Bon Apetit! New England Style

Did you know you have to de-beard a mussel before cooking it?

Being from Denver, the land-locked state that it is, we are not experienced seafood eaters.  The closest we get is the occasional sushi at Sushi Den or watching the poor lobsters in Wal-mart's seafood tanks clamber about (does anyone ever really buy those??).  So since we've been in New England, we have been amazed at the many ways one can prepare shellfish.  In restaurants, a question we hear a lot is, "How are the mussels prepared?" And the answer has not been the same twice!  From white wine sauce to provencal.  On this restaurant's menu, I counted 22 different ways to season them!  You can also steam, bake, grill, pan-fry, or deep fry mussels.  Reminds me of the famous line from Forest Gump, "Shrimp gumbo, shrimp scampi, jumbo shrimp, fried shrimp, shrimp cocktail..."  Mussels are a favorite in these parts, no doubt.  But I have to admit, we haven't gone there just yet.

Another favorite is "quahog" or clam.  I mentioned in an earlier post about seeing people knee-deep in the water, digging for clams, outside their homes.  In this photo, you see a bucket of clams that Kimberly harvested right outside their home in Mattapoisett.  The silver rectangle is used to measure the quahogs, to ensure they are big enough to harvest.  If they fit through the hole, they are too small and you have to throw them back.  Quahogs come in various sizes, and are priced accordingly.  "Little necks" are the smallest, then "cherrystones", then "chowders".  They can be eaten raw on the half shell, steamed, added to breads, stuffed, used in pasta sauces, or used in chowder.  The latter is our favorite way to enjoy the clams in New England.  I have also found out that dipping french fries in the clam chowder is even more of a treat, although not heart-friendly!  Interestingly, these shells are the ones that the Wampanoag used to polish into beads that they used for jewelry or currency.

One of the most memorable meals we have eaten in New England was a lobster feast with our friends Kimberly and Mike.  It was more than a meal, it was an experience!  Two large pots of water were set to boil on the stove, one for the corn I helped shuck, and one for the crustacean friends hanging out on the kitchen floor!!  Elizabeth eventually got brave enough to pick the lobsters up, but Michael kept his distance!

Here is a short video before the feast!


When the dinner was served, the kids marveled at the change in the lobster's color!  The plates looked beautiful, with bright red lobsters and pale yellow corn on the cob.  We all sat down and Kimberly gave us a step-by-step lesson on how to eat a lobster.  See a similar lesson here.  It was decadent.  Our kids decided to pass on eating the lobsters, but really had fun using the "lobster cracker" to break apart the hard shells for the adults.  Shell pieces were flying everywhere, and the kids couldn't stop giggling!!


Lobster is a staple in the New Englander's diet.  Lobster bisque and lobster rolls are two of the most popular recipes.  We even spied a food truck selling all sorts of lobster goodies!


As we sailed into Boston Harbor, we were bombarded with lobster pots.  Buoys floated all around us, marking hundreds of them.  Stinky, rotten fish is put into a wooden crate-like cage to attract the lobsters and then they cannot escape.  Lines with buoys attached to them allow lobster fishermen to locate and track their cages.  As the boats go out in the morning, you can smell them before you see them!  It is a huge industry in New England, and as we prepare to head to Maine, we have heard there are thousands of lobster pots floating around in some places.  Hope our props don't decide to get tangled up!!

A harbor full of lobster pots- a sailor's nightmare!  

Comments

  1. Nice post. Glad you enjoyed New England and all its charm!

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