New England Clam Chowder

Last summer I did a poll on Instagram on clam chowders – Manhattan vs. New England. The cream-based New England won by a long shot, at 80%. I’ve had a recipe for the tomato based Manhattan clam chowder here on the blog for a couple of years. But it was clear I needed to get my version of the cream based up here as well.

We’ve been doing our fair share of fishing lately. Alternating between going out on the sea side, and the bay side of the Eastern Shore. We’ve had some great days, including my first citation fish – a 14 pound sheepshead. Still walking on air over that one!

Often our fishing leaves sessions leave us with some leftover bait, in the form of fresh big chowder clams. Shout out to Chip, our clam man, who makes home deliveries!

The kids have also started to dig them up on Sundays when we’re out at Little Beach. Usually they’re smaller and we just toss them on the grill – but sometimes they’re big enough to become a pot of chowder.

At any rate, I finally got around to making it AND taking a photo of it. It’s rich and creamy, filled with chunks of bacon, potatoes, onions, celery, and chopped clams – that lend a lovely brininess. And as with most soups, it’s even better the next day!

If you can’t find fresh clams, no worries. You can easily used canned clams and clam juice – both of which are available at any grocery store.

Years ago Jon and I were enjoying dinner at one of the finer establishments here on the island. The couple sitting behind us were visiting the area – and not yet acquainted with oyster stew when they saw it on the menu. When they asked the waitress what exactly it entailed, she replied in a thick Chincoteague accent with “Honey – it’s oysters. With a little bit of milk in it”…

Jon and I both laughed – because seriously, how could you not know what it was? And also, her reply was so cut and dry – and perfectly summed up oyster stew. I still think about it and chuckle every time I see it on the menu!

Last week the good folks at Cherrystone Aqua Farms were kind enough to send me a box full of oysters and clams. They’re started shipping these Eastern Shore of Virginia delights all over the country recently, so if any of my friends are looking for a taste check them out. I’m picky about my bivalves, and I can’t rave enough about everything that they offer.

Of course we love to enjoy them as is on the half shell, that happened approximately three minutes after the box arrivied. But I wanted to make something I could take a photo of and share with you guys. Not that photos of just oysters aren’t pretty…I love those too, obvi.

But, I’ve been needing to get more oyster recipes up. And, with being stuck at home with nothing to do besides cook – it was the perfect opportunity to get another one under the belt here at Tide & Thyme!

We had rainy weather for most of the weekend, so I figured it was the perfect opportunity for a batch of oyster stew. Ashamed I didn’t have this on the blog yet, as it’s one of the most Eastern Shore-y of all Eastern Shore dishes. It’s simple, quick, comforting and very filling.

Just like everything else, everyone  has their favorite way of preparing it. I like to use heavy cream instead of milk, because why not? I love the combination of the rich cream and the plump briny oysters. I also add some minced celery, which is pretty conventional – and some minced shallot, which isn’t.

Don’t be afraid to make it your own, just don’t go too crazy. You want to let the flavor of the oyster shine in this simple stew!

 

Italian Sausage Soup

Much of the East Coast is getting bogged down with rain today. And, I’m feeling it. I made and photographed this recipe a couple of weeks ago – and meant to share it last week. However, I lost a very close friend last week kind of suddenly. I say “I” – but I really mean our whole community – as everyone is mourning the loss of our dear Laura. I haven’t really felt like doing much of anything the past few days, besides moping around the house, with the occasional uncontrollable sobbing. I’m getting there. Grief just sucks, ya’ll.

Needless to say, a couple of rainy days to stay in my pajamas is just what the doctor ordered. Figured I could at least take a few minutes to share this recent recipe find with you guys! And, what better meal is there to enjoy on days like this, than a warm bowl of filling soup?

I came across this recipe in the Loaves & Fishes cookbook by Anna Pump, another favorite which was lurking in the “lost pile”. All of her cookbooks are phenomenal. She was a close friend of our Majesty The Queen (Ina Garten) and collaborated at Barefoot Contessa in the Hamptons with Ina for years, as well as running her own successful shop and bed & breakfast. She too passed rather suddenly back in 2015, and I will always treasure the books and recipes she left behind. But, I digress… As I’d mentioned, I made this substantial soup a couple of weeks ago now – and haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since!

It came together really quickly, with simple ingredients that are easy to find – or you may even have on hand already. It was also really quick to cook too. Most soups take ALL DAY to have a really deep flavor. But the addition of two kinds of sausage, both ground and link, really pack a punch in that department – yielding a soup that tastes like its simmered for hours, in less than one.

I served it along side some warm crusty rolls and a simple fresh green salad to round out the meal. Everyone really enjoyed it, and it will definitely be one I make again soon! Might try adding cannellini beans the next go-round.

Source: The Loaves and Fishes Cookbook – Anna Pump

It’s always so hard to see summer go. If you’ve been keeping up with me on Insta, you know that it was a crazy whirlwind couple of months spent in the sun and on the water. Our “Flat Bottomed Girl” got quite a few more nautical miles under her belt,  and I cooked and shared all kinds of goodness with friends (and strangers!) out at our local hangout of Little Beach, on neighboring Assateague Island.

Boatside Bistro was in full effect, y’all! I find myself cooking on the boat more than I do in my kitchen from the months of May – September.  I think the pinnacle was catching fish offshore, cleaning and fileting them on the boat, then turning into fish tacos and enjoying on the beach. However, we had alot of great meals out there this season, and which of them was the best is still a topic of debate…

At any rate, the days have finally started to turn brisk. And while we must say goodbye to some things that fill our heart and soul, there are always others to look forward to. Like watching the vibrant green marsh fade into a rich gold hue – with the occasional burst of salicornia in the mix. It’s an edible plant that grows in abundance in our marshes here on the island, appearing green in the summer months and then turning a vibrant red hue in autumn. It’s crunchy, and briny, and tastes of the sea. Not to mention it’s beautiful!

I have fun harvesting it and coming up with new ideas how to use it. Vodka infusion is a favorite (can you say pickle shot, y’all?), adding it to salads, or chopping and adding to pimento cheese. A few weeks ago I helped harvest a haul to brew a stout with at Black Narrows Brewing, which was absolutely delicious!

It just so happened that I had a bunch of beans after the beer release at the brewery, which I then took to the Chincoteague Oyster Festival with me the next day – and whipped up this super simple salicornia mignonette…

A “mignonette” is just fancy French term for a vinegar sauce that is traditionally served with oysters. I used a red wine vinegar, some chopped shallot, and threw in some chopped salicornia. Talk about tasting the “salt life” – was a hit all around. And I felt so fancy coming up with it!

Which brings me to something else we have to look forward to in the fall and winter months – oyster season! What do you guys look forward to the most?

Oysters with Salicornia Mignonette

1 dozen oysters, on the half shell
crushed ice
lemon wedges

For the mignonette:
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 shallot, finely minced
2 Tbsp chopped salicornia (about 15 “bean” stalks)
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp kosher salt

For the sauce, combine all ingredients in a small bowl or ramekin. Mix to combine. Let sit for 20 minutes to let the flavors mingle and meld together.

Meanwhile, place the crushed ice in the bottom of a shallow serving dish. Carefully lay the oysters on top of the ice for serving.

Serve the mignonette alongside the oysters with the lemon wedges.