A Summer Shack feast

Jasper White shows you how to turn your kitchen into a seafood haven with these recipes for clam chowder, lobster rolls, lobster salad and whoopie pie.

Published May 29, 2007 11:40AM (EDT)

Creamy Cape Cod Clam Chowder

On Cape Cod, clam chowder means quahog chowder. Quahogs are large hard-shell clams (see the chart on page 57), also known as chowder clams, and they are abundant on the Cape. Quahogs have a wonderful flavor that makes a distinctive chowder. Chowder is a dish of humble origins and it often relies on "found foods" like fish you catch yourself or clams you dig. Clam chowder is like apple pie in that everyone has his or her concept of what it should be like (usually people like their mother's version best). In the spirit of true home-style chowder making, this recipe depends on potatoes to lightly thicken the chowder; no other starch is added. I use salt pork, which imparts a mild richness to the chowder; you can substitute bacon for a smokier flavor. This chowder can be served in small cups as a starter or in larger bowls as a main course. Serve toasted common crackers, Pilot crackers, oyster crackers, or saltines on the side for a little crunch.

For equipment, you will need a 4- to 6-quart pot with a tight-fitting lid and a fine strainer.

10 pounds small quahogs or large cherrystone clams

2 cups water

4 ounces meaty salt pork, rind removed and cut into small (1/3-inch) dice

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 medium yellow onions (about 12 ounces), cut into 1/2-inch dice

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 stalks celery (4 ounces), cut into 1/3-inch dice

5 to 6 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed and chopped (1 tablespoon)

1 large dried bay leaf

2 pounds Yukon Gold, Maine, PEI, or other all-purpose potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2- to 3/4-inch dice

2 cups heavy cream

Freshly ground black pepper

Kosher or sea salt if needed

1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley

Working Ahead

All chowders improve after they are made, so allow at least an hour from the time the chowder is cooked until it is served. You can make the chowder 1 or 2 days in advance. Reheat it slowly; never let it boil.

1. Scrub the clams and rinse well. Place them in a large pot, add the water, cover, and turn the heat to high. Once you see a little steam escape from the pot, let the clams cook for about 5 minutes. Remove the lid and quickly move the clams around in the pot so they will cook evenly, then cover and cook for 5 minutes more, or until the clams open.

2. Pour off the broth and reserve. After it has settled a bit, strain the broth, leaving the bottom 1/2 inch of broth (and sediment) in the container. You should have about 4 cups. Remove the clams from the shells, place in a boil, and refrigerate until cold.

3. Dice the clams into small (1/3- to 1/2-inch) pieces. Cover and refrigerate.

4. Rinse and dry the pot and heat over low heat. Add the salt pork and cook until crispy and brown. Add the butter, onions, garlic, celery, thyme, and bay leaf and sauté, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, for about 10 minutes, until the onions are softened but not browned.

5. Add the potatoes and 4 cups reserved clam broth. The broth should just barely cover the potatoes; if it doesn't, add more broth or water. Turn the heat to high, cover the pot, and boil vigorously for about 10 minutes, until the potatoes are soft on the outside but still firm in the center. Smash a few potatoes against the side of the pot and stir them into the chowder to lightly thicken it.

6. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the cream and diced clams. Season with black pepper; you may not need salt (the clams usually add enough of their own). If you are serving the chowder within the hour, just let it sit and "cure." Otherwise, let cool to room temperature and refrigerate it; cover it after it has chilled.

7. When ready to serve, reheat the chowder slowly over medium heat; do not let it boil. Ladle into cups or bowls and sprinkle with the parsley.

Makes 3 quarts; serves 12 as an appetizer or 6 to 8 as a main course

Classic Maine Lobster Roll

The Maine lobster roll has always been a New England favorite, but now it is becoming favorite in other places as well. I never thought I'd see the day that the New York Times ran an article on the best lobster rolls in the city (NYC), but recently it did just that. It is only a matter of a time before lobster rolls become popular everywhere. The lobster roll, the king of clam shack offerings, is incredibly delicious, with its cool fresh lobster salad and warm crisp, buttery bun. It is humble, but don't be fooled by the garnish of pickles and potato chips. This dish is like a millionaire driving an old Chevy -- understated, but still rich -- typical of the New England culture.

Making lobster rolls at home is easy, and they are a guaranteed hit with visitors and family alike. You will need to find real New England-style hot dog buns, which are top-sliced with cut sides so they can be buttered and griddled. If you can't find them, buy slightly oversized buns and trim the crust from the sides.

For equipment, you will need a 10-inch skillet, preferably cast iron. If you have paper bun holders, they are quite handy for holding the rolls when you stuff them and for serving.

4 New England-style hot dog buns

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

4 Boston or Bibb lettuce leaves, washed and dried

Lobster Salad (see below)

4 dill pickle spears

Potato chips

Working Ahead

You can mix the lobster salad up to 4 hours ahead. Once the lobster salad is ready, this becomes a very easy and fast dish.

1. Heat a 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Spread the sides of the hot dog buns with the butter, using 1/2 tablespoon on each side. Place the buttered buns in the hot pan and toast, without moving, until golden brown on one side, about a minute. Turn and cook the other side, about 1 minute more. Remove from the heat.

