Posts tagged #chowder

Wish you were here: chowdah, salmon, and vacation food

There’s only so much fried food you can consume in a week, but I did my best to fill a year’s quota in seven short days. Fried clams, fried Pemaquid oysters, fried calamari, and of course, French fries by the plateful. A little coleslaw for balance. That’s mostly what’s on offer on the peninsulas that jut out all along the Maine coast like slender fingers. Lobster marinas and their attached dockside picnic tables proffer platters of boiled lobsters with coleslaw, sometimes with steamed clams, and if you’re lucky, corn on the cob. What’s not to like?

Yet there comes a time for a break. I had brought the remnants in my refrigerator in a cooler, just in case we were feeling too lazy to leave the cottage after a day of doing a whole lot of nothing. Well that day did come.

I started with the intention of making corn chowder since it requires only a few ingredients. We had local corn and potatoes….but Man of the House, not quite sated, thought lobster would add a nice touch, so he went down to the marina about half a mile away, and asked for a cooked lobster. By the time he dropped the $5.50 (!) for the lobster, I was well along with the rest of the soup.

You only need a large saucepan or small soup pot to make this, and most cottages, though poorly equipped, manage to provide a pot and a microwave. We made this for two, but ended up with enough for two meals.

Corn and/or seafood chowder recipe by the seat of your pants (Serves 2 to 4)

2 tablespoons butter

2 bunches of scallions, or 1 onion, chopped

2 handfuls of small potatoes, diced


Salt and pepper, to taste

4 ears of corn


1 one-and-a-half-pound cooked lobster, or clams, or fish (all optional)

1. In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the scallions or onions and sauté until soft. Add the diced potatoes, salt, pepper and enough water to barely cover the potatoes. Cook for about 15 minutes, until potatoes are soft. With a potato masher or spoon, break up some of the potatoes to add body to the soup.

2. Meanwhile, cook the unshucked corn in the microwave. Check out the how-to here on Simply Recipes (thanks, Elise.) Once the corn has cooled, slice off the kernels.

3. Set the cooked lobster in a colander over a bowl to catch the juices. Remove the meat and cut it into bite sized pieces. Add the juices that collect in the bowl to the soup pot.

4. Add the corn to the soup, and enough milk to your satisfaction. Bring it to a simmer and stir in the lobster.

Note: You can omit the seafood and enjoy plain ol’ corn chowder. If you want to use clams, steam them and add the steaming water to the pot. Shuck the clams and add them as you do the lobster above. Fish in chunks, shrimp, or scallops can all go into the pot when the milk heats up. Cook for a few minutes, or until seafood is done.

****** *******

Here’s another recipe (I’m deluging you dear friends) that should go on your vacation menu. You can do it with or without the potatoes and tomatoes.

Roast potatoes and cherry tomatoes on a baking sheet, and after about fifteen minutes, pop the fish in the oven for a no-stress quick supper. Use whatever herbs you have on hand.

Salmon with summer herbs, potatoes, and tomatoes (Serves 4)

Oil for the baking sheet and baking dish

1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano

3 scallions, finely sliced

1 pound small potatoes, halved

4 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and pepper, to taste

1 pint cherry tomatoes

1 1/2 pounds salmon fillet

Juice of 1 lemon

1 lemon, quartered, for garnish

1. Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Oil a rimmed baking sheet and a large ceramic or glass baking dish.

2. In a small bowl, combine the dill, parsley, oregano, and scallions.

3. In a medium bowl, toss the potatoes with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Spread on half of the baking sheet in a single layer.

4. In the same bowl, toss the tomatoes with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Spread on the second half of the baking sheet in a single layer. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the tomatoes are soft and the potatoes are browned.

5. Meanwhile, in the baking dish, place the salmon with the flesh side up. Sprinkle with the lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste. Spread with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and sprinkle with the chopped herbs. Bake for 10 to 13 minutes, or until the salmon is opaque in the center.

6. Transfer the fish to a platter and serve surrounded by tomatoes and potatoes.

And now for the vacation pictures. Wildflowers, docks, cottages, water views, rocky shorelines—all very cliché. What is a cliché other than a truism that has too often been repeated? Luckily, you can skip this part without hurting my feelings—I’ll never know!

Good morning

Room with a view

Posted on August 10, 2014 and filed under Seafood.

Summer: lobster chowder

Barbara's garden

Maine. I need my summer fix. And lucky me, I have friends in nice places. Who invite me to stay. I arrived after a long hot spell at home in Boston, but it was more of the same. A thick and sultry afternoon. So I went straight down to the dock. At low tide, it took a while to wade out far enough to dunk in the five-gasp take-away-your-breath chill of Maine water. But it is obligatory. Important. Bracing. Cleansing. Transforming.

I’m glad I did. Because even my wonderful, thoughtful hosts have no authority over fickle New England weather.

Same time next year, dear friends. And thank you.

On my way home I stopped at the local lobster pound and picked up some cooked lobsters to pack in my cooler. I made a promise to extend my trip and treat the folks back home to lobster chowder.

