I took a cooking class in Bar Harbor, Maine last week. The instructor, Sharon Joyce, shared recipes for blueberry muffins, popovers, steamed mussells, and this chowder. Sharon explained the traditions and food culture of the region, while whipping up a feast for the class, with our occasional assistance.
This chowder recipe was my favorite of those shared (all were delicious, but I think this is the one I'll make with the most regularity - um, sans lobster). This recipe is almost 100 years old (if not older), and was given to Sharon by a woman who worked as the head house keeper to a very wealthy Maine family many years ago. When the family would travel for business or pleasure, they would always request this chowder (with corn or white fish) for their first meal after arriving home. It's so simple, no bacon (sniff) or stock, I can see why it was a go-to dish.
Even though it was warm outside, I made this chowder while we were still in Maine so we could capitalize on the low-cost seafood. I am SO jealous of Mainards and their ability to buy lobsters and still afford to eat for the rest of the week.
I love this recipe because you can also make it with haddock or grouper - more realistic for an upstate New Yorker.
This is a loose chowder, so if you are looking for a thick one, you'll have to find a different recipe. I don't think adding a roux to this one would work well. It uses water for the majority of the liquid.
This recipe is so simple and can be made really inexpensively as a plain corn chowder. It's one of those "file it and make it in a pinch" type recipes.
Thanks to Sharon for sharing her stories and recipes!
Maine Corn & Fish Chowder
1 large onion
2 tbsp butter
2 cloves garlic
2 potatoes - such as yukon gold, peeled
Fresh thyme, or pinch of dried to taste (it doesn't need any herbs, but I had thyme on-hand so I added it)
Fresh corn from two cobs and/or a couple of filets of white fish
1-2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup cream
Saute 1 large onion chopped in 2 tbsp butter, until translucent (do not brown)
Add 2 garlic cloves, minced (honestly, I added this. you can't make ANYTHING without garlic!!)
Saute for 2 mins and add 2 large yukon gold potatoes, chopped into bite-sized pieces
Stir the potatoes and coat with the butter and onions
Add water just to cover potatoes and simmer (do not boil) until potatoes are tender
Add fresh corn, and/or white fish chopped into bite-sized pieces
Add whole milk to cover the corn and/or fish (about an inch or so)
Simmer for 7-9 mins until corn and/or fish are cooked through
Salt and pepper to taste
Add 1/2 cup of cream and simmer for a few minutes more.
Serve with crusty bread or Maine's traditional popovers!
If you happen to have a lobster - this is how we cooked it before we added it to the chowder:
Place a 1 1/2 - 2 lb lobster in the freezer, for approx 30 mins prior to boiling (seen as a humane way to end the little guy/gal's journey on earth)
Bring a large stock pot filled with water to a rolling boil
Salt the water heavily
When the water is at a rolling boil, place the lobster in the pot and cover with a lid
Set your timer for 12 mins
Once the timer rings, place the lobster in a shallow bowl and allow it to cool for several minutes, until you can comfortably handle it.
When cool, pick it up and crack the tail away from the body. The green goop inside should be removed (once thought edible, it's no longer recommended you eat it). The body of the lobster actually has hardly any meat, and it's not really worth the effort of getting at it. Pull the tail meat out and chop. Crack the claws and pull out the meat. The leg meat can be eaten by cracking them at the joints and then using your teeth to push the meat into your mouth (kind of like a freezy pop - but much more delicious).