Maine Seafood Chowder

Often times when I make chowder, I’m standing next to my hot cast iron wood stove (on our Maine windjammer) stirring at least a couple of pots, turning bread baking in the oven and prepping yet another baked good slatted for a future meal.  I think of how many pots of chowder have been made on wood stoves just like mine and the people these potages have nourished.

It’s a traditional meal that pulls musings of times past and almost demands the ritual of following in the footsteps of cooks that have gone before.

All sorts of chowder recipes abound in these parts, but most of them, while delicious, are not chowder in the book of old-time Mainers.  True chowder is milky, not thick, and is slightly thickened with either day old biscuits or oyster crackers (or saltines), not a roux (a flour and butter mixture).  In addition, true chowder contains salt pork, not bacon.  Always.  If either of these things are not in existence, then, I’ve been told, it’s not true Maine chowder, however yummy.

This recipe begins with the required salt pork, something fairly easy to come by in our local Maine butchers or even in the grocery store.  This salted, but not smoked, pig belly is the backbone of flavor for every traditional chowder one might concoct.  In addition, once the vegetables have sauteed and become soft, day-old biscuits are added – fairly early in the soup making process so they have ample time to soften and disintegrate, becoming indistinguishable and thickening the soup slightly.

Lastly, because I’m often making my chowder on the Riggin where I could be called away from the stove at any moment to drive the yawl boat, take the wheel, or tend to a guest, I use evaporated milk.  Evaporated milk doesn’t separate nearly as easily as straight milk when the heat is on for too long.  It’s a safety net for me and does add a bit of body and flavor to the soup as well.

Enjoy this nod to the food traditions of the past.  Who knows, maybe one of your ancestors made chowder for their people.

Maine Seafood Chowder Photo by Rocky Coast Photography

Maine Seafood Chowder
6 ounces salt pork
2 cups diced celery; about 3 stalks
2 cups diced onion; about 1 large onion
6 cups potatoes, peeled if need and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
2 day old biscuits or 6 saltines
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups clam juice
3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
2 cans evaporated milk
1 pound haddock
1/4 pound 40-60 shrimp, shells removed and sliced in half
1 pound fresh clams, well-cleaned or 2 cups canned clams

Score the salt pork and place it scored side down in a large stock pot over medium-high heat. When the salt pork has rendered for 5 to 10 minutes, add the celery and the onions and sauté for 7 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the potatoes and cook for another 10 minutes. Add the biscuits, salt, pepper, clam juice and broth and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the biscuits have disintegrated and the potatoes are cooked through. Add the evaporated milk and bring to a simmer again. Lastly add the seafood and just cook through, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and let the haddock finish cooking.

Serves 6 to 8

Headed off to make biscuits to go with AND into the chowder!

Chocolate Cashew Pudding

My friend Glen, mentioned in the doughnut post, is often down in the galley in the wee morning hours when I’m making all the decisions about what we’ll be eating for the rest of the day.  I’ll often share out loud what I’m thinking because one, I know he likes to hear the winding road of my thought process, and two, I like to share with him because it helps me to hear, in my own words, what I’m thinking about. Somehow, when it’s outside of myself and in the space of the galley I’m able to see the big picture a little more clearly.

In any event, because I’m having these ‘out loud’ conversations, Glen gets a preview and many times an input.  Long before he talked me into doughnuts, he talked me into pudding.  Sure, it’s a pain to stand over the wood stove and stir it until it thickens, however, the creamy, sublime result is totally worth the effort.  This is one I just made up this summer and will have to share with Glen when he sails with us again.

Chocolate Cashew Pudding Photo by Rocky Coast Photography

Chocolate Cashew Pudding
For an extra rich dessert, serve with whipped cream on top and dusted with cocoa powder.

1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups whole milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate cut into small chunks
1/2 cup cashew butter

In a thick bottomed pot, combine the sugar, cornstarch, milk, and salt.  Bring to a full boil over medium heat whisking often to make sure the bottom doesn’t scorch.  Remove from heat and add the vanilla extract and then the chocolate.  Let the chocolate melt from the heat of the mixture, stirring occasionally until the chocolate is melted.  Add the cashew butter and again mix well.  Transfer to small serving bowls, cover with plastic wrap and chill.

Serves 4 to 6

Making all of the women in the household happy – the husband too, actually.