My mother always said the Fourth of July is the beginning of the end. Thanks for the cheery thought, Mom. But now it really does seem that summer is going by too fast.

Sweet lobster meat, sweet corn, potatoes, cream and smoky bacon are the classic foundations of any New England chowder. For a truly exceptional soup, make the flavorful broth from the lobster shells. Many fish markets sell cooked lobsters in the shell if you give them about an hour’s notice. You won’t need to add much salt—there is plenty in the briny shells.

Lobster chowder

Serves 6

3 cooked 1 1/2-pound lobsters, in the shells

1 large leek, (white and green part separated), sliced

1 cup white wine

9 cups water

4 slices (6 ounces) thick-cut bacon, cut into small dice

2 stalks celery, cut into small dice

Black pepper to taste

3 russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice

3 ears of corn, kernels removed from the cob

1 cup heavy cream

Juice of 1/2 lemon

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

1. Set a colander over a bowl. Hold the lobsters over the colander, and using lobster crackers or a nutcracker and a small fork, remove the meat, allowing the juices to dribble into the bowl. Cut the meat into bite-size pieces and transfer to a bowl. Refrigerate.

2. In a large soup pot, combine the shells and bodies, their accumulated juices, the sliced green part of the leek, the wine, and the water. Over high heat, bring the liquid to a boil. Decrease the heat to a simmer, and cook for 40 minutes. Strain the broth into a bowl. Discard the shells and leeks.

3. Rinse and wipe out the pot. Add the bacon, and cook over medium heat, stirring, for 3 minutes, or until it renders its fat and begins to crisp. Add the white part of the leek, the celery, and pepper. Cook, stirring often, for 3 minutes. Add the diced potatoes and lobster stock, and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes, until potatoes are tender.

4. Add the corn to the pot and simmer for 3 minutes. Add the lobster and cream, and simmer for about 3 minutes more, or until the chowder is hot all the way through. Stir in the lemon juice and parsley. Add more pepper and lemon juice if you like.

Fairy mansion

Fairy house

Posted on July 30, 2013 and filed under Soups, Main dish, Seafood.

I brake for farm stands: smoky corn and shrimp chowder recipe

All may not be right with the world in these modern times, but some things still are. If you want to be reassured of it, just drive down a country back road in midsummer.

That’s what I found out last week when I travelled along memory lane—or should I say, lanes. I rambled off the beaten path on a leisurely drive through rural New Jersey close to where I grew up. Did I mention that I brake for farm stands? I had my eyes peeled, determined to haul back some famous Jersey corn before I hit the highway for my long ride back to Boston.

I didn’t find any farm stands, but what I did come across were side-of-the-road vegetables. You’ve seen them, the fruits of someone’s summer vegetable patch piled on a wobbly old card table, or in a basket set upon another upside-down basket, filled with corn or squash, cucumbers, tomatoes. You’d see a sign written on a piece of cardboard with a black sharpie, or sometimes a fancier white board: cucumbers, 2 for $1.00, cantaloupes, $2.00 each (and they are huge), white peaches in a cardboard basket—

please leave the basket

—$2.00. Dribble down your chin sweet peaches that make you want cry. Why didn’t I bring home more peaches?

Leave your money in the box, we trust you.

If that doesn’t restore your faith in human goodness, then I’m not sure what will.

The Jersey corn of my youth was just as sweet and tender as I remembered. I had enough to grill a few extra ears with

these shrimp skewers

, and then turned the excess into smoky corn chowder. Corn and shrimp, corn and lobster, these are summer indulgences that must be paired before the summer wanes. And when eaten together, for a few moments all is right with the world again.

You could add cream to this soup, but it’s really not necessary. Puree some of the soup in a blender and then add it back to the pot—all the creaminess you could want comes from the starchy sweet corn. Take a few extra minutes to boost the corn flavor with stock made from the cobs. You could make this chowder with any leftover corn, but grilled corn gives it a smoky, intense flavor


Size and sweetness of corn varies a lot at this time of year, so your yield may be greater if you use large ears. Leftover soup can be frozen. (If you leave out the shrimp, you can even make this a vegan chowder.) If you skip the shrimp, another option would be to  add some finely diced salt pork sautéed with the onion and celery; that would add a nice contrast to the sweetness of the corn. It's a very good recipe to tinker with.

Smoky corn chowder recipe

Makes 8 to 10 cups

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 medium onion, finely chopped

3 stalks celery, finely diced

2 medium potatoes, (10 ounces total) peeled and cut into 3/8-inch dice

Kernels cut from 6 medium ears of grilled corn

5 cups water, chicken stock or corn stock (see below)

Salt and pepper, to taste

8 grilled shrimp

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

1. Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions and celery and cook for 5 minutes, until soft. Add the potatoes, corn kernels, water, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a simmer. Cook for 20 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.

2. Puree 3 cups of the soup until smooth in a blender. Stir back into the soup pot. Taste and add more salt and pepper if you like.

