Jasper White’s Lobster and Corn Chowder

Each year that I make this, usually just once toward the end of the sweetcorn season in late September, I become more firm in my belief that this is my favourite savoury dish of all time.

Here’s this year’s result, with freshly-squeezed lemon-limeade instead of iced tea this time.

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I would suggest reading both of these recipes fully before starting so you know how they merge and fit together, mainly so you don’t forget to get the stripped corn cobs into the stock early for maximum flavor extraction.

When I took the photographs here, I was making a double recipe of the chowder, so bear that in mind throughout.

Lobster and Corn Chowder – Jasper White

Ingredients

· 3 live hard-shell lobsters (1 and 1/4 pounds each)
· 3 medium ears yellow or bi-color corn
· 4 ounces slab (unsliced) bacon or saltpork, rind removed and cut into 1/3-inch dice
· 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
· 1 large onion (10 ounces) cut into 3/4-inch dices
· 2 to 3 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed and chopped (1 teaspoon)
· 2 teaspoons Hungarian paprika
· 4 cups lobster stock (recipe below)
· 1 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold, Prince Edward Island, or other all-purpose potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch dice
· 1 1/2 cups heavy cream (or up to 2 cups if desired)
· Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For garnish:

· 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
· 2 tablespoons minced fresh chives

Directions

1. Fill an 8 to 10-quart stockpot two-thirds full with ocean water or tap water that is heavily salted. Bring to a rolling boil. One at a time, holding each lobster by the carapace (the protective shell), carefully drop it into the water. Cook for exactly four minutes from the last time the lobster went in. Using a pair of long tongs, remove the lobsters from the pot and let them cool to room temperature.

2. Pick all the meat from the tails, knuckles and claws. Remove the intestinal tract from the tail and the cartilage from the claws. Dice the meat into 3/4-inch cubes. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Using the carcasses (bodies), and leftover shells, make a lobster stock (Recipe is below). The stock will take about 1 1/2 hours to cook. Strain the stock; you should have 4 cups.

3. Meanwhile, husk the corn. Carefully remove most of the silk by hand and then rub each ear with a dry towel to finish the job. Cut the kernels from the cobs and reserve. You should get about 2 cups. Break the cobs in half and add them to the simmering stock.

4. Heat a 4 to 6-quart heavy pot over low heat and add the bacon. Once it has rendered a few tablespoons of fat, increase the heat to medium and cook until the bacon is crisp golden brown. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the fat, leaving the bacon in the pot.

5. Add the butter, onion and thyme and sauté, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, for about 8 minutes, until the onion is softened but not browned. Add the paprika and cook 1 minute longer, stirring frequently.

6. Add the potatoes, corn kernels, and the reserved lobster stock. The stock should just barely cover the potatoes; if it doesn’t, add enough water to cover. Turn up the heat and bring to a boil. Cover the pot and cook the potatoes vigorously for about 12 minutes, until they are soft on the outside but still firm in the center. If the broth hasn’t thickened lightly, smash a few potatoes against the side of the pot and cook a minute or two longer to release their starch.

7. Remove the pot from the heat; stir in the lobster meat and cream, and season to taste with salt and pepper. If you are not serving the chowder within the hour, let it cool a bit, then refrigerate; cover the chowder after it is chilled completely. Otherwise, let it sit at room temperature for up to an hour, allowing the flavors to meld.

8. When ready to serve, reheat the chowder over low heat; don’t let it boil. Use a slotted spoon to mound the lobster, onions, potatoes, and corn in the center of large soup plates or shallow bowls, making sure they are evenly divided, and ladle the creamy broth around. Sprinkle with the chopped parsley and minced chives.

Makes about 10 cups; serves 10 as a first course or five or six as a main course.

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Lobster Stock – Jasper White

Ingredients

· 2 pounds lobster carcasses and shells
· 2 quarts water
· 1 cup dry-white wine
· 1 cup chopped tomatoes with their juice (fresh or canned)
· 2 medium onions, thinly sliced
· 2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
· 2 small carrots, thinly sliced
· 4 cloves garlic, crushed
· 4 sprigs fresh thyme
· 2 dried bay leaves
· 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
· 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
· Kosher or sea salt

Directions for Lobster Stock

1. Split the lobster carcasses lengthwise and remove the head sac from each one. Place the carcasses, shells and tomalley (lobster’s liver) in a 6 to 8-quart stockpot, cover with the water, and bring to a boil, skimming the white scum from the surface of the stock. (Using a ladle and a circular motion, push the foam from the center of the outside of the pot, where it is easy to remove.) Reduce the heat so the stock is cooking at a fast, steady simmer.

