Here’s a question: If you had to pick just five New England recipes to master, what would they be? Blueberry muffins? Indian pudding? Lobster rolls?
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…
5 New England Dishes Everyone Should Know How to Make
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.
Which New England dishes are your favorite?
This post was first published in 2019 and has been updated.