Want to enjoy a taste of destinations from around the globe without leaving your kitchen? Why not try making the creamy, briny, New England-accented ‘chowdah’ – once called ‘Yankee Doodle in a kettle’. 

A bowl of clam chowder with rosemary on top.
New England style clam chowder © LauriPatterson / Getty Images

What is it? 

Combining clams, potatoes, bacon into one creamy bowl, the New England-style chowder is distinguished by the addition of milk or cream. The original New England- style clam chowder probably appeared in north-eastern America with 17th-century French or British settlers. They substituted quahogs (a Native American word for ‘clams’) for fish in the fish-milk stews common at the time in coastal England and France. The new clam-based potage gained in popularity, appearing on the menu of Ye Olde Union Oyster House (the oldest continuously operating restaurant in the country) by 1836. Plenty of other regional clam chowders have joined the ranks since. 

Ingredients (serves 4) 

12 medium-size quahog (or other) clams
1 tbs salted butter
2 slices bacon, diced 3⁄4 cup onion, peeled and chopped
2 cups potatoes, peeled andcubed
1⁄4 cup dry white wine
2 sprigs of thyme
1 bay leaf
1 cup double (heavy) cream (or half-and-half)
ground black pepper, to taste 1⁄4 cup chopped parsley oyster crackers, to serve 

Clam chowder in a bread bowl.
Take things to the next level by putting your chowder in a bread bowl © Takanori Ogawa / Getty Images

How to cook 

Step 1: Place clams in large pan, add 2 cups water, cover and put on medium-high heat. Cook until clams open (10–15 minutes). Remove clams from shells, chop into small pieces and set aside. Strain clam broth and set aside. 
Step 2: In a clean pan, melt the butter over a medium heat. Add the bacon and fry until it starts to brown (5–7 minutes), then remove.
Step 3: Add the onions to the bacon fat and saute until soft but not brown (5–10 minutes).
Step 4: Stir in the potatoes and the wine. Cook, uncovered, until the wine evaporates and the potatoes start to soften (5–10 minutes).
Step 5: Add the thyme, bay leaf and clam broth to cover. Partly cover and simmer until the potatoes are fork tender (10–15 minutes).
Step 6: Pour in the cream and add the clams and bacon. Add pepper to taste and simmer until hot all the way through – do not allow it to boil. Remove from the heat.
Step 7: Remove the thyme and bay leaf and leave the chowder to sit.
Step 8: When ready to serve, reheat to a simmer. Garnish with chopped parsley and serve with oyster crackers.

new england.jpg
Chowder will transport you to the fall foliage of Massachusetts © DenisTangneyJr / Getty Images

Tasting notes

The shared characteristic of all clam chowders is the bowl-bound presence of potatoes, onions, flaked pork and, of course, clams. New England clam chowder, however, distinguishes itself by its white colour and thick broth, made possible by the inclusion of milk or cream. (The second-most famous clam chowder is the red, tomato-based, Manhattan- style soup created in the 20th century.) Although available all over the USA, New England clam chowder is a classic Boston bisque and one of Maine’s most iconic meals. As such, it is best enjoyed in a coastal seafood shack, where key ingredients come straight out of basins brimming with fresh-caught shellfish and crustaceans.

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