♪♪ -"Cook's Country" is about more than just getting dinner on the table.
We're also fascinated by the people and stories behind the dishes.
We go inside kitchens in every corner of the country to learn how real people cook and we look back through time to see how history influences the way we eat today.
We bring that inspiration back to our test kitchen, so we can share it with you.
This is "Cook's Country."
♪♪ Today on "Cook's Country," Christie makes Julia Woodman's-style clam chowder.
Jack has tips on enjoying oysters at home.
Adam reviews inexpensive blenders.
I join the discussion on how best to "Consider the Lobster."
And Ashley and Bridget make hot buttered lobster rolls.
That's all right here on "Cook's Country."
♪♪ -Here in New England, everyone's got their own version of clam chowder, but the best ones come from the clam shacks and my personal favorite is from Woodman's, up in Essex.
And today Christie's going to show us how to make this at home.
-I sure am.
-I'm excited for this.
-Oh, it's so good.
And a lot of New England clam chowders tend to be really rich.
They're thickened with flour or they've got a lot of salty pork products in them.
-Woodman's is much more austere, simpler -- clams, potatoes, onions, butter, a little cream.
-[ Chuckle ] And you can really taste the clams.
That's why it's my favorite.
-And the clams are nice and tender and so that's the real trick and that's what we're going to work really hard on to make happen in this version.
-We're going to start, though, with potatoes.
-Classic ingredient in clam chowder.
It's not a chowder, if it doesn't have potatoes.
And these are russet potatoes, so it's going to give us a really potatoey potato flavor.
-It's a lot of potatoes.
-It's 1 3/4 pounds.
So, I'm just going to cut this into 1/2-inch pieces.
Now, let's get these potatoes cooking.
So, I'm putting all my potatoes in a large saucepan and then I'm going to add cold water to cover the potatoes by 1 inch.
I'll bring this to a boil over high heat.
Once the potatoes come up to a boil, I'll turn the heat down to medium low and then I'm going to cook them only until they're al dente.
-It's only going to take about 3 minutes.
The potatoes have been simmering for about 3 minutes... -Mm-hmm.
-...so, I just want to test these.
Remember I said we just want them al dente and they should still be a little resistant to a paring knife going in there.
-[ Laughs ] -They're just right.
-They're just cooked on the outside, but the inside is still underdone.
Now, I'm going to drain these in a colander and then I'll transfer them to a bowl, where I'll let them cool completely, which will take about 30 minutes.
-Julia, my potatoes have been hanging out for about 30 minutes.
They're completely cool.
-So we're ready to move on to clams.
Woodman's is located right on the coast.
-They're a clam shack.
-They've got access to fresh clams.
And so do we, here in Boston, but not everyone does.
We wanted to make sure that this recipe was not only accessible, but also more affordable, for anyone who might want to make it.
So, I'm starting with two 6.5-ounce cans of chopped clams.
-And I'm going to add both of them to my cold potatoes.
-I've never seen chowder made like this.
[ Laughs ] -We'll add the onions...
-...that I meticulously chopped.
-It's a cold start chowder.
-[ Laughs ] -This is incredible, Christie.
You're breaking all the rules.
I love it.
-I love it!
[ Laughter ] 1 teaspoon of salt and 2 teaspoons of pepper.
I'm going to mix this all together.
The reason we're doing this is because, most of the time, you build flavor in your chowder on the stovetop, right?
-That's where you let all the flavors come together.
But, heat is the very thing that's going to make these clams feel like little erasers in your mouth, right?
-[ Laughs ] Yes.
I've had that chowder.
-So we want to kind of marry all these flavors, let that infusion happen -- the clams into the potatoes, the onions into the potatoes, the potatoes into the onions.
-[ Laughs ] -We want to let that happen off the heat, first.
Now, if you wouldn't mind holding that zipper-lock bag.
It's a 1 gallon.
You want to make sure it's nice and big.
-And we're going to transfer this into the bag.
-It's a little juicy.
-Why the bag?
-Because we've got a lot of strong-smelling, finely chopped onions, and we've got clams and clam juice in here.