Lemon Curd Tarlets – Feeling Tart and Sunny

These little tartlets came about when working on a catering job for a winter dinner.  The whole affair was a cocktail party, so finger food was the name of the game, including the desserts.  Once topped with a berry – raspberry or blueberry – these beauties were perfect for a small bite confection.

Little lemon tarlets that will be topped with a raspberry garnish.
Little lemon tarlets that will be topped with a raspberry garnish.

Another favorite way to use lemon curd is in the Blizzard Bluberry Lemon Curd Roulade, which, as you might guess, was made on a snowy day last winter when the winds were slapping at the windows and doors.  Indoors was the only place fit for humans, except the occasional forays into the wild for a snow shoe or ski and then back inside for a warm cup around which to wrap the cold hands.

If I were to find myself with some leftover lemon curd, I might have several thoughts on what to do with it other than eat it straight from the spoon.  One, this is a perfect combination for my Nana’s Lemon Prune Cake.  Two, if you find yourself wishing for something elegant, layered in a wine glass with sliced strawberries and vanilla whipped cream would hook me right quick and in a hurry.  Three, I’ve been known to have it with some yogurt.  Hey, if Liberte brand yogurt can do it, so can I.

Lemon Curd
This recipe is inspired by “The New York Times Cookbook.”
4 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice; juice from about 2 lemons
2 tablespoons grated lemon rind; rind from about 2 lemons

Cream the butter and gradually beat in the sugar. Beat the eggs into the creamed mixture, then add the lemon juice and grated rind.

Transfer the mixture to a saucepan and cook over low heat, whisking continuously until mixture thickens and deepens in color. This must be cooked over low heat and stirred constantly to keep it from curdling. If desired, use a double boiler.

Press through a fine sieve into a small bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Makes about 2 cups

Tartlet Crust
This crust is extremely versatile and is one of my go-to recipes when creating tartlets or tarts that require a fairly structured crust.  It is inspired by Alice Medrich, author and pastry chef extraordinaire.

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon homemade vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.  Press 1 tablespoon of dough into the bottom of two 12-hole muffin tins.  Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until the edges begin to brown and the tartlet shells release from the tins easily.  Transfer to a grate to cool.  Fill with lemon curd when the shells are fully cooled.

Makes 24

Feeling tart and sunny



Nana’s Lemon Prune Cake with Lemon Butter Sauce

My mom sent me a recipe for my Nana’s Lemon Sauce via email, which was a little odd.  Normally, when I ask for a recipe, it comes by mail – photocopied recipe card complete with my Nana’s handwriting.  Even though I bless the convenience of computers every day, there is something a little sad inside of me that misses the recipe written in her own hand, stained with drops of milk and string of egg white.

I remembered the sauce well from my childhood when my Nana would don a ruffled gingham apron and create a tiny bit of magic in her small kitchen.  I loved that space, not much bigger than my own kitchen now, with really tall cabinets, an old-fashioned oven complete with warmer and a small aluminum-edged table in the middle of it all where everyone gathered.  For the big meals, we ate in the dinning room, but the real heart and action happened in that small kitchen.

Prune Cake Photo Rocky Coast Photography

The sauce itself was silky, tart, lip-smacking… but I didn’t remember how she served it.  After questioning my mom, the reason became clear.  My Nana served it with fruit cake – never my favorite on the best of days.   I went to bed that night thinking about what would go well with my Nana’s Lemon Sauce and how I could reinvent fruit cake into something not only palatable, but actually yummy.  That is how this recipe was born.

My Nana always called it Butter Sauce, but I always remember calling it Lemon Sauce.  When I think of butter sauce now, it brings to mind a Creme Anglaise, and this sauce is much like that, only less smooth vanilla and more punch of lemon.

Lemon Prune Cake with Nana’s Lemon Butter Sauce
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups milk
3 large eggs, beaten
1 cup vegetable oil
Zest from one lemon
1/4 cup lemon juice (juice from about 1 lemon)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons lemon extract
1 cup diced prunes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 x 13 inch pan. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, salt, baking powder and sugar. Make a well in the center and add the remaining ingredients. Stir until just well mixed. Pour into prepared cake pan using a spatula to scrape the sides of the bowl.

Bake until cake springs back when lightly pressed in the middle and the edges have pulled away from the sides of the pan, about 1 hour. Remove from oven and let cool in the pan before serving either warm or room temperature with Nana’s Lemon Butter Sauce.

