In Honour of Boston: New England Clam Chowdah—The Ultimate Comfort Food

In light of recent events, I am feeling homesick for and saddened for Boston, my beloved American hometown for 19 years. There has been some absolutely heartwarming commentary in the media on the strength of Boston and its wonderful people in the midst of this tragedy, from Bostonians and non-Bostonians alike, writers and nonwriters alike, and in many cases, I don’t think I could’ve said it better myself. But still, there is that need to do something in the wake of this horrific event—to both find comfort, and offer it. With this in mind, I humbly offer you a delicious recipe for New England Clam Chowder, Boston’s best comfort food. (I may even indulge in a bowl myself.)

For those of you who don’t know, New England clam chowder is the creamy-based variety. There is also Manhattan clam chowder, which is tomato-based, and Rhode Island clam chowder, which is broth-based. But when you’re seeking true comfort food, doesn’t there just need to be cream?

Aside from my friends and family, New England clam chowder is what my Aussie husband misses most about Boston. He certainly takes comfort in many a mug or bowl whenever we visit. Don’t get me wrong. He loves the city. But he LOVES the chowder. I hope you will, too. (Note: I have used Aussie measurements for this recipe, but you can easily convert them at a website I have found indispensable since my move to Australia: www.onlineconversion.com.)

NEW ENGLAND CLAM CHOWDER (Makes approximately 1.5 litres)

¼ cup diced bacon
30g butter
½ cup diced celery
½ cup diced onion
2 tbsp plain flour
½ tsp dried thyme
2 cups potatoes, peeled and diced
2 cups tinned clam juice*
2 cups fresh or frozen clams**
½ cup pouring cream
½ cup milk

* In Sydney, I know you can find tinned clams in the Blackwattle Deli at the Sydney Fish Markets; Australians outside Sydney should chime in with any tips for finding clam juice or tinned clams. Drain the tinned clams, retaining the juice for the recipe. Do not use the tinned clams for this recipe; the fresh or frozen clam meat works better. Instead, place the tinned clams in an airtight container, cover them with water, and refrigerate for use tomorrow. I recommend using them in Emeril Lagasse’s  Linguine with Clam Sauce recipe:

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/emeril-lagasse/linguine-with-clam-sauce-recipe/index.html

(I made this pasta dish while my brother-in-law was visiting, and he ate it for brekkie(!) several mornings in a row.)

**Again, there are one or two places at the Sydney Fish Markets that carries the frozen clams (at a very reasonable price), or you can opt for vongole clams or pipis. I have also used Cloudy Bay clams, which you can find in select shops or order online.

In a large pot over medium-low heat, cook bacon until crisp, about 6 minutes. Add butter and melt. Add celery and onion, cooking until veggies are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add flour, stirring constantly for 2 to 3 minutes. (Mixture should form a paste.) Add thyme, potatoes, and clam juice; stirring constantly, bring to the boil. Reduce heat and let simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, until potatoes are tender.

Add clams and bring quickly to the boil, stirring constantly. Add cream and milk; return to the boil. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Serve hot with crusty bread or Arnott’s Salada crackers for dipping or crumbling into chowder.

If this recipe seems like too much effort (though I think it’s worth it), try one of these Aussie spots that have seafood or fish chowders on offer:

Then again, if chowder’s not your thing but you’re still seeking comfort food, there’s always that favourite Aussie standby, pumpkin soup.

Best Classroom Evah!

In my humble quest for greater food-and-wine knowledge, I recently attended a wine-appreciation class through the Sydney Wine Academy (they had me at the name!) at Ryde College. The program came highly recommended from winemaker friend Dan Binet at Ballabourneen in the Hunter Valley. Given how much I enjoyed the class and how much I learned in such a short period, I hope to continue my wine studies there indefinitely. My love of wine is great; my ability to speak (and write!) intelligently about that love … well, there’s always room for editing.

I met my fellow wine appreciators—about 14 in all, an intimate group—in the school’s lounge area, where we were told that the class would be taught in the wine lab. Now, I am a woman of words; science has never been my strong suit. But a wine lab? This was a scientific discipline I could get behind—even excel at! Bring on the experiments!

The lab did not disappoint. Though test tubes, flasks, and safety goggles were still in evidence (and as chill inducing as ever), so, too, were rows upon rows of wine glasses, casks, vineyard soil samples, and corks. And wine! Lots and lots of wine. This was a happy place. In fact, unlike my Year 12 Physics lab, from which I often ran screaming, I was sooo comfortable in the wine lab that I had to be kicked out by the cleaning people 15 minutes after the class had officially concluded.

Taught by French-born Aussie wine lecturer Jean-Claude Ferrier, the first night of class took us through a more in-depth approach to sensory evaluation (flavours, taste, mouthfeel, the influence of the vineyard), the winemaking process, Australian wines and wine regions, varietal characteristics, and finally, a sampling of 10 white wines (again, primarily Australian). (On a side note, though my palate is indeed becoming more discerning with practice, I must admit that I’m baffled by such aroma descriptors as gooseberry and mulberry. I don’t even know what they would smell like on their own, let alone as part of the complexity of a wine.)

The following week, we tackled the reds, as well as wine faults, climatic effects, the impact of oak and barrels, wine maturation, decanting, and cellaring.

I would recommend the class to anyone who wants to learn more about evaluating a nice drop or who wants to take their casual appreciation of wine to the next level.

Now, armed with my TAFE statement in Wine Appreciation and my pre-existing love of the fermented grape, I’m off to do homework in the wine bars of Sydney. Next stop: Tapavino on Bulletin Place to match some Spanish wines with some of the spot’s lovely tapas. Gotta love higher education!

I’m Hungry. Are you?

It was hunger that brought me to Australia 3½ years ago from Boston: hunger for love, certainly (my husband is an Aussie), but also hunger for travel, adventure, cultural enrichment, and one of life’s true great pleasures—food. Not to mention an accompanying thirst for knowledge—and good wine! I have been fortunate in that both my personal life and my professional lives have afforded me the opportunity to travel, but I still count myself a relative newbie to this country. There’s still so little I know, and so much I want to learn, and see, and taste, but I also hope the newbie in me can bring a fresh, unique perspective to an already crowded food-and-travel blogosphere.

Thus, I have launched The Hungry Expat. I am The Hungry Expat, and I’m hungry for more.

Here, you’ll find write-ups on restaurants, culinary events, fellow foodies, food-and-wine pairings, local drops, travel hotspots, movies (very excited about the upcoming Haute Cuisine), books, and more. My hope is that there will be bits and bites for everyone, whether you’re a casual eater-outer, a more astute diner, a local winemaker, a tourist, or just someone who happened upon my humble page.

And sometimes I’ll share my musings—culinary and otherwise—on what it’s like to be an American transplant in Australia. I hope you’ll find it entertaining, thought-provoking, and appetising. And I hope you’ll be part of the conversation. Thank you for visiting The Hungry Expat. Please come again. And feel free to leave a tip (in the form of a comment).