Monday, December 3, 2007

The Big Snow! And Chowder vs. Stew

I'm in the midst of my first snowstorm at the inn. I woke to "little snow, big snow" an adage that suggests if the flakes are small, the piles will be large. This morning the flakes were tiny! I walked through town a few times running errands in a very quiet village. We've been plowed out and James the Plower will be taking very good care of the guests in the Cape House, should any ever get snowed in. And what a treat being snowed in here is--the crackling fireplace, the cozy duvets, the solitude. And if you'd like, we'll put flannel sheets on the bed. We've gotten about 10 inches and it's still coming down.

You know you're in Maine when... On Friday night I drove to the Franklin Street United Methodist Church in Bucksport (which is on the Penobscot River and home to that Penobscot Narrows Bridge I'm so fond of). I had read in the Weekly Packet, the local paper we give to guests at the inn, that the church was holding a lobster stew dinner followed by Mt. View Chamber Singers performing carols in the round. What an absolutely magical evening.

Stew vs. Chowder

You need to know before reading any further that I can’t keep a secret. If you really truly want something to stay a secret, please don’t tell me. See, someone once told me her mother's secret for the best chowder ever, ever.

But do you even know the difference between seafood chowder and seafood stew? (And by seafood I mean haddock or scallop or lobster or clam or various combinations.) You need to know because you can usually find them on the menu in Maine and the smarter you look when you're ordering, the more respect the Mainers'll have for you, and they're so good you must order them.

I'm pretty sure that Linda Greenlaw has a recipe or two in her cookbook but I gave my copy away and haven't gotten a chance to replace it yet. I could wait until I finished all my research on stew vs. chowder before I started talking to you all about it but I'm too impatient for that.

So, stew will have seafood and milk or cream, and that's about it. This recipe sounds like what I feasted on Friday night--oh it was tasty. With a chowder, a person could and should throw in some onions and potatoes. You can get fancy, like this fish chowder recipe, or keep it really simple. In the summer, I like to grill fish along with potatoes that I've washed and then coated pretty heavily in a seasoning mix like Montreal Steak Seasoning and onions that I fold into foil with some olive oil. I make enough for leftovers which I throw into a pot with some stock and milk and yum! Fish chowder. I think pepper is a key ingredient. Brooke Dojny--in her Dishing Up Maine cookbook--adds in fresh thyme.

A few great sounding recipes:
Clam Chowder
Fish Chowder
Shrimp and Scallop Stew

So, the secret. See, I think good things should be shared. But I can't seen to put it out here in black and white. If you want to know how to make the best chowder ever, ever, drop me an email and I'll whisper it to you. Though one secret is to have someone make it for you--I find it always tastes better then.

Check out this article from The New York Times, a piece—Sea Sends Distress Call in One-Note Chowders—on Dick Bridges and a local organization, PERC, which is working hard to “secure a future for our fishing communities.”

Are you shopping for Christmas presents? If so, Catch a Piece of Maine sounds like a fabulous present! Maine lobster from your own trap—and you can pick your lobsterman! I pick this one. He has a handsome boat, too.

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