Serves 12

Nana’s Lemon Butter Sauce
2 egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup (5 1/3 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Pinch of salt
1/3 cup heavy cream, whipped

In a medium double boiler heat egg yolks until they lighten in color, whisking fairly consistently.  Gradually add sugar, continuing to heat and whisk.  Remove from heat and add butter, lemon rind, juice, and salt. Fold in whipped cream.  Chill and serve on top of warm cake.

Makes enough to serve with cake plus extra — have a spoon ready.

Thanks, Nana!

Sitting Down to the Dinner Table Together

A number of years ago, when the girls were small and bedtime was 8pm (for me and them), a friend of mine said something to me and I didn’t believe her.  As I was holding my tired, tear-stained four year old on my hip, she said that when your kids get older, it’s just as intense as when they are small.  She said that instead of clinging to your pant legs, they need you in a completely different way, but just as much.  She said that her teenagers were just as time consuming and just as needing of her nurturing as when they were small.

I thought she had motherhood amnesia.  You know, the syndrome that has a mother, who recently experienced labor, to be so awash in baby love that she wants another child.  She forgets that this will require another labor.

Now that I have teenagers, I still think my friend forgot how intense mothering small children can be.  So when I’m trying to figure out how and when all of us can have dinner together because one has play practice from 6 to 8pm and the other has a class that begins at 7pm and it turns out the only time we can all sit at the table together is at 5pm, I remember when they were small.


When at the end of the day, everyone was a little (or a lot) frayed at the edges and no one could really handle entertaining themselves.  When having little people “help” with dinner meant starting at 4pm for a dinner at 6pm.  When holding one in the sling and the other on the hip meant that I couldn’t chop a vegetable or make a salad.  But if I set them down, the terror of the toddler would reign down on the household.  Back then I wished I were an octopus.

Now I wish I could clone myself.  I’d have one mom drive and the other make dinner.  Since neither of those is likely, I’ll just stick with having a lot more free time in the day, serving dinner at the oddest of hours so that we can all sit face to face, and driving my teenagers to and fro with “car talk” to sustain me.

Dinner time – it’s important

Goat Cheese and Scallion Twice-Baked Potatoes – Holiday Side or Appetizer

The grown-up version of a childhood favorite, these twice-baked potatoes are both a nod to my mom and her simply delicious cooking and to Appleton Creamery, from whence this recipe inspiration was born.

Just as satisfying as the traditional, the tangy goat cheese and bite of the scallions takes this classic to another level.  Still comfort food, yet elegant enough to serve as a holiday side-dish.

Another thought is to use baby potatoes and serve tiny versions of these delights as a holiday appetizer.  Be sure to back off on the baking time and use a small melon scoop to remove the potato flesh.

My mouth might be watering just a tiny bit.  Scuze me, I gotta go cook…


Goat Cheese and Scallion Twice-Baked Potatoes
4 large or medium russet potatoes, scrubbed cleaned and pierced with a fork
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
8 ounces crème frâiche
4 ounces goat cheese
1/4 cup minced scallions
1/4 cup minced parsley
1/8 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place the potatoes in the middle of the oven and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until they are tender when squeezed or pierced with a fork.

Remove from oven and slice in half along the widest part of the potato to make it so they will more easily lay flat. Hold each half of potato with a towel and with a spoon scoop out the center. Press through a ricer or smash with a potato masher. Add the rest of the ingredients.

Using either a pastry bag with a large hole or just a spoon, return the potato mixture to the potato shells. At this point you can cover and refrigerate them overnight. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until heated through. If you have refrigerated them, bake for an additional 10 to 15 minutes.

Serves 4 to 6

Thank goodness for comfort food.

Apricot Orange Pound Cake – Holiday Baking

Wondering what to bake for the mail man and your kids’ teachers?  This pound cake, filled with the fragrant, fruity flavors of apricot and orange could be just the thing.

While the apricot and orange extracts might not be readily on hand in your pantry, they make all the difference. I’ve seen them at my local grocery store and have also had some happy luck on Olive Nation with some seriously delicious extracts that have kept my creative baking spirit happy all summer long on the boat.

This recipe was given to me by an exceptional family that sailed with us several years ago. They own a bakery in Amish country and the original recipe is one of their top sellers.  I’ve, of course, changed some of the extracts, due in large part to running out rather than because the recipe needed a single tweak.  Thank you Beiler family for your gift of the original recipe.

