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!

 

I don’t use my InstantPot as often as I should. I break it out once a week or two, usually for chicken stock from my leftover bones. I’ve had it for a couple of years now, kind of buying it just to see what all the fuss was about – but being pleasantly surprised by the power it wielded. The saute function has quite a  bit of gumption, and you can get a pretty decent sear on a hunk of meat.

Searing your proteins in the same pan you cook your dish in yields a TON of flavor, that goes right back into whatever it is you’re making. In this case it made for one of the most incredible pan sauces I’ve had in my life. That’s another nice perk too – you can thicken your sauce right in the same pan as well. Who doesn’t love one less dish to wash?

I’d pinned this method for a cheap, lean cut of beef in the Instant Pot a couple of years ago. Scoffing at the idea that a rare roast could be attained in a pressure cooker! It got buried in my pins, and hadn’t given it a thought until I came across a nice sirloin roast marked down at my grocery store last week. For $9 I figured I could take a gamble…

Made it at lunchtime one day, thinking I could just slice it and use it for roast beef sandwiches for lunches. It ended up turning out so good we ate it for dinner, popping it in the oven for a few minutes to reheat. Everyone loved it. And it really couldn’t be any easier or more foolproof.

A quick sear on all sides. A few additions of onions, garlic, and spices. Beef broth. Then cook under pressure for 3 minutes, and let the pressure release naturally for 30 minutes. I then added some red wine to the pan drippings, along with a little cornstarch to thicken. Served it over the thinly sliced beef along with some roasted reds and asparagus. One of the best meals we’ve had in a long time! It was honestly just as good as prime rib, for about one quarter of the price and time involved in preparing it.

I used a 3 pound roast, and it was the perfect hair scant of medium-rare. If you want your roast more well done, or it’s larger – you can continue cooking by recovering and keeping InstantPot on warm for more time. If you don’t have a meat thermometer, get one. They’re cheap and are worth their weight in gold when it comes to worrying about the doneness of things.

We had our first snow fall on Chincoteague last night. It wasn’t much – but was enough to get the kids out of school for the day, and enough to make a batch of snow cream for breakfast. I made an affogato with mine (I got a new espresso machine a couple weeks ago, y’all!), and it was pretty much life changing.

So now that we’ve gotten our dose of snow, I’m really ready for the warmer days ahead. Ready to have my playlist be whole again, for one. I have to remove quite a few songs that I just can’t listen to in the winter, without bawling like a baby…

This year I’ve been in better spirits due to our get-together’s we’ve had with the LBC (Little Beach Crew) in the off-season. Friends who are like family, that we spend so many glorious boat days with in the summer.  And while that’s been great, it’s safe to say that we’re all ready to resume our Sunday suppers out on the water!

We usually plan out our meal via Facebook chat during the week, everyone bringing something. This broccoli salad was something I always begged Rebecca to bring. Her sister Jessica also makes it as well, but I’m usually begging her to bring cookies…

I happily ate this broccoli salad, week after week, month after month. Always squirreling away any leftovers into our cooler, so that I could enjoy another round later – after the boat was out of the water and boys were in bed. Figure that’s better than the cookies, right? There are never any of those leftover, by the way.

Everyone has their own riff on broccoli salad – but for me this one will always win. Slightly crunchy broccoli, crisp bacon, and chunks of cheddar are the centerpieces. And the dressing couldn’t get easier: mayo (I substitute in some Greek yogurt), a sprinkle of sugar, and a splash of vinegar. It’s not QUITE as good as it is out on the boat, but everything always tastes better outside anyway.

So until the LBC is pulling into our “one particular harbor” – I’ll be getting by with my broccoli salad and Buffett ballads. Which really isn’t all that much different than summer anyway, I suppose. Stay warm, friends!