Today is National New England Clam Chowder Day! When I started researching this holiday, I was confused because a bunch of websites were telling me February 25th is National Clam Chowder Day. Turns out that’s true: in a month we celebrate clam chowder, but today is devoted to NEW ENGLAND clam chowder. Or as I like to call it, “Region Whose Football Team Is NOT Going To The Super Bowl This Year HaHaHa” clam chowder.
Sorry, Tom Brady fans.
There are many different variations of chowder (or “chowdah” as they say in Boston), most of which have the same base ingredients: clams, potatoes, onions, salt pork or bacon, and celery. Originating in Northeastern fishing villages in the 18th century, New Englanders take their chowder very seriously. They look with derision upon New Yorkers who have the audacity to substitute tomatoes for milk in their version (Manhattan clam chowder). And I thought the whole Yankees-Red Sox rivalry was intense. A 1939 bill was introduced to the Maine legislature making tomatoes illegal in New England clam chowder. No idea whether this is still official law. Maybe we should ask somebody from Maine.
Does anybody actually live in Maine? Other than Stephen King, that is?
New England clam chowder is usually served with oyster crackers, a nod to the hardtack (sea biscuits) that were typically served on long ocean voyages. Hardtack was cheap and long-lasting, and usually consisted of nothing more than flour and water. Hardtack was sometimes called pilot bread, dog biscuits, tooth dullers, worm castles, and molar breakers. Can’t imagine why they were scorned by sailors!
Clam chowder is often served in restaurants on Fridays. This is to provide a seafood option for Catholics who abstain from meat on Friday. Though the church loosened their rules some years back, the tradition lives on. I love clam chowder, and have been known to time restaurant visits to coincide with when it was being served.
Tara had the day off today while some of us had to work. Not that I’m bitter much. This was great though, because she had never made clam chowder before and was eager to try.
I sure was. And even though I was offered recipes from Mark and my mom, I also insisted on finding and trying my own recipe. I’ve learned that sometimes the easiest way to find a good recipe is to click on a website like www.allrecipes.com, type in what you’re searching for, and go with the one with the highest and most reviews. Today was no exception.
This particular recipe was easy, rich, and delicious. At the suggestion of some of the reviews, I made a few modifications; I sautéed the onions, carrots and celery in bacon grease. We bought an extra jar of clam juice to cook the veggies and potatoes instead of water. There was some leftover heavy whipping cream (from the bittersweet chocolate ganache a couple weeks ago) that helped thicken the base. And clams. Lots and lots of clams.
It’s funny how our palettes change as we mature (I was going to say grow older, but Mark tends to take those remarks personally). I never cared for clam chowder when I was younger, and since I don’t like potatoes, it was too much work to pick around all the spuds for just a few bits of clam. Thankfully, we now have a recipe that’s really good and my potato to clam ratio is just right!
P.S. This is a great song to listen to while making your clam chowder. Enjoy!