3. Coarsely chop 4 of the shrimp.

4. Ladle the soup into 4 bowls. Garnish each bowl with some chopped shrimp and 1 whole shrimp. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve.

Once you have scraped away the kernels, you can use the corncobs for a delicious stock.

Corn stock recipe

Makes 5 to 6 cups

6 corncobs (without kernels), broken in half

1/2 onion, sliced

1 stalk celery, sliced

2 to 3 sprigs parsley

1/2 teaspoon salt

1. Place the corncobs, onion, celery, parsley and salt in a large pot. Add 8 cups water and bring to a boil over medium heat. Adjust the heat to a simmer and cook for 20 to 25 minutes. Strain.

How to grill corn on the cob

There are several ways to go about this, but I like the following. Grilling concentrates the flavors, and the cooked corn is often slightly drier than it would be if cooked in boiling water. When left on the ears, the husks insulate the corn and it more or less steams on the grill. Some people like to soak the corn in water for about 15 minutes before grilling, but I usually skip that step in pursuit of drier, charred kernels. Once the corn is cooked, peel back the husks. If the kernels are not charred to your liking, simply throw the ears back on the grill for a few seconds.


Prepare a charcoal grill, or turn on a gas grill to medium-high heat.


Peel back and discard a few tough outer leaves of the cornhusks, leaving a few layers of husks for insulation. Peel back the top third of the husks and pull out most of the silk; don’t worry if you can’t remove all of it. Fold the husks back to their original shape.

3. Grill the corn, turning often, for 10 to 12 minutes, or until it is black and charred all over. Cut off the stem ends of the ears and peel off the husks and silk.

You could also microwave it (watch 


) fun!

You might also like

grilled corn with chipotle mayonnaise


Soaked and grilled corn from the

New York Times

Posted on August 2, 2012 and filed under Main dish, Seafood, Soups, Summer food.

It ain't over 'til it's over: corn chowder

Technically, it is still summer. But after September 1st, it sure feels like it’s over. I hate that.

Why? Some folks like it cold, and some like it hot. I like the in-between, but mostly on the warm side. I am the happiest in June, when the summer spreads out before me like a cool green meadow that goes on and on. Sigh.

The upside to September: kids are back in school (sigh again, this time a sigh of relief.) Don’t get me wrong; having your kids home with unstructured time is wonderful in an old-fashioned Leave-It-To Beaver kind of way. But hallelujah when that school bell rings!

The other upside is, of course, a veritable banquet of vegetables in the market to choose from. 

When I make this corn chowder, I am always reminded of the virtues of humble American cooking. Sure, Italian food has sex appeal, but when you apply its primary principle—spectacular ingredients used simply—we Americans can go toe to toe with them any day, especially in September.

With justly famous Yankee ingenuity, our New England forefathers used what they had on hand to make food for sustenance. These resourceful cooks layered ingredients like salt pork, cod, onions, potatoes and a few herbs in a pot (the word chowder is purportedly derived from chaudière, the name of a French cooking pot) with milk and water. Sustenance always came first, but look at the result: salty bacon paired with clams or cod, tamed with cream and potatoes. Now it’s getting interesting.

Corn Chowder

Serves 6

2 tablespoons butter or olive oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped

2 stalks celery, finely diced

3 potatoes (about 1 pound), peeled and cut in 3/8-inch dice

Kernels cut from 6 ears of corn (5 to 6 cups)

6 cups chicken stock, vegetable stock or quick corn stock (recipe below)

Salt and pepper, to taste

1 red pepper, cut in half lengthwise

Snipped chives, for garnish

Cream, if you like

1. Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions and celery and cook for 5 minutes or until the vegetables are tender but not browned.

2. Add the potatoes, corn kernels, stock and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil and adjust the heat to a simmer. Simmer for 25 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.

3. Position an oven rack 4 inches from the broiler element and turn on the broiler. Place the pepper halves with the cut sides down on a baking sheet. Broil until the skin blackens and blisters, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and cover the bowl with a plate. When the pepper halves are cool enough to handle, peel and seed them. Cut in small dice.

4. Scoop out 3 cups of the soup and puree it in a blender. Stir it back into the pot and taste for seasoning. Add more salt and pepper if you like.

5. Ladle the soup into bowls. Garnish the soup with diced red pepper, chives, and if you like, a generous spoonful of cream.

Once you have scraped away the kernels, you can use the corn cobs for a delicious stock.

Corn stock

Makes 6 cups

6 corn cobs (without kernels), broken in half

1/2 onion, sliced

1 stalk celery, sliced

2 to 3 sprigs parsley

1/2 teaspoon salt

1. Place the corn cobs, onion, celery, parsley and salt in a large pot. Add 8 cups water and bring to a boil over medium heat. Adjust the heat to a simmer and cook for 20 to 25 minutes. Strain.

Posted on September 3, 2011 and filed under Soups, Summer food, Vegetarian.