Sea Scallops, Peas and Chervil

Scallops, peas and chervil-5962

If I ever leave New England, it will be the taste of a freshly seared Atlantic sea scallop that brings me back.  Big, meaty, packed with marine flavor.  When people talk about regional American cuisine and they trot out Texas or North Carolina barbecue or Virginia hams or Alaskan salmon, I always ask if they’ve ever tasted a genuine New England sea scallop.  Most haven’t.  This week: Sea Scallops, Peas and Chervil.  The sea scallops are large, they take a thin edge of delicious sear while remaining moist and rare in the center, and they hold a delicious court with butter, peas and chervil.

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The L Word: Lobster-Andouille Stuffies

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A “stuffy,” just in case you don’t know, is the Rhode Island term of art for a baked stuffed clam, although I can vouch for its use as far north as southern Massachusetts.  Typically, buttered and seasoned breadcrumbs do-si-do with chopped clam, usually but not always) atop a quahog on the half-shell and baked.  It’s a filling, poor man’s seafood treat, which is not to denigrate it, just to note that it may not be the place to go if you’re looking to sate your bivalve love.  Jody’s stuffy climbs up a notch on the menu, subbing lobster for clams, and adding andouille sausage and green pepper for a Cajun twist.  Lobster-Andouille Stuffy – the stuffy for our times.

Corn and Mussel Chowder

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In his brilliant maritime novels set during the Napoleonic wars the English writer Patrick O’Brian was ruthlessly accurate about the handling of square-rigged sailing ships and the social relations in the British navy.  In order to keep readers from feeling completely adrift O’Brian, whom the NYT Book Review dubbed “Jane Austen at sea,” often had his sea-wise characters explain details of shipboard life to landlubbers who had wandered into the story.  Those new to cuisine afloat soon learned, for example, that chowder and the dreaded “portable soup”* were thickened with hardtack lest the liquid slosh out of the bowl and onto the diner. Hardtack, sailors then cheerfully pointed out, was infested with worms, nicknamed “bargemen,” after their resemblance atop the crackers in the soup, to pilots steering captain’s barges  from one side of the bowl to the other.   In MASTER AND COMMANDER, O’Brian has a character contemplate his soup with its infested crackers and then observe, “Don’t you know that in the Navy one must always choose the lesser of two weevils.  Oh ha, ha, ha, ha!”  

You’re either on board with this kind of humor or you’re not.  If you’re not, you can console yourself with today’s post, Corn and Mussel Chowder.  Oh ha, ha, ha, ha!

Grilled Oysters with Wasabi Mayo

Grilled Oysters with Wasabi Mayo-1

One charmed fall weekend Jody and I were asked to judge the oyster shucking competition at the annual Wellfleet OysterFest.  A free weekend in Wellfleet.  Close proximity to more straight-from-the-ocean bivalves than I could ever reasonably consider eating.  Bring it on.  Watching pros shuck oysters inspires equal parts terror and admiration.  The goal is to shuck a couple dozen oysters as fast as possible.  Winning times are usually around two minutes – that is, an oyster every five seconds.  Chipped shells, mangled oysters, debris and, oh yes, the occasional splash of blood, are all penalized.  Everyone who competes professionally has a story about watching an inattentive shucker putting the the blade of an oyster knife through a palm or the base of a thumb.   And that’s the rub, isn’t it?  As someone who has shucked a fair number of oysters in his life, I still take a deep breath before I do it and I make damn sure I’m paying attention.  Here’s a tasty alternative: Grilled Oysters with Wasabi Mayonnaise.

As a recent presidential candidate might have said, had he been a cook, which seems doubtful: Grilled oysters self-open.