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:

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:

(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.