-And those are smells that, maybe, you don't want infusing... -[ Laughs ] -...your refrigerator contents.
-Okay, I got it.
So this is for the stink factor.
So, we'll just make sure that this is tightly sealed.
Now, this is going to go and sit in the refrigerator.
We want the flavors to marry for at least an hour, but it can sit in there for up to 24.
♪♪ -Julia, I have our infusion of potatoes, chopped clams, and onions... -Mm-hmm.
-...in a large saucepan.
-But we can't start this chowder without talking about the star, which are some whole baby clams.
In addition to the chopped clams.
So I have two 10-ounce cans of whole baby clams.
-And I'm going to strain these.
-So, I want 1 cup of the brine.
-You should get that from the two cans... -Mm-hmm.
-...but if you don't, you can always just add a little water to make sure you have the right amount.
-This is perfect, so, I'll add this to the potato-clam mixture, along with 1.5 teaspoons of table salt.
Now, I'm going to bring this up to a bare simmer over medium heat.
-So, a bare simmer.
What does that even mean?
-A bare simmer is talking about those little bubbles that you start to get around the edges of the saucepan.
We're starting this out on medium heat.
It's going to take a while to get those bubbles... -It will.
-...but you have to give it the time.
You can't turn the heat up to get there faster because the whole thing is the slow heating of the potatoes to get them cooked to where we want them.
Julia, it's been about 10 minutes.
-I see bubbles.
-And you see just little bubbles around the outside.
And I've been going in and stirring this pretty frequently, just to get a gauge to make sure you don't have potatoes sticking on the bottom or scorching or anything.
So, this is great.
I turn the heat down to medium low and we're going to let this go until the potatoes are mostly done.
It's been about 5 minutes.
So, now, we can add the clams.
-And now, I'm also adding 2 cups of light cream.
It's not too rich... -Mm-hmm.
-...not too heavy, but it gives it that nice, creamy feel.
And, if you can't find light cream, you can always use 1.5 cups of heavy cream and cut it with about 1/2 cup of whole milk.
I'm going to turn my heat up ever so slightly to medium and we're going to let this cook, stirring it occasionally, until the potatoes are fully cooked and the chowder is nice and hot throughout.
Just 5 more minutes.
-Christie, that is looking like soup.
-The potatoes are tender, so, I'm going to take this off the heat.
But we're not quite finished.
-We added some cream, but we need a little bit of richness, in the form of some nice, flavorful butter.
So, I have 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
-Adding it off the heat is also going to allow it to kind of melt into the chowder without breaking, so it's going to keep that creamy consistency.
This isn't quite as thick as some traditional New England clam chowders, so, an optional ingredient.
This is 2 tablespoons of instant mashed potato flakes.
-Because it'll dissolve into the soup and thicken it without having a discernible flavor.
Oh, well, it tastes like potatoes and we just happen to have potatoes in this chowder already.
Okay, so I think this is good.
-I love that you have mugs.
-[ Laughs ] -I love eating chowder out of mugs.
I don't know what it is about chowder and mugs.
A mug or bread bowl.
The classic crackers, oyster crackers.
-Well, you can't eat it without.
-[ Laughing ] No, you can't.
Christie, this soup looks amazing.
[ Laughing ] Oh!
Christie, this is delicious.
-[ Chuckle ] -This is really close to Woodman's, with the consistency and that potent clam flavor.
I'd be hard pressed to know that it was canned and not fresh clam.
And I think that, you know, if you're buying quality canned clams... -Mm-hmm.
-...you're not going to notice a difference.
-Christie, this is delicious.
-It was my pleasure.
-To make this incredible clam chowder, use two types of canned clams -- chopped clams and whole baby clams, undercook the potatoes slightly and let them marinate with some of the clams, and simmer the soup very gently.
From "Cook's Country," a spectacular recipe for Woodman's-style clam chowder.
This is my new recipe.
-This is incredible.
♪♪ -I love oysters.
But they're also the source of my most epic culinary fail.
This was probably 30, maybe 35, years ago.
I'm going to serve oysters at a New Year's party.
Of course, I had never shucked an oyster in my life, but I figured, how hard can it be?
