Hey! It’s my big chance to show off my hometown, Essex, Massachusetts! Here is my contribution to the “Loving Local-Celebrating the Flavors of Massachusetts Blogathon.”
Thank you Tinky from In Our Grandmother’s Kitchen (http://www.ourgrandmotherskitchens.com/) for putting this all together and to the Massachusetts Farmer’s Markets (http://www.massfarmersmarkets.org/FMFM_Main.aspx) for helping to keep the local markets that we all enjoy this time of year alive and well. I hope you enjoy this little slice (no pun intended) of my neck of the woods.
Clam chowder, fried clams, clam cakes–you name it, I love it! I grew up on steamers–those delightfully delicious little soft shelled bivalves that live in the mudflats on the river in my home town, Essex, Massachusetts–this picture above was taken at high tide but trust me, under all of that water live some delicious little clams!
I come from a family of great cooks and happy eaters. Some of my best memories are watching my Grandparents cook and once in a while being able help out. Pies, birthday cakes, soup, coleslaw, baked beans…..you name it, they made it. My Mom, Sue Lufkin, is no slouch in the kitchen either and she has taught me so much of what I know and love about cooking and keeping it local. From fresh fish, to lobsters, steamers and whipping up a gorgeous salad from the farm stand with homemade dressing that features herbs from her little pots outside I owe what cooking expertise I have to my Mom.
Here are three recipes using locally source clams that I am thrilled to share with you today–I hope you enjoy them and will come and visit Cape Ann some day to sample these delicacies in our local restaurants.
Anyway, on my little local cable TV show, Inspired Cooking, I have been lucky enough to cook with wonderful chefs and amazing home cooks. One of my favorite chefs is Gail Mathews of The Emerson Inn in Rockport, MA. Gail makes a lovely clam chowder that, in a word is not thin, not thick but “velvety.” Here is Gail’s recipe for her Essex Clam Chowder.
Essex Clam Chowder
I Large package of Salt Pork (scored)
2 Lg. Vidalia Onions (chopped)
I Gallon fresh shucked Essex Clams (these are chopped sea clams)
1 gallon clam juice
3 pds of red potatoes (diced)
1 ½ quarts heavy cream
1 pound butter
Fresh Ground Pepper
Start by scoring your salt pork, so when you sautéed it with the onions the juice will render out. Place the salt pork & onions in a large pot on med heat, sauté the salt pork for approx 3-4 minutes.
Adding 1 cup of clam juice so it doesn’t stick to the pan. Continue to cook a few minutes till the onions are translucent.
Then add 3 pds of diced potatoes to pan covering with the remaining clam juice, bring to a low boil, cooking them till they are tender but not mushy adding fresh ground pepper.
When they are done add the clams, butter a pinch of salt and fresh ground pepper. Shut off the pot and stir the ingredients together, then cover and let set for about 10 minutes, this will allow the butter to melt and the clams to cook slowly so they do not get to tough.
Then to finish the chowder add the cream and turn the chowder back on, bring it back up to a simmer. Then wisk in the Wondra flour slowly to thicken to your liking. Remember the chowder will continue to thicken as you cook it.
Finish with fresh ground pepper. Serve with cracker or bread croutons.
ENJOY!!! (and yes, Gail made little bread croutons that she cut out with a fish shaped cookie cutter…..gorgeous…and then garnished with a little fresh chives)
So, there is Gail’s recipe. Now, here is mine. I Gail makes hers with chopped clams and I prefer to make mine with steamers–left over cooked steamers from the previous night’s dinner (if you have any left) and I also reserve the clam broth and strain it through cheesecloth to use in the chowder. This is the way my Grandmother made it and this is the way I make it–I don’t have any fancy pictures to accompany mine–I was snapping away while Gail was cooking–I need someone do to the same next time I make chowder.
Laurie Lufkin’s Essex Clam Chowder
2 pounds Maine Red potatoes, diced to ½”
8 cups clam broth
1 bay leaf
4 oz salt pork, cut into very small cubes
1 teaspoons dried thyme
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
¼ cup butter
2 cups diced sweet onions
3-12 oz cans evaporated milk
3 cups whole milk
1 pint half and half
5 cups cooked steamer clams, shucked and rinsed (black “necks” removed if desired)
Salt and pepper to taste
In a large stock pot, bring potatoes and clam broth to a boil. Cook until potatoes are fork tender but not soft. Set up a large bowl with a colander inside and strain the potatoes, reserving the broth. Set aside.
In the same pot, sauté finely diced salt pork over medium low heat until fat is rendered out and the bits of meat left in the pot are deep brown and crispy, about 10-15 minutes. Stir occasionally to lift any browned bits off of the bottom of the pan while cooking. With a slotted spoon, remove crispy bits and reserve, leaving drippings in the pan. Reserve crispy pork for garnish. Add onions, thyme and ½ teaspoon black pepper. Cook until onions are transparent, about 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Increase heat to medium high and add the clam broth. Bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and add evaporated milk and butter. Stir to combine. Add whole milk and half and half and clams re-warm chowder to serving temperature. Re-season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve in individual bowls and sprinkle with crispy salt pork.
Now, how about some Clam Cakes? Clam cakes you ask? What the heck are those? Well, in other parts of the planet you might call them clam hush puppies, or clam fritters but here in Essex, they are Clam Cakes. Not too much more than fried spheres of seasoned batter with bits of chopped clams, fried to a golden brown, lightly salted and then eaten dipped in delicious tartar sauce…ahhh….heaven……
Here’s my recipe. If this one sounds at all familiar to you it is because you might have seen me two years ago on Food Network’s Ultimate Recipe Showdown with Guy Fieri. I proudly represented my hometown and although I didn’t win the big money I am still, to this day, friends with all of my competition and would not trade the experience for the world. Here is the recipe for my clam cakes and tartar sauce. In the picture below my tartar sauce is served in a clam shell that I brought with me, on plates made by my friend Diane (also from Essex) using clams dug by my Dad’s friend Richard O’Leary, of Essex. Now that’s keeping it local!
Only In Essex Clam Cakes with Traditional New England Tartar Sauce
3 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
½ evaporated milk
1 ½ cup clam broth
2 cups cooked “steamer” clams, drained and chopped
2 cups canola oil or more, according to manufacturer’s instructions on deep fryer
For the Sauce:
Traditional Tartar Sauce
1/4 cup onion, finely diced
1/4 cup dill pickles, diced
3/4 c mayonnaise
1 tablespoon pickle juice
Mix all in a small bowl and serve with clam cakes.
In a deep fryer or on the stove top in a deep skillet, preheat oil to 375 degrees Farenheit.
In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Fold in eggs, half & half and clam broth until thoroughly mixed. Stir in clams and mix well.
Dip a spoon into the oil, then take a two tablespoon sized scoop of the fritter mixture and carefully drop into oil. Turn the cake over to brown on both sides when the first side is browned. Fritters should be cooked through and browned in three to five minutes. Remove with skimmer and drain on brown paper bag. Re-season with additional salt if desired.
Serve with the tartar sauce and enjoy!
This recipe makes 18+ small clam cakes and takes about 30-45 start to finish to fry them all, depending on the size of the fryer and how many you can cook at one time.