Monday, August 04, 2008

Can't get to Cape Cod this summer?

Me, either! And I'm within driving distance, too! BOO HISS. This summer seems to be slipping through my fingers, and though summer school ends this week, I still don't have any real vacation plans. Oh, to be sure, I'll probably squeeze another dog show in there before fall semester begins (YIKES!), but I'm not sure that I'll make it to my beloved Martha's Vineyard or anything grand like that this year. :-(

But wherever you are and whatever your vacation plans, you can still treat yourself to an authentic coastal New England supper. That's what I did this past weekend to console my poor, beach-less self. First of all, I wanted to make a seafood chowder that would be somewhat reminiscent of the excellent one that I had at Farnham's in Essex, MA over the Fourth of July weekend. I scoured these internets for a recipe that seemed close, and I found a festival award-winning chowder from a restaurant called the Venus de Milo in Swansea, MA (near Fall River). Even with a few key substitutions, it turned out really well. Mainly, I swapped haddock for lobster as Farnham's includes haddock in their seafood chowder. In another cost-saving maneuver--since clam juice is SO expensive for such small bottles--I used half clam and half chicken broth. Even so, this made for a very thick, creamy chowder. If you wanted a lighter, thinner version (such as the one at Farnham's), you could always swap out milk for cream, or thin it out with more stock. Though this picture doesn't do it justice (and Cyd rudely called it a "strange, fleshy color"), I think it's a lovely bisque hue, just blushed with tomato--not red like Manhattan clam chowder. In any case, this recipe is a keeper, and a perfect use of any of the fresh summer seafoods that you love. Plus, it's a hearty meal in itself, though you may want to accompany it with a green salad and some crusty bread for sopping.

Seafood Chowder
(Source: adapted from the
Venus de Milo Restaurant)
Makes about 2 1/2 quarts or 12 servings

1 cup/8 oz. small gulf shrimp
1 cup/8 oz. small sea scallops
3 1/2 cups clam juice (I used 2 cups clam juice and 1 1/2 cups chicken broth)
1 cup/8 oz. lobster meat (if you can afford it, go for it, but I swapped out haddock in mine)
2 cups 1/2 inch diced potatoes
4 oz. butter
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup minced onion
1/4 cup minced celery
1 cup tomato puree
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 1/2 cups light cream (you can substitute milk for a lighter base)
salt as needed
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
3 bay leaves

Peel and devein the shrimp and cut into bite-sized chunks. Wash the scallops and drain. Place the clam juice in a stock pot and bring to a boil. Cook the shrimp in the clam juice then remove and set aside. Do the same thing with the scallops (and haddock, if using), saving the stock. Cut the lobster meat into bite-sized chunks. Wash the diced potatoes, drain and place in a stock pot with the hot clam stock. Bring the potatoes to a boil, add the bay leaves and simmer until the potatoes are tender.

In a separate stock pot, melt the butter and saute the onion, celery, and garlic until the onions become transparent. Add the tomato puree and cook for several minutes, add the flour to the butter and onion mixture to make a roux and cook over a low heat for several minutes. Add the hot clam stock through a strainer a cup at a time and whisk until smooth. Add the remaining potatoes and bring to a simmer. Add the light cream (or milk), black pepper, and the lobster (or haddock), shrimp, and scallops and return to a simmer. Adjust the seasoning and serve immediately (though it's even tastier on Day Two!).

So that's a proper seaside New England supper, but now we need a fitting dessert. At this time of year, I always advocate the use of seasonal fruit at the peak of sweetness. If I were making this for company, I might have gone all out and made a pie. But as Cyd has little use for pastry crust and truly prefers crumbly topping, I decided to make a crisp instead. I only had one pint of lovely blueberries on hand, so I pulled a pint of beautiful sour cherries out of the freezer that I had left over after making two batches of jam last month. And PRESTO, I created a beautiful and delicious cherry-blueberry crisp! Actually, I was inspired by a pie recipe from Martha's Vineyard's First Lady of Pies, Eileen Blake. Not only does she make the definitive blueberry pie on the Island, she makes something called a Burgundy Pie with blueberries and cranberries that sounds wonderfully sweet-tart like my sour cherry-blueberry combo. Every time I've been to the Vineyard, I've only ever seen Mrs. Blake's home and famous pie hut in front (usually manned by her husband) from the window of the bus that circles the island. I always vowed that one day I would stop there and buy a pie as the locals do (including movie stars and presidents!), but I just read the sad news that Mrs. Blake passed away last week after living on Martha's Vineyard for over 40 years. For one kind blogger's reminiscence and pictures of Mrs. Blake's blueberry pie, follow this link. (My thanks to Evan and Ali of The Little Red Bike Cafe in Portland. If you live there, I envy you, and you MUST go try their "Bike-Through Nights" for pie and ice cream. Maybe you'll get lucky enough to try their Salted Caramel and Candied Bacon Ice Cream which sounds wrong, but OH SO right! Tee hee.)

Until I get around to making the Burgundy Pie, I urge you to try this delicious crisp. Of course, it can be made with all blueberries, especially as the blueberries this year are so amazing! In fact, I chose to take the berry-liciousness over the top by serving the crisp with homemade blueberry ice cream. Some berry ice creams seem overly-tart to me, but this one is smooth, creamy, rich, and altogether scrumptious! And have you ever in your life seen a more beautiful color?? Trust me, you're gonna love this dessert, even if you're thousands of miles away from Cape Cod.

Cherry-Blueberry Crisp
(Source: adapted from

2 cups pitted sour cherries

2 cups blueberries
1 cup granulated sugar
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour (I used 2 T AP flour and 2 T tapioca flour)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup old-fashioned oats
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup butter

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
2. In a large bowl, combine cherries, blueberries, one cup sugar, and four tablespoons of flour. Pour into a (sprayed) 9x13 inch baking dish. In a medium bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups flour, oats, and brown sugar. Cut in butter until crumbly. Sprinkle over fruit mixture.
3. Bake in preheated oven for 45 to 50 minutes, or until topping is golden brown and the filling is bubbling.

Blueberry Ice Cream
Gourmet Magazine, August 1997)
Makes 1 quart

2 cups picked-over blueberries
3/4 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1 1/2 cups heavy cream

*1 teaspoon vanilla, optional

In a saucepan bring blueberries, sugar, and salt to a boil over moderate heat, mashing berries and stirring with a fork. Simmer mixture, stirring frequently, five minutes and cool slightly.

In a blender, purée mixture with milk just until smooth and stir in cream (and vanilla, if using). Pour purée through a sieve into a bowl, pressing on solids with back of a spoon. Chill mixture, covered, at least two hours, or until cold, and up to one day. (Better yet, chill it quickly in an ice bath!)

Freeze mixture in an ice-cream maker. Transfer ice cream to an airtight container and put in freezer to harden. Ice cream may be made one week ahead.


Anonymous said...

We would like to feature this recipe for seafood chowder on our blog. Please email if interested. Thanks :)


Anonymous said...

I LOVE your blog! I am enjoying all of your recipes! Would you be open to having me put your blog onto my blog?


Joy Bugaloo said...

Haley, thanks so much for the recognition, but this is not an original recipe--just an adaptation of one from a restaurant in MA called the Venus de Milo.

LindaGay, how nice of you to comment! OF COURSE you can link to my blog--I would appreciate it! And I am going to check out yours, too. I grew up in the west, and I love Colorado. I spent a few summer vacations in Grand Lake, and did some hiking in the Rocky Mountain National Park. And of course, I have been to concerts at Red Rocks and Fiddler's Green. I'm jealous of you! :-)