2. Add the wine, tomatoes, onions, celery, carrots, garlic, thyme, bay leaves, fennel seeds and peppercorns, and let the stock simmer and cook down for about 1 hour. Add a little water if the stock falls below the lobster shells.

3. Season the stock lightly with salt. Taste for a rich flavor. If it seems light, simmer for about 20 minutes longer. Strain the stock with a fine-mesh strainer. If you are not going to be using it within the hour, chill it as quickly as possible. Cover the broth after it has completely cooled and keep refrigerated for up to three days, or freeze for up to two months. Makes about 1 quart.

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All of the ingredients for a double recipe on my kitchen island, including seven lobsters, one of which I steamed separately for a lobster roll.

Lobster rolls: Warm the lobster meat in butter with chopped tarragon and serve on toasted top-sliced hot dog buns

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This is the meat of six parboiled 1.25 to 1.4 pound lobsters, along with a few intact claw meats that I left unchopped for presentation purposes. Three of the six lobsters were female, so I used the roe – the red masses you find in female lobsters. The roe are the little coral-colored bits strewn throughout the meat below. You usually need to chop them up a little.

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The parboiling in the recipe is important because the lobster’s final cooking is done in the assembled chowder. If you go much over the four minutes he specifies, your resulting chowder will end up with chewy lobster.

Most of the pictures herein are from 2013 before my kitchen was rebuilt (the new one is above), but I updated a couple with nicer looking 2014 and 2015 photos and added this one to show how much extra meat you can get out of the fiddly tiny legs of six lobsters. This is Jasper White’s trick to get those out easily and intact: use a rolling pin starting from the claw end of each little leg. Five seconds a leg is all it takes.

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When you cut the shells in half to prepare them for the stock, you remove and discard from each side the head sac, which is a one-inch or so bit inside the head that contains…well, gunk is the best way to put it. You’ll find it pretty quickly. You don’t want its flavor in the chowder. Also, if there’s a lot of tomalley – the green-grey liver of the lobster – discard some of it. A little is good, but too much tomalley will make the chowder a bit pungent.

Here are all the unprepped stock ingredients:

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The lobster shells and water are in the pot now, and here are the other stock ingredients after prep, including stripping the corn, whose now broken-in-half cobs are in the bowl at upper left. To strip the corn, I use a large half-sheet pan, hold the corn upright by the pointy end, and run the knife down the kernels, rotating the cob about eight times to get it all. The pan catches all the kernels and it’s the only thing you have to clean afterward.

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All the stock ingredients are in the stockpot here. The ears are actually stripped — it’s just the pointy ends where I held them that still have a few kernels on them.

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The stock after about two-and-a-half hours of slow simmering. My timing is a bit longer than White’s because I tend to make stocks at barely a bubble, low and slow. Because I do that, you can see not much liquid is gone at the point when I took it off the stove and strained it, and it’s still somewhat translucent:

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That’s good in one sense, because I never had to add water and everything remained submerged in the simmering water the whole time. However, for a single recipe, you’re supposed to end up with about four cups at the end, and you need to adhere to that instruction. What I did was strain the stock and then reduce it at a rolling boil for about fifty minutes to end up with eight cups for my double recipe, setting a timer for fifteen-minute intervals to check on it and make sure it wasn’t boiling away to nothing. You can see on the side of the pan how far down the level’s gone in that fifty minutes:

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And this is what your stock will look like when it’s at the right strength and now opaque — you’ll have half this amount in a single recipe, of course:

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Final assembly about to proceed. Note that the potatoes are just peeled and in water here. White advises in this program on fish chowder that you not dice the potatoes ahead of time and store in water to prevent discoloration because you lose all the starch exuding out of the cubes. You want that starch in the chowder to help thicken it, so dice them up at assembly time and toss them in the pot immediately along with any potato juice on the cutting board. White also demonstrates in that program how to get the claw meats out intact as I did.

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Diced salt pork (pork belly) fried up crisp and golden:

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Onions sweating. As the onions were sweating, I whipped up a batch of cornbread, which takes about five minutes of prep, and got it in the oven. See the recipe at the end here.

