Looking over the New England culinary canon, there’s certainly a lot of classics to choose from. Our regional cuisine is broader and more diverse than most people realize. But in the interest of brevity, we decided to choose the five dishes that best represent New England and that everyone can and should master. Because whether you live in Maine or Montana, food is a great way to connect to this region that we and our readers love. And by mastering the following time-tested recipes, you can cook like a true New Englander.
So here are our five recipes that everyone should learn to make. Let us know if you agree with our picks in the comments…
This creamy chowder is packed with chopped clams (we prefer using frozen meat rather than canned, but you can make substitutions), potatoes, and bacon, and we love its not-too-thick, not-too-thin consistency. The recipe comes from the Chatham Pier Fish Market on Cape Cod, where diners can buy their bowls to go and enjoy them at the nearby picnic tables with a view of the busy harbor and seals swimming by. Enjoy it on a cold winter’s night or a foggy summer day — it’s the quintessential New England dish.
It’s the ultimate comfort food, the perfect rib-sticker, and a cure for the winter blahs. A humble pot roast, when done properly, transforms an inexpensive cut of meat into a delicacy worthy of company. Here we use carrots, celery, and pearl onions as the vegetables and add a splash of red wine for richer flavor. Serve with noodles or mashed potatoes and a salad on the side, and you have a memorable meal.
An authentic New England clambake requires a stretch of beach and hours of fire-tending. Sound daunting? Good thing you can enjoy similar flavors right in your own kitchen with this much simpler approach, courtesy of chef Matt Tropeano: Just layer lobster, shellfish, and seaweed (easily sourced from most seafood markets) in a large pot, and steam them all in a fragrant broth. Serve with corn and potatoes on the side, and you’ll be halfway to a perfect summer day.
Mary Blenk entered her first baking competition at age 8. Today, the native Mainer has collected nearly 100 ribbons and trophies for her culinary skills. So when it came time to find a great blueberry pie recipe, we knew who to ask. “I’ve just had fun finding contests wherever I can,” she says. “Once you get the bug, it’s hard to sign off.” We love her use of warm spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, as well as the bright splash of lemon juice in the filling. And we also agree with her that using frozen blueberries is best, even if you’re making the pie in the height of summer. (Freezing sets the berries’ color, and the cold helps keep the fat in the crust from melting before it goes into the oven.) One last note: Blueberries’ taste will differ from year to year and batch to batch, so sample your berries and adjust the amount of sugar accordingly; use the full cup only if they’re very tart.
We know, we know: Pennsylvania, Maine, Massachusetts, Virginia, and New Hampshire all claim to be the birthplace of the whoopie pie, but since we can’t employ a time machine for fact-checking purposes, we’ll just acknowledge that whoopie pies have deep New England ties and are the official state dessert of Maine. Plus, they simply make people happy, giving them a chocolatey treat and a way to enjoy a piece of cake without a fork. Master this recipe, and you’ll have a sure way to brighten someone’s day.
Yotam Ottolenghi is a London chef whose books, Plenty and Jerusalem, have been two of the most popular and critically acclaimed cookbooks of the last decade. His style of cooking, which shows influences of his Israeli childhood, German mother, Italian father, London culinary training, and Palestinian business partner (whew!), is both global and completely rooted in seasonal ingredients, prepared simply but creatively. I have loved every dish I’ve cooked from these books and though their style and origins are far from what we think of as traditional New England fare, they help me to see familiar ingredients (potatoes, parsley, squash, carrots) in fresh and novel ways.
I recently decided to try the Ottolenghi take on good old potato salad, and here’s what I got.
Yotam Ottolenghi’s Pesto Potato Salad
This is basically a pesto potato salad, with the addition of peas, eggs, mint, a little vinegar, and extra parsley, and it was tastier and more colorful than any potato salad I’ve had before. Ottolenghi calls this “Royal potato salad” (named after the variety of new potatoes he prefers) and he makes the dish with quail eggs. But I found that the recipe worked beautifully with chicken eggs cooked so that the yolks remained yellow and creamy, not pale and chalky (see instructions below).
Yotam Ottolenghi’s Pesto Potato Salad
I’ve adapted this recipe to substitute regular chicken eggs for the quail eggs. Follow these instructions for boiling the eggs and you’ll get those gorgeous bright yolks.
6 to 8 medium eggs
1 3/4 pounds small new potatoes
1 cup frozen petite peas
1 cup fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup parsley leaves, plus more chopped leaves for garnish
1/3 cup pine nuts
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 large garlic cloves, crushed
1 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1 bunch mint or sorrel leaves, finely shredded
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Put the eggs in a large saucepan, cover with cold water, and bring to a boil. Once the water is boiling, turn off the heat and let the eggs sit in the hot water for 15 minutes. Drain the water and roll the eggs around in the pan to crack the shells slightly, then put the eggs in ice water for a couple of minutes. You’ll now find it much easier to peel the eggs.
Meanwhile, in 4- to 5-quart pot, cover potatoes with water and bring to a gentle boil. cook until tender, but not crumbling, 10 to 15 minutes, adding the peas to the boiling water for the last minute of cooking. Drain and set aside.
While the potatoes are cooking, place the basil, parsley, pine nuts, Parmesan, and garlic in a food processor and blitz to a paste. Add the oil and pulse until you get a runny pesto. Pour into a large bowl.
As soon as the potatoes are warm enough to handle, cut them in half (they will absorb more flavor when hot). Add to the bowl and toss with the pesto, vinegar, sorrel, and peas. Mix well, even crushing the potatoes slightly, so all the flavors mix. Taste and adjust the seasoning; be generous with the pepper.
Cut the eggs in half (or in quarters) and arrange around the salad. Garnish with chopped parsley. Yield: 6 servings
Here in New England, we have a quirky love of recipes made with Grape-Nuts cereal (often simplified to “Grapenut” in recipes), a century-old midwestern health cereal made from twice-baked morsels of wheat and barley. After Grape-Nuts hit the market in 1897, one of the ways in which inventor Charles W. Post promoted it was in recipe contests. The pudding and ice cream recipes have proved to be the most enduring, but we also have a soft spot for this easy Grapenut bread recipe. Here’s how to make it!
How to Make Our Favorite Grapenut Bread Recipe
Making Grapenut bread is a lot like making any other quick bread — it just requires an extra step to get the cereal ready. To start, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a 9-by-4-inch loaf pan with parchment to help with loaf removal later. In a medium bowl, pour 1 1/3 cups of scalded milk over 2/3 cup of cereal and allow it to cool.
Pour scalded milk over the cereal and allow it to soak up the milk while you get the dry ingredients ready.
As the cereal absorbs the milk, it will soften and thicken.
In a separate bowl, sift together the 2 cups of flour, 2 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder, 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt, and 2/3 cup of granulated sugar. Add a beaten egg and 3 tablespoons of melted butter to the milk and cereal, then stir to combine. Add the flour mixture to the cereal mixture and stir until just combined — do not overmix.
Pour the batter into the waiting parchment-lined loaf pan and bake at 350 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. The nutty aroma will have your kitchen smelling terrific.
For best flavor and greater ease in slicing, wrap and store overnight. When I brought this loaf into the Yankee offices, I returned a few hours later to a plate of crumbs, which is always a good sign.
Are you a fan of Grapenut bread? This recipe is a keeper.