!!! So many places, and throwing a bridal shower on top of all that!! Madness!!! But I feel you, whenever I go home to visit I feel like I’m 1000x busier than I am when I am in California, even though I’m technically supposed to be on a “vacation”. But there’s always just too many rad people to see and fun things to do back home :) And good God, woman. This CHOWDA! (Yes, I said chowda). It looks amaaaaazing. I love littleneck clams, they have a slightly sweet flavor to them that I am kind of completely obsessed with. Putting them in a creamy shower…..that sounds like the *perfect* wintery dish. I sent Jeremy our grocery list this morning and now I am regretting now putting clams or cream on it. But it’s been strangely hot this week, so once it cools down again next week it will be the perfect time for some rich tasty soup :)

    • Brianne says:

      Chowdaaaaaa! It’s so good. My favorite clams are fried clams, but I’ve only ever eaten those in the summer when all the good fried clam spots are open. Chowder is an acceptable replacement during the colder months.

      Also, mad props to you on sending your husband grocery shopping without you. I am too much of a control freak to do that. Kevin would forget stuff and add unnecessary items and I would throw a fit. Character flaw, maybe. But we like to go to the grocery store together, so the crisis is averted.

  6. Linda says:

    Yay, clam chowder! One of my favorite growing-up comfort foods, except we always made it from a can. (I suspect that’s how most people grew up eating clam chowder?) I love nothing more than the fresh stuff though. Yours looks delicious! Doesn’t Maine have a signature clam chowder?

    And how lovely your winter break sounded! I remember that feeling when fall semester would end, and I’d get to take an entire month off from school. What made it doubly enjoyable was the finality of having ended a class forever! Although I’m sure at the graduate level you don’t get that satisfaction, do you?

    Good luck this year!! I hope you have time to go on more wintry hikes with your man!

    • Brianne says:

      I, too, grew up on chowder from a can. I think that’s okay, being from the middle of the country and all. But now that I’m in Maine, I gotta make it from scratch. Rhode Island and Manhattan both have signature chowders; they’re tomato based, and I think there’s Portuguese chourico sausage in the RI version. (I’m too lazy to Google it and check, and I’m not at home to check the Joy of Cooking)

      You’re right, semester breaks are sadly not as great as they used to be. But I was teaching last semester and now I’m not, so I am loving all this time I have to do my research again!

  7. elizabeth says:

    Nice to meet you too! I feel a kinship with all of the “just one question” bloggers and I’ve been meaning to make the rounds to say hello and make new blog friends. :) For me, as long as the oyster bar in Grand Central has oysters I will be happy, but I’m bummed that finding mussels so close to PEI is so difficult for you. You guys should get the best ones!

    To be honest, I prefer clams to mussels anyway. They’re meatier, saltier, more complex.

    • Brianne says:

      Clams are better than mussels. But for some reason I have this preconceived notion that mussels are easier to cook, so that’s what I always go for. Hopefully this cooking experience changed that, because mussels are a bitch to clean (at least the shitty PEI ones we have), and for what? A bite? Clams win.

  8. Hannah says:

    Clam chowder evokes New England like nothing else can. Well, that and lobster. Two things I grew up on! Your photos are beautiful and this looks like the perfect meal for your winter evenings. Send some snow this way…we are having a very cold but snow-less winter…very sad. It’s the worst snowfall in probably 30 years. Such a bummer! But there’s still hope. Good luck with spring semester!

    • Brianne says:

      Thank you for the well wishes, Hannah! I’d totally send you some snow, but we haven’t had any lately! We had that one week, then a week of crazy cold temps, and now we’re warming up. It’s supposed to rain today! Gross.

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