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In go the potatoes and corn.

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And then the stock. At this point, before the lobster and cream are added, you boil it heavily to both cook and rough up the potatoes a bit so you get more starch out of them. Check the potatoes every minute or two after his specified cooking time. When they’re done, the corners of the diced potatoes will be softened and the inside creamy but still somewhat firm.

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Finally, the lobster and cream are added and you taste and carefully adjust the seasoning. In this case, I needed to add a few pinches of salt and plenty of freshly-ground pepper, adding them in moderate amounts and retasting several times. I use the full two cups of cream per recipe, by the way. If you have presentation claw meats like I did, put those in with the rest of the lobster meat so they’ll cook the rest of the way through. Stir carefully so you don’t break up the claw meats, and remember to fish them out when you’re ready to serve.

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It’s also important that you follow to the letter his instruction on letting the finished chowder cool for an hour to allow the flavors to, as Julia Child might have said, insinuate themselves upon each other. Once you’ve done that, then you reheat — carefully, no boiling — and serve.

Cornbread out of the oven, with one piece mysteriously missing before service:

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Et voilà!

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2014

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When reheating leftovers later, make sure you follow his instruction not to let it boil, or you’ll split the cream. I find that stirring frequently over a medium-low heat for about ten or twelve minutes gets it to the steaming but not bubbling point that you want.

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One thing you may find as any leftover chowder sits in the fridge is that the flavor actually intensifies, almost unbelievably so. I actually had to dilute the latest two bowls I reheated with a couple tablespoons of milk because it was too rich, too intense, even for me.

Jasper White - Genius

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This is my variation of…

Bob’s Red Mill Golden Cornbread

Ingredients

1 cup cornmeal, medium grind
1 cup cake/pastry flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons baking powder (not baking soda)
1/4 cup sugar for slightly sweet cornbread, less or none if you prefer
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, softened
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup milk

Directions

Preheat oven to 425F and grease/spray an 8-inch square pan well for easy removal of the cornbread.

Whisk together dry the ingredients in a medium-sized bowl.

Cut the half-stick of softened butter in small pieces into the dry ingredients and use your fingertips to work it into the dry mix. It doesn’t have to be completely worked in as in, say, a biscuit dough; this is just to more evenly distribute the butter than brute mixing of butter in a big chunk would do.

Add the beaten egg and milk, and beat just until mostly smooth, about one minute. Don’t overbeat or you’ll end up with tough cornbread.

Immediately pour the mix, which will be quite thick, into the greased pan and bake at 425F for 20-25 minutes until golden brown on top.

Cut into nine squares and serve warm with butter.

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Another thing I’ll bet would go well with the chowder is White’s sweet corn fritters, which he demonstrates in this program. You can find his recipe here.

Cottage comfort

  1. Fill a 9×13″ pan with some seared ground beef seasoned with salt, pepper, and rubbed sage; its fond deglazed with a little beef stock; a few tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce; some Trader Joe’s frozen roasted sweet corn; a boatload of buttery, creamy mash; and a veneer of coarsely grated strong cheddar.
  2. Bake at 375F/190C for 50-55 minutes until it’s piping hot and the cheese is coloured perfectly, comme ci.
  3. Eat in front of fireplace.
  4. Make monosyllabic comments sprinkled with grunts to taste.

1. Click for a larger view 2. Try not to become fixated.

 

No popcorn used

The laziest man I ever met put popcorn in his pancakes so they would turn over by themselves.
– W.C. Fields

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On a day off with a friend, slow-cooked bacon, eggs sunny side up for me, and pancakes – recipe here. The keys to scrumptious diner-style pancakes: gentle and only brief mixing of the dry into the wet ingredients, malted milk powder, and medium-low on the burner, which will give you 325-350F/160-175C in the pan and result in pancakes that are beautifully caramelised and soft, not crunchy.

Breakfast, slowly

A late breakfast today, with slow-cooked hickory-smoked bacon – or thinly-sliced pork belly if you don’t call this bacon – homemade buttermilk waffles, and a couple of eggs over easy.

The remaining waffles will freeze nicely – about four times nicer than supermarket frozen waffles, in fact.