I had an old-fashioned church key, kind of like this one, and, an hour later, I was almost crying.
Not a single oyster was open.
This is a little bit of redemption for me.
I'm going to open an oyster on television.
But first, let me talk to you about oysters.
There are five varieties of oysters cultivated in North American waters.
We're going to start with the European flat, also known as the Belon.
Here we've got the eastern oyster, that is grown in the Gulf, as well as in the Atlantic.
The Pacific oyster.
You know where that grows.
This is another West Coast variety.
And, finally, the Kumamotos, is also grown, largely, out on the West Coast.
Now, the variety of oyster will tell you a little bit about what it's going to taste like.
For instance, Kumamotos are often melony or described as having honeydew notes.
But frankly, the local water, the growing condition, is going to be more informative.
An eastern oyster grown in the Gulf is very different than an eastern oyster from Maine, even though they're the same variety.
When I was a kid, you were told, "Don't eat oysters during the summer or any months without an 'R' because the oysters are spawning."
That was true 50 years ago, but now modern oysters are sterile, so they're fat 12 months of the year, meaning that they're not spawning and they don't get watery in the summer, so, you can enjoy them 12 months of the year.
You also can enjoy them by mail order.
They ship remarkably well, as long as they stay cold.
When they do get to your house, put them in the fridge, in a bowl covered with a damp towel.
Do not put ice in the bowl.
It seems really logical -- you want them cold, put ice in the bowl, but the ice will melt and the freshwater will kill the oysters.
They'll be fine in your fridge for a day or two.
So, it's the moment of truth.
I'm going to open an oyster and I'm going to start with our winning oyster knife.
This is the R. Murphy New Haven oyster knife.
Now, it's got a lovely handle that's really secure, that's not going to slip.
And it has a little pointed tip that's absolutely important for getting into the hinge.
I've got a towel here.
Got it cup-side-down, so that the liquid's not going to come out.
And I'm going to use the towel to basically protect my hand.
I've got my thumb here, steadying the oyster.
So, I'm going to wiggle this in.
I'm going to use the pointed blade to get into the hinge and then I'm going to wiggle gently.
And, really, what I'm waiting for is the point where the shell pops.
You see it pop.
Now, we're not done yet.
First thing I'm going to do is separate the muscle from the top shell.
Sort of stop, and start going really carefully at this point.
And what I want to do is just use the blade and go underneath, really gently, to loosen the muscle from the bottom shell, so that when I go to slurp it, it ends up in my mouth, rather than on my shirt.
Time to enjoy, and there are three steps -- sip the liquid, slurp -- going to need some suction to get it into your mouth, and then chew.
Oh, my heavens.
That is such a good oyster.
And can I just say?
You don't need a sauce.
It comes with its own sauce.
So, open an oyster today.
♪♪ -Do you have to spend hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of dollars on a high-end blender, all to serve you up a satisfactory smoothie?
Well, let's ask Adam, because he's here to tell us more about inexpensive blenders.
-You know, you can spend hundreds of dollars, as you know, but these are a lot less expensive.
-So we have this lineup of seven, price-capped at $100.
The least expensive was $29.
We used them to make kale smoothies, to crush ice, to make almond butter from whole almonds... -Mm-hmm.
-...and to make a small batch of mayonnaise.
And alongside, just for a reference point, we used that one down there, which is our favorite mid-priced blender.
It's about $200.
-It was interesting.
Five out of the seven inexpensive blenders had a tough time with the kale smoothie.
They did not get the kale smoothies smooth enough.
Now, the way blenders work is that the blades are spinning, the food gets chopped up and thrown up into sort of a vortex.
The vortex gets broken inside the jar, the food comes back down, and it's this recirculation of the food.
This one did a great job on the kale smoothies, and there are two reasons.
Number one is the bottom of the jar tapers in just a little bit.
That keeps the food closer to the blade.
Better contact equals better blending.
-The second thing is that they all have these ribs on the interior to break the vortex, but the ones that did the best had big, prominent ribs, just like this one does.
-The almond butter test spoke to the need for brute force.
A lot of these had a hard time with that.
