Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Maine Voyage | Lobster Corn Chowder with Mussels and Clams

Its that time of year again. The trip to Bar Island to visit my aunt Julie and all the characters north of Ellsworth. I look forward to this trip so much every year, it's transports me to a place where my Blackberry refuses to get service and happy hour never starts later than four On The Dot. An amazing landscape that reminds you that this earth was carved out of the awesome power of mother nature, and her bounty is plentiful and giving if you treat it with respect and only take what you need.

The meal above was the culmination of more than one fishing expedition, but it started like this.
We started by sitting on the rocks, still radiating heat from the days full sun, sipping beverages and snacking on appetizers, dinner was crabmeat salad and lots and lots of wine.

The next day proved to be just as beautiful, with bright blazing sun, we took the boat out to catch a glimpse of the Puffins, famous in this area this time of year. They didn't disappoint. But, the highlight was waiting for low tide so I could strap on the muck boots and rake for mussels for dinner. 


This is what happens when you don't watch your footing... you do the horrible dead leg stuck in the mud dance for a good ten minutes while your loving husband laughs and points at you.

But then, you free yourself (and hopefully your boot) and start to working.

And when your done raking and debearding and washing you steam them and then good Lordy you put them in the smoker and make smoked mussels which if you haven't had you're really missing out on something.
The next morning proved to be rainy and overcast, but the weather broke just long enough for us to head out and catch up with Bill, the lobsterman and watch him and his sternman pull traps for a few hours. 

This is the view from the back of the boat.

This is a beautiful example of an egg bearing female. In Maine if you find a female loaded with eggs like this, you have to notch her and throw her back and she can never be caught and kept, she must always be put back into the water to help with reproduction. This is one of the prime reasons that the Maine lobstering community is doing so well; the population of lobster isn't depleted there like it is in Massachusetts. In Massachusetts, this lobster can be pulled from the water, loaded with eggs and brought to the pound and sold. Take note Massachusetts, start instituting some best practices and maybe you won't be faced with a 5 year lobstering ban due to reduced lobster populations.

You can see in the picture above that her tail doesn't have any notches in it. Below you can see that we have notched her tail so she is never in danger of being removed from the ocean.

Another best practice in Maine is the policy that you have to throw back lobsters of a certain size, too large or too small lobsters must all be put back into the ocean, the small ones because they are not ready yet, and the oversized large ones because of their ability to fertilize the eggs of females. Below is a picture of them measuring the lobster to make sure it meets the standards.

This one is the perfect size, but the guy below is going for a ride right back into the drink.

The weekend was filled with many other memorable moments, but onto the recipe...which I found online, I adapted the William Sonoma Recipe, choosing this one because it utilized the shells and body to make a homemade lobster broth.

Lobster Corn Chowder with Mussels and Clams (adapted from William Sonoma)

1 tbsp Canola Oil
4 cups of water
1 cup of clam stock (I used the stock from steaming the clams, or just buy bottled)
3 ears of corn, kernels removed (and corn cobs reserved)
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 large carrots, diced
3 celery stalks, diced
2 cups of milk (or cream)
1 cups of dry vermouth (or wine, sherry)
2 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, diced into 1/2" cubes
1/2 jalapeno seeded, deveined and diced small
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
2 tsp chopped fresh chives
(I also added some left over clams and mussels from the previous day)

Fill a large pot wiht 2" water, set over high heat and bring to a boil; add lobsters, cover and cook until lobsters are red, about 7 minutes. Transfer lobsters to a large ice bath to cool. Remove meat from claws, knuckles and tails and refrigerate meat until ready to use. Reserve shells and bodies.

In a large pot over high heat, warm oil. Add reserved lobster shells and bodies and saute until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add water and clam juice (you can also use the broth from the lobster), vermouth (or wine/sherry), and corn cobs. Bring to a simmer and cook until reduced to about 2 1/2 cups, 25 - 30 minutes.

In a Dutch oven over medium heat the onion, carrots, celery and corn kernels and jalapeno, and saute stirring until tender, 4 - 5 minutes.

Strain lobster - corn cob broth into Dutch oven, add milk and vermouth and bring to a simmer. Stir in potatoes, return to a simmer and reduce heat to a medium-low. Cook until potatoes are tender - about 15 - 20 minutes. Stir in lobster meat, (mussles and clams), salt, pepper, thyme and chives. Cook stirring occasionally until lobster is heated through, 2 - 3 minutes. Adjust seasoning as needed.

Rating = So Damn Good 


Lexi said...

Hi there!

Two things...

First off, I don't think that I've ever left a comment, but I love your blog! The "rating" system in particular always keeps me laughing.

Secondly, do you have any knowledge of Bowdoin College in Maine? Seeing as this post was about Maine, I thought I'd inquire just in case :)

Thanks and keep up the great work!


JB said...

Hey Lexi - thanks for commenting. Yes, I am familiar with Bowdoin College, its been a little while since my firm did work there. Are you an alum or do you work there currently?

Lexi said...


Neither, actually. I was considering applying there for college, actually. I've been to Maine once (during the summer) and loved it, but I didn't visit the college at the time.