Slow-Cooked Bacon

With a little experimentation some years ago, I determined that this is the best way to slow-cook bacon: Preheat your oven to 260-275 F (125-135 C). Line a large sheet pan with aluminum foil, taking care not to rip it or get holes in it (for easy cleanup). Put a fairly close-mesh wire rack in the sheet pan, then place your rashers on the rack in a single layer, just touching each other. A half-sheet pan will hold about 3/4 lb, 1/3 kilo, or about 16 rashers of regular cut.

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You can cook more than you need, because these will reheat very nicely with 30 seconds in a microwave. I use a regular (not thick) cut, cured, hickory-smoked bacon for this method; smoked or not is a personal preference, but I’ve found uncured bacon doesn’t work as well. Now, slow-bake it for 90 minutes – yes, 90 minutes. (Because bacons vary considerably, you should start taking a look at the 75 minute mark and maybe every 5 minutes thereafter so it doesn’t get too dark. I also look at the wetness: When the rashers start to look not completely dry but more dry than wet, they’re perfectly done.) What happens is magical. You end up with slices that are about 90% of their original size and about one-fifth of their original weight, and about a half-cup of perfectly clear bacon drippings in the (lined) pan. The bacon is a deep color with no burned parts at all, has very little grease (it’s all in the pan), and absolutely melts in your mouth. In fact, the cooked bacon is so delicate and wafer-like that some pieces will probably break in two from their own weight when you remove them from the rack to paper towels to drain.

The best part is that the bacon is now reduced to almost pure flavour, and it will be the most intense bacon flavour you are ever likely to encounter. It may be difficult to restrain yourself and actually make the rest of your breakfast or BLTs instead of scarfing down the whole lot straight out of the oven. It’s also probably a bit healthier for you, since 80% (or so) of the fat is gone and sitting in the pan.

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You can bake chicken skin in a similar low-and-slow manner, but between layers of parchment paper, with a second pan sitting on top to keep it flat.

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Great turkey stock, no waiting

I roast turkeys throughout the year, so I’ve learned a thing or two about those birds. The best trick I’ve come up with is a method of simultaneously roasting a turkey and preparing a quart of the finest turkey stock I’ve ever seen right underneath it – no four or five hours of simmering and reduction on the stovetop needed.

Outside of Thanksgiving, I often roast a turkey one night, allow it to cool somewhat, cover and refrigerate the whole bird – except for Quality Assurance slices, of course – and then get the meat off the next night for use in turkey sandwiches and sometimes for turkey tetrazzini*. In the past, each time I stripped the carcass, I’d notice the sizeable quantity of jelly that always covered the bottom of the bird. It’s a thick layer of well-set jelly, maybe a third of a cup’s worth. I knew that jelly was collagen melted from the connective tissue and bones – the source of gelatin – and that collagen is one of the keys to a fine stock, and wondered just how much was being evaporated away and wasted from the bottom of a dry pan. And so, I came up with this recipe to find out. The answer was “quite a bit.”

Recipe

To adjust for evaporation that will occur during roasting and basting, start with 5 cups/1.1 litre of water in the bottom of a roasting pan along with a bunch of roughly-chopped root vegetables and other stock components – in this photo, half a bag of baby carrots, a few celery stalks with their leaves, a few onions cut in quarters, several unpeeled cloves of garlic crushed with the flat of a chef’s knife, a few bay leaves, a small handful of whole black peppercorns, and some thyme:

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Roast the turkey as normal on a rack above those – I often use Alton Brown’s 500F/260C for 30 minutes and the remainder at 350F/175C method – adding a little more water every now and then during roasting to keep the level of liquid to a quart or so, basting the turkey every twenty minutes. The basting is not to keep the turkey moist – because it doesn’t, really – but mainly to wash more collagen into the pan below, and it does also help crisp the skin. The only thing not to do is add more water to the pan in the last half-hour of roasting, when it dilutes the stock too much. At the end, you’ll have your turkey:

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And this liquid gold in the pan:

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Strain the contents of the pan through a close-mesh strainer into a bowl, squeezing all the juices out of the veg with the back of a spoon or ladle, strain the resulting liquid once more through some cheesecloth into a quart container, then store that in the fridge overnight – or, if you want to use some or all of it immediately for gravy, use a fat separator such as this one and off you go.

If you go the chilling route, there will be a set layer of turkey fat on top, and, after you lift that off, you’ll find that the rest is a highly concentrated and gelled stock, shown below, that I think would make even a dour French chef secretly smile.