Again, this one, which is one of the two most powerful, at 1,200 watts, did, actually, a great job on the almond butter, with sort of a minimum of going in there and poking and prodding.
You just need more power to get through those almonds because they're super, super tough.
The flip side of the power equation was illustrated in the mayonnaise test.
Some of these were not able to emulsify the oil on the egg.
They didn't make the mayonnaise because they were too powerful at the low speeds.
-And the oil and the egg just got thrown around and never got emulsified.
-Splashes on the side.
So, in the end, if you want to spend $100 on a blender, this is your choice.
This is the nutribullet full-size blender.
It's $100 on the nose.
It was one of the most powerful ones we had.
It's a great choice, if you're making those kale smoothies, which I know you're never going to make.
[ Laughter ] You're laughing at me.
If you're going to crush ice, if you're going to make milkshakes or frozen drinks...
I got you on that one.
-You got me there.
-...this is a really good one.
If you want to spend a little bit less, there's also a best buy.
-That's the Black+Decker Quiet Blender with the Cyclone Glass Jar.
-And how much does that run?
-It's about $60.
-Sixty bucks, alright.
If you want to get yourself one of these inexpensive blenders, then check out the winner.
It's the nutribullet full-size blender.
It runs about $100.
Now, our best buy is the Black+Decker Quiet Blender with Cyclone Glass Jar, and that'll run you $60.
♪♪ -The modern food system makes it possible for those of us who eat meat to put some serious mental distance between the animal itself and the product we cook.
Lobsters are one of the rare exceptions.
We have debated the most humane way to cook lobster for as long as we have been eating it.
David Foster Wallace explored the ethical considerations of boiling the crustaceans in his famous essay "Consider the Lobster."
The restaurant Charlotte's Legendary Lobster Pound in Maine has been experimenting with a highly unconventional method of cooking their lobsters -- they sedate them with marijuana.
But they aren't able to legally serve the cannabis-infused crustaceans, just yet.
When it came time to develop our buttered lobster roll recipe, the team at "Cook's Country" explored lots of methods.
We tried freezing the lobsters, standing them on their heads to subdue them, and more.
We landed on our own solution to this crustaceous quest.
♪♪ -In some areas of the country, they fight over barbecue or whether to put beans in a bowl of chili.
Well, here in New England, we bring out the dukes and we hash it out over lobster rolls.
Do you like it hot?
Do you like your lobster roll cold?
Well, Ashley's here.
She's bringing the hot debate with her.
So, I grew up here in New England.
So, we're really lucky because lobsters are readily available and, because of that, they're really affordable.
So, we were able to eat lobsters quite often.
So, today we're going to make some hot buttered lobster rolls.
-And I'm going to start with three 1.5-pound lobsters.
But if you can't find live lobsters, which we do prefer, go ahead and get the frozen lobster tails.
You're going to use about eight 4- to 5-ounce lobster tails and you can find that recipe for reducing the cooking time on our website.
You're going to notice I have a larger stockpot over here.
And this is important because, in order to get the full amount of lobsters we need for this recipe, you need the tall stockpot.
Otherwise, you can't fit the three 1.5-pounders in there.
So, three 1.5-pounders makes four rolls?
-Yep, four lobster rolls.
-And they are pretty on the... -Good.
I've met a few... -...on the hefty side.
No, no time for those.
-So, again, 6 quarts of water boiling.
I have 3 tablespoons of table salt here.
-So, you'll notice they're not moving around too much.
I just stuck them in the freezer, just for a bit, just to help them go to sleep.
And I'm going to put them claw-side-down.
Cover is on.
I'm going to reduce the heat down to medium low and I'm going to cook the lobsters for 10 minutes.
-It's not a lot of time.
-It's not a lot of time.
-And that's on purpose.
-You'll have the answer.
-[ Laughs ] ♪♪ Okay, it's been 10 minutes.
I am going to take the lobsters out of the stockpot.
They aren't fully cooked, at this point, and that is intentional.
-I'm going to let these hang out here on the rimmed baking sheet for about 10 minutes.
-And, when you go to those lobster pounds, they have those beautifully, lightly browned, toasted, buttery buns.
