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.
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.