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*My turkey tetrazzini is chunks of white and dark meat with herbed sautéed mushrooms in a turkey velouté-based sauce Parisienne with Gruyère cheese added, served with freshly-made egg noodles in a casserole, an enhanced version of Tyler Florence’s recipe. Speaking of which, separately try that sautéed mushroom mixture made in the first part of his recipe on some sourdough toast. Delicious.

Old-school butchers

They’re a rarity in Massachusetts, especially since Blood Farm’s fire last December, though the Blood family are nearly done rebuilding the combined smokehouse, processing, and retail building that was lost. At a Groton town meeting the other day, Elliot Blood said they’re planning a “soft” opening around the end of this month – meaning a grand reopening event is also in the works, I imagine.

There’s a place equidistant from my house that claims to be a butcher shop. It’s not. When they opened several years ago I went in there twice, once shortly after they opened to be disappointed and the second time a few months later – to see if they were still as dismal, not because I’m a glutton for punishment. They were.

Anyway, it sounds like I should be able to get one of Blood Farm’s delightful smoked hams for Christmas again this year. Here’s last Christmas’s cider-baked ham with deep-fried cauliflower and Julia Child’s Purée de Pommes de Terre à L’ail – that is, garlic mash, from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. 1, recipe at the end of this post. To me, there’s nothing better than raw garlic if you’re looking to ruin a batch of perfectly mashed potatoes, but slow-braising the garlic in butter first provides the perfect mellowing.

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In the meantime, I may visit Fairway Beef, which I recently found mentioned in an eGullet thread. It’s about 30 minutes from my office and sounds like my kinda place. Who knows, I might even be able to get some of the specialised cuts I can order at Blood Farm, though I strongly doubt Fairway sells goat or has bacon smoked over the other side of the building.

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PURÉE DE POMMES DE TERRE À L’AIL (Garlic Mashed Potatoes)
Julia Child

Two whole heads of garlic will seem like a horrifying amount if you have not made this type of recipe before. But if less is used, you will regret it, for the long cooking of the garlic removes all of its harsh strength, leaving just a pleasant flavor. Garlic mashed potatoes go with roast lamb, pork, goose, or sausages. Although both garlic sauce and potatoes may be cooked in advance, they should be combined only at the last minute; the completed purée loses its nice consistency if it sits too long over heat.

For 6 to 8 people

2 heads garlic, about 30 cloves

Separate the garlic cloves. Drop into boiling water, and boil 2 minutes. Drain. Peel.

A 3- to 4-cup (small) heavy-bottomed saucepan with cover
4 tablespoons butter

Cook the garlic slowly — low heat — with the butter in the covered saucepan for about 20 minutes or until very tender but not browned.

2 tablespoons flour
1 cup boiling milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pinch of pepper
A sieve and wooden spoon, or an electric blender

Blend in the flour and stir over low heat until it froths with the butter for 2 minutes without browning. Off heat, beat in the boiling milk and seasonings. Boil, stirring, for 1 minute. Rub the sauce through a sieve or purée it in the electric blender. Simmer for 2 minutes more.  (May be done ahead of time. Dot top of sauce with bits of butter to keep a skin from forming. Reheat when needed.)

2 1/2 lbs. (just over a kilo) baking potatoes
A potato ricer
A 2 1/2 quart enameled saucepan (medium)
A wooden spatula or spoon
4 tablespoons softened butter (2 oz)
Salt and white pepper

Peel and quarter the potatoes. Drop in boiling salted water to cover, and boil until tender. Drain immediately and put through a potato ricer. Place the hot purée in the saucepan and beat with the spatula or spoon for several minutes over moderate heat to evaporate moisture. As soon as the purée begins to form a film in the bottom of the pan, remove from heat and beat in the butter a tablespoon at a time. Beat in salt and pepper to taste. (If not used immediately, set aside uncovered. To reheat, cover and set over boiling water, beating frequently.)

2 to 3 tablespoons heavy cream
4 tablespoons minced parsley
A hot, lightly buttered vegetable dish.

Shortly before serving, beat the hot garlic sauce vigorously into the hot potatoes. Beat in the cream by spoonfuls but do not thin out the purée too much. Beat in the parsley. Correct seasoning. Turn into hot vegetable dish.