2. Open the buns and place in paper bun holders or on small plates. Place a lettuce leave to the side of each bun. Divide the lobster salad evenly among them. Serve with the pickles and potato chips on the side.

Makes 4 rolls

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Lobster Salad

In New England, tastes for lobster salad are highly individual. Some people like only mayonnaise, other want onions and celery added. Some dice the meat small, others prefer huge chunks. My version uses a special mayonnaise with a small dice of cucumber and scallion. The cucumber is crunchy and its mild flavor complements the lobster. I have served hundreds of thousands of lobster rolls at Summer Shack using this recipe, and people love it. In addition to providing the filling for the venerable lobster roll, you can use this salad to stuff a ripe tomato or papaya for a delicious cold plate, layer it between slices of almost any kind of bread to make a great sandwich, or roll up to make a wrap.

If you buy cooked lobster meat from a good-quality market, it can be a fair deal. If the meat looks dull in color or has reddish stains, that means it isn't very fresh. In that case, cook your own lobster and remove the meat as described on page 71.

Working Ahead

You can make the salad a few hours before you serve it, but in that case, don't add the scallions until half an hour before serving.

1 pound cooked lobster meat or 5 pounds live lobsters

1 small to medium cucumber (4 to 5 ounces), peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/4-inch dice

1/2 cup Lobster Mayonnaise or Hellman's mayonnaise

2 or 3 small scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced

Freshly ground black pepper

Kosher or sea salt if needed

1. If you are using live lobsters, steam them (see page 71) until fully cooked and allow to cool to room temperature. Crack and remove the meat from the claws, knuckles, and tails (see page 72). Remove any cartilage from the claws and the intestine from the tails.

2. Cut the lobster meat into 1/2- to 3/4-inch dice. If using whole lobsters, you can pick all the meat from the carcasses and add it to the meat, or freeze the carcasses for soup or stock.

3. Place the diced cucumber in a colander and let stand for at least 5 minutes to drain the excess liquid.

4. Combine the lobster, cucumber, mayonnaise, and scallions in a bowl. Season with a bit of pepper if needed; it is unlikely that salt will be needed. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Makes 2 cups, enough for 4 or 5 sandwiches or to serve 4 or 5 as a light main course

Whoopie Pies

In this wonderful retro sweet concoction, intensely flavored dark chocolate "puffs" are used to sandwich gooey, marshmallowy buttercream. As with many of the dishes we cook at Summer Shack, retro feels natural. We started making whoopie pies with our young customers in mind, but the truth is just as many adults order them.

This is an easy food processor recipe that comes together fast. Lightly sweetened dark chocolate cakes complement the light, almost frothy filling. At Summer Shack, our pastry chef makes the filling with an Italian meringue, but for this home version, we have simply whipped Marshmallow Fluff together with confectioners' sugar and butter. Whoopie pies don't keep well and so are best eaten the day they are made -- rarely a problem. If they will not be served right away, wrap them in plastic wrap and store at cool room temperature.

For equipment, you will need a 3-quart saucepan, a standing mixer or a handheld mixer and a large bowl, 2 baking sheets, a metal spatula, a pastry bag fitted with a large round tip, and a small icing spatula or a table knife.

For the Cakes

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 cup whole milk

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon light corn syrup

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

For the Filling

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar

1 1/2 cups Marshmallow Fluff

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Pinch of salt

Working Ahead

You can make the filling up to 2 days ahead and keep it refrigerated, tightly covered. Bring it to room temperature before spreading it on the cakes.

1. Adjust the racks to the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat the oven to 350B:F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. To make the cakes: Combine the cocoa and milk in a medium saucepan, set over low heat, and whisk to create a smooth paste. Add the butter, sugar, and corn syrup and continue to whisk until the mixture is smooth and glossy and the sugar has dissolved, about 3 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat and let cool.

3. Whisk the eggs into the cooled cocoa syrup.

4. Place the flour, baking powder, soda, and salt in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or another large bowl. With the mixer on medium speed, or beating with a hand mixer, slowly pour the cocoa syrup into the flour mixture, mixing until combined.

5. Transfer the batter to a pastry bag fitted with a large plain tip and pipe out 2-inch rounds spaced 3 inches apart onto the baking sheets, 12 per pan. Place both pans in the oven and bake until the cakes puff and are set, about 10 minutes, rotating the pans top to bottom and back to front after 5 minutes.

6. Remove from the oven and slide the parchment sheets with the cookies onto a counter. Cool for 2 minutes, then transfer the cakes to a cooling rack with a metal spatula and cool completely.

7. To make the filling: Beat the butter in the bowl of the standing mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with the handheld mixer, until fluffy, about 1 minute. Add the sugar and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 2 minutes more. Add the Marshmallow Fluff, vanilla, and salt and beat to combine, about 30 seconds.

6. To assemble the whoopie pies, turn half the cakes onto their backs and spread each with a generous portion of filling. Place a second cake on the top of each to make a sandwich.

Makes 12 whoopie pies

Reprinted from "The Summer Shack Cookbook" by Jasper White. Copyright © 2007 by Jasper White

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