I make no secret of the fact that I strongly dislike winter. All it makes me think of is dreary weather, being uncomfortably cold, and the flu. What is there to like about it? The only upside of winter that I can think of is that cold weather necessitates comfort food….hearty food that makes you feel human again after walking in from work with a runny nose and a cranky mood. Therefore, we are continuing our Rampant Cuisine comfort food series with this New England Clam Chowder; a soul-soothing milk-based chowder made with bacon, potatoes, onion, and clams. If you think that including tomatoes is a good idea then you are completely wrong; in 1939 a bill making tomatoes in clam chowder illegal was introduced in the Maine legislature. I know that to purists it may feel like cheating to used canned clams but, unless you live near a fresh seafood market, the canned clams were a completely delicious and simple alternative. Enjoy!
I loved this wine! As I’ve mentioned in the past, a lot of Chardonnays rub me the wrong way. They can be too oaky or too metallic tasting or just too something. This wine, however, hit all the right notes. It had aromas of tropical fruits and finished with toasty oak and vanilla. This is not a bold, abrasive Chardonnay, but rather an easy and comfortable sipping wine. Since this wine is more delicate than most Chardonnays, it paired perfectly with our clam chowder and would be wonderful with any fish or seafood.
This beer had all the makings of being a perfect pairing with the New England Clam Chowder: An imperial style with high alcohol content, wit bier style, and spices. What could warm you up better than clam chowder and a strong beer, both from New England? Unfortunately, the beer was a little bit of a let down for me. While the 10.3% alcohol content certainly warmed me up, the spices overwhelmed the rest of the beer for me. The coriander and orange flavors were there but mixed with a saltiness that masked any wit bier flavors that might have been there. While the savory flavors in the beer may have complimented some flavors in the chowder I think something with a little less body and spiciness may have been more appropriate.
New England Clam Chowder
Based on this recipe.
3 6.5 oz. cans of canned clams, minced, juices reserved (We used Snow’s brand)
2-3 cups bottled clam juice
3-4 bacon slices, minced
1 onion, diced
3-4 cloves garlic, crushed
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 bay leaf
1 pound potatoes, peeled, diced
3 cups half and half
6 tablespoons dry white wine, or to taste (We used the Chardonnay that we paired with the meal…see Katryn’s wine pairing)
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Chopped green onion, to taste
Tabasco sauce, to taste
Worcestershire sauce, to taste
1. Drain the clam juice from the minced clams and combine with enough bottled juice to equal 3 cups of liquid.
2. Cook the bacon slowly in a soup pot over medium heat until lightly crisp, about 8 minutes.
Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Add the flour and cook over low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, for 2-3 minutes.
3. Whisk in the clam juice, bring to a simmer, and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. The liquid should be the consistency of heavy cream. If it is too thick, add more clam juice to adjust the consistency. Add the bay leaf and fresh thyme.
Add the potatoes and simmer until tender, about 15 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, place the clams and cream in saucepan and simmer together until the clams are cooked, about 5-8 minutes.
When the potatoes are tender, add the clams and cream to the soup base. Simmer for 1-2 minutes.
Stir in the white wine. Season to taste with salt, pepper, Tabasco, and Worcestershire sauce. Serve in bowls or bread bowls like we did!
Toasted Bread Bowls:
5 to 6 inch artisan bread rounds (however many you need for the people you are serving.)
- Preheat oven to 350°. Cut 1/2 to 1 1/2 inches from top of each bread round; scoop out center, leaving a 1/2-inch-thick shell. Reserve soft centers to make croutons. Lightly coat bread shells and hollowed interior with cooking spray. Place, cut sides up, on baking sheets.
- Cut the bread bowl centers that you cut out of the bread rounds into 1-inch cubes. Put the cubes into a ziploc bag and add 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt and pepper. Shake the bag until the croutons are coated evenly. Put the croutons alongside the bread rounds on the baking sheet (or put the croutons on a second baking sheet if there is not enough room.)
- Bake at 350° for 8 to 10 minutes or until toasted.