One way to cope with the recent snowy spell in New England would be to make a batch of tropical cocktails. But for once, I decided to go along with it. I headed out on cross-country skis before work and made traditional New England recipes at night. This chowder interested me because it contains parsnips instead of the more usual clams, fish, or corn. It comes Early American Recipes (Jack Frost Studios, 1953), based on author Heloise Frost’s New England ancestors. They arrived during one of the earliest waves of English settlers in 1632; she ended up in Moltonborough, New Hampshire. I adapted her recipe to fit my modern kitchen. Next time, I’d put in more parsnips than potatoes to boost their sweet, earthy flavor. Otherwise, the recipe produced a hearty chowder that looked a bit like the snow outside but fought back with a dose of steamy warmth. If you can’t fight the weather…
Parsnip Chowder (adapted from a 1600s recipe)
Makes about 2 quarts
3 inches salt pork, diced [I used 4 ounces diced pancetta]
2 cups potatoes, cubed
2 cups parsnips, coarsely chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cups boiling water
1 quart milk
Salt and pepper, to taste
6 common crackers [I used about 1 cup of torn up stale French bread]
- 1. In the bottom of a soup pot, fry the salt pork until crisp. Remove the scraps [I used a slotted spoon]; leave the fat in the pot.
- 2. Add the onions to the fat and cook gently until yellow. Add the potatoes and parsnips and cook until lightly browned.
- Add the boiling water, salt and pepper. Cook over low heat until the vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes.
- In a bowl, pour the milk over the broken crackers [or bread] and let stand while the vegetables are cooking.
- Add the milk to the chowder* and heat through.
- Pour each serving of soup into a heated tureen. Drop in a generous portion of butter and garnish with finely chopped parsley. Pass the pork scraps.
*I decided to puree the soup at this point, but that’s certainly not traditional!