-Now, I have a couple of tablespoons of butter and I'm just going to brush the butter evenly -Outside.
-on the outside.
-These are not hot dog buns.
They're split tops.
And then I'm just going to toast them in the nonstick skillet.
-Okay, so, I'm just going to let these go until lightly browned on both sides.
-Alright, we have our lobsters that have been cooling for about 10 minutes.
-I like to start by twisting the tail, first.
-Ooh, you're a tail and thorax twister, are you?
-I'm a tail-thorax kind of girl.
And then I go, go for a claw.
-Give it a little twist.
And then these.
These are the gateway to learning to love lobster.
-If you have any friends, family, kids, that are just like, "What is that?"
This is how you get those mouths to enjoy.
You can use a rolling pin.
-And roll out the entire piece of meat.
So, let's get the knuckles.
And, right now, I'm going to use the kitchen shears.
You also could use those lobster crackers... -Mm-hmm.
-...if you have those, but this does a really great job.
Because, as I said, it's a little bit cleaner and safer than using the back of a sharp chef's knife.
-Yeah, I've done that.
I've used the back of a sharp chef's knife.
-Okay, this is kind of my show-off moment, okay.
-[ Gasp ] Alright.
-I'm going to pretend I'm a chiropractor.
-And I'm going to put the tail on its side.
And then put a little pressure [ Cracking ] with the palm of your hand.
-Now, use those shears again.
If you have shrimp shears, you could use them here, but we've already dirtied our kitchen shears... -Right.
-...so, I'm going to keep going.
Cut right down that soft cartilage.
-I'm going to show my way.
-I've always done the scissors on either side.
-Kind of like taking the chicken back out.
-Yeah, that's exactly, yeah.
-Just wiggle it out.
-There we go!
♪ And now I'm going to cut the lobster meat into 3/4-inch pieces.
-Alright, running my knife right down the center of the tail.
I'm going to finish cutting the lobster and then we can finish cooking it.
We are going to put the hot buttered back in lobster roll right now.
So, I've got 6 tablespoons of butter melting on medium low and I'm going to add one small, minced shallot.
And we're only going to cook this just until heated through because I'm also going to add the lobster meat from earlier and 1/4 teaspoon of some salt.
So, I'm going to cook the lobster right now, along with the shallot, for about 2 minutes, just until it's heated through.
And that is going to finish cooking the lobster.
-That's why you undercooked it.
-And that is why I undercooked it.
When you're in Maine, you order a lobster roll, the last thing you want is an overcooked lobster roll.
-So, this is going to ensure that it's not overcooked.
-2 minutes on this and then we're going to fill the buns.
I'm going to transfer, evenly, the lobster meat into our toasted buns.
[ Sizzling ] Oh, my goodness.
-I'm really looking forward to this.
I do have to say that I am an equal opportunity lobster roll lover.
-I like the cold, you know, with the mayonnaise.
-That hot buttered lobster roll?
It's like you get all the glory of ordering a lobster... -Yeah.
-...without the work.
-Because you did it all.
Alright, I'm going to load these babies up.
[ Singsong ] Oh, my goodness.
-[ Gasp ] Ohhh.
-It's just -- Oh, my goodness.
So, I have 2 teaspoons of some minced chives.
-And we have lemon wedges.
-Come to me.
-[ Hums ] Cheers.
-Cheers to you.
-That lobster meat... -Mm.
-...is perfectly cooked.
-This is so juicy and tender.
Just melts in your mouth.
And all that butter?
-Ah, the butter.
And the shallot?
-It does, it adds that little bit of sweetness and it's just in the background.
It's not overwhelming.
-It's a perfect lobster roll.
-This is incredible.
-Well, wherever you live, you can enjoy this amazing New England sandwich at home.
And it starts with slightly undercooking the lobsters in boiling water.
Finish cooking the lobster meat gently in a skillet, with butter and shallots, and then pile that lobster meat high on buttered, toasted rolls.
So, from "Cook's Country," the supreme sandwich -- it beats them all -- hot buttered lobster rolls.
And you can get this recipe and all the recipes from this season, along with product reviews and select episodes.
They're all on our website.
Ooh, juicy lobster coming in.