Sunday, October 19, 2014

Coastal Maine Cuisine

Coastal Maine has breathtaking scenery with craggy shorelines and lots of lighthouses. To be exact fifty-seven active lights in the state. 
Coastal cooking finds its inspiration from the sea as well as poets, authors and artists. As a young boy, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow knew he wanted to become a poet. The beautiful scenery of the coastal city left an impact on young Longfellow and the waterfront served as the quiet escape for meditation . His responsive listening to the lapping of the waves and to the sighing of the wind in lofty pines inspired Longfellow to create beautiful poems enabling the rest of the world to share in these indescribable visions.
Longfellow and his second wife Fanny had five children. He was tender, devotional, and loving toward his children, and "The Children's Hour" is one of the poems Longfellow wrote depicting himself as their father, a poet. 

Between the dark and the daylight,
When the night is beginning to lower,
Comes a pause in the day's occupations,
That is known as the Children's Hour.
I hear in the chamber above me
The patter of little feet,
The sound of a door that is opened,
And voices soft and sweet.
From my study I see in the lamplight,
Descending the broad hall stair,
Grave Alice, and laughing Allegra,
And Edith with golden hair.
A whisper, and then a silence:
Yet I know by their merry eyes
They are plotting and planning together
To take me by surprise.
A sudden rush from the stairway,
A sudden raid from the hall!
By three doors left unguarded
They enter my castle wall!
They climb up into my turret
O'er the arms and back of my chair;
If I try to escape, they surround me;
They seem to be everywhere.
They almost devour me with kisses,
Their arms about me entwine,
Till I think of the Bishop of Bingen
In his Mouse-Tower on the Rhine!
Do you think, O blue-eyed  banditti
Because you have scaled the wall,
Such an old mustache as I am
Is not a match for you all!
I have you fast in my fortress,
And will not let you depart,
But put you down into the dungeon
In the round-tower of my heart.
And there will I keep you forever,
Yes, forever and a day,
Till the walls shall crumble to ruin,
And moulder in dust away!
Our New England culinary adventures begin in the furthermost state of the region Maine. 
Lobster in any shape or form was a given on any menu as well as clam chowder.
There are countless varieties of clam chowder-the most popular New England Style and Manhattan Style. The label New England Style has come to mean that the chowder has a cream or dairy base while Manhattan Style refers to a tomato base. 

Repeat after me, “Chow-DAH!” That’s the way it should be said, if you are anywhere in the vicinity of New England, which is the birthplace of this wonderful clam stew. The word “chowder” is thought to have been derived from “chaudière”, an old French term for cauldron, or a big cooking pot. Traditionally chowder is made with salt pork, onions, potatoes, milk or cream, butter, and fish like cod or haddock, or clams dating back to the 1700s. Chowder is one of those things that is made in many different ways, and pretty much everyone thinks their way is best. It’s worth noting that the variations of this stew go back hundreds of years! 

Cook's notes: Most recipes call for using fresh clams but if you don't have access to fresh clams, you can use clam juice and canned chopped clams. Salt pork is traditional, it's like slab bacon that hasn't been smoked. You can easily substitute with bacon, or pancetta. The flour is a thickener. If you are cooking gluten-free or want a thinner consistency to your soup, leave it out. If you want a thicker soup, add more flour.

Makeover tip: Check sodium carefully on clam juice as it can vary dramatically between brands. Serves 4.
Clam Chowder
  • 6 slices of bacon 
  • 2 cans each (6.5 oz.) clams-rinsed or 12 oz. fresh clam strips found at seafood counter 
  • 1 small onion chopped 
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced 
  • 2 celery ribs, chopped 
  • 1/3 cup flour 
  • 1-32 oz. chicken broth (low sodium) 
  • 1/3 cup white wine 
  • 1-(8 oz. ) bottle clam juice 
  • 3 cups diced raw red potatoes 
  • 1 bay leaf 
  • 1 tsp. Old Bay Seasoning 
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme 
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • Cook bacon until crisp, set aside on a paper towel. 
  • Drain bacon fat and reserve 2 TB. in fry pan. 
  • Saute celery, onion, garlic cloves and celery. 
  • Stir in flour and cook, stirring constantly for 1 minute. 
  • Stir in broth, wine, clam juice, Old Bay Seasoning, thyme, bay leaf and cubed potatoes. 
  • Bring to boil and cover. Reduce heat and simmer stirring occasionally 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender. 
  • Add in clams, bacon bits, heavy cream. Cook over low heat 8 minutes. 
  • Remove bay leaf and serve with oyster crackers 
Next posting: Blueberry picking in Maine. 

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