Apricot Orange Poundcake Photo Rocky Coast Photography

Apricot Orange Pound Cake
If you end up doubling the recipe, then use five eggs instead of four.  I’ve found the recipe works just a wee bit better.
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup whole milk
2 teaspoons orange zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon apricot extract
1/2 teaspoon orange extract

1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon apricot extract
1/2 teaspoon orange extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease one, 9 x 5 inch, loaf pan.
In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar, then add the eggs.  Add the flour, baking powder and salt to a sifter.  Measure the milk and add the extracts.  Sift half of the flour mixture and add half of the milk mixture to the butter and sugar and mix until incorporated.  Repeat and pour into the prepared loaf pan. Bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, until a fork inserted in the center of the cake comes clean.

Bring all the glaze ingredients to a boil; pour it over the cake just as it comes out of the oven. Let the cake cool a bit before removing it from the pan.

Serves 8


Crafternoon – Skirt Made from a Wool Sweater – Handmade Holiday Gift Idea

Now that we are home and have all of our crafting tools at our disposal, the sewing machine has come out and the knitting needles have slowed (not stopped, just slowed).  Of course there are tons of clothing items that one can make with re-purposed wool and wool sweaters, some of which I’ve shared in the form of fingerless mittens, cowl, and felt-decorated sweaters.  Last week I came home from a school event and shared with Chloe the idea of a snappy wool skirt a student was wearing over leggings – cool boots too, of course.  As I worked my way through the crowd and closer to the skirt (the student I mean), I realized that it was actually the bottom of a felted sweater inverted so that the hem or lower cuff of the sweater had become the waist band of the skirt.

The next morning Chloe comes down wearing one of two skirts that used to be wool sweaters hanging out in the crafting pile ready and waiting to become something.  The second was prepped for a short spin under the sewing machine.

Recycled sweater skirt Photo by Rocky Coast Photography

Directions for How to Make a Skirt from a Wool Sweater
Felt the sweater so that the fibers connect and the ends don’t fray by washing in hot and rinsing in cold water.  Stop the washing machine occasionally and check to be sure that you aren’t felting it more than you want.  The fabric will just become thicker and thicker with changes in temperature and agitation so slower is better.   When the fabric of the wool is the thickness that you’d like, spin it to wring out most of the moisture and then hang or lay flat to dry.  Sometime I’ll roll an item between two bath towels and then press or even step on the roll to squeeze out any excess moisture.

To determine the length of the skirt, measure vertically from where it will ride – waist, belly button or below belly button – to where you’d like for it to end – knee, thigh, mid-thigh.  There is no hemming necessary with this project, so therefore no need to adjust the measurement for hemline material.

When dry, lay the sweater out on a cutting board.  With a yard stick or measuring tape, measure from the bottom of the sweater (waist of the skirt) to the hem of the skirt.  Make a horizontal, straight cut across.   Note:  If the wool is the washable sort, then a quick zigzag stitch along the hemline takes care of any unraveling that might occur.  It also can add a design element if you use a contrasting thread color.

Who needs the mall?

Riggin Gear – It Travels Well!

We are so blessed that we get to sail with you all each summer.  What is equally wonderful is how well-traveled (in addition to sailing on the Riggin) many of you are.  We love to hear about and see photos of the varied parts of the globe you’ve adventured – especially while you are wearing your Riggin gear!

Jane in Tibet
Jane Fahey – In Tibet.
Greg Shannon  – Left and middle in Disney, right in Australian blue Mountains.
Claude Arbour – In Portugal.

Many more happy travels to you and (and also returns to us on the Riggin)!


Drunken Pepper Pie – It’s a Beautiful Thing

This recipe is a riff on an old classic in the Maine Windjammer fleet – Congo Bars.  Usually made for lunch and scarfed up by mid-afternoon, this recipe is amped up for a dinner dessert with the addition of both Ancho chili powder and Kentucky Bourbon.  Both give a punch and a depth that makes the perfect cross between comfort dessert and swanky dessert.  As with the bar recipe, the pie recipe is much better slightly underdone than even the smallest bit overdone.  Of course, this recipe is for one pie, whereas on the Riggin, I’m making 3 or 4 pies at at time, hence the several pies in the photos below.

Drunken Pepper Pie
Pie Crust
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 tablespoons unflavored vodka
2 tablespoons ice cold water (or more)

Combine the flour, salt, and butter into a medium bowl; cut in well with a pastry knife.
Add vodka and water and mix until dough pulls away from the bowl and forms a ball.  Cover and let rest in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

Remove and roll onto a floured board to at least 12 inches in diameter.  Transfer to a 9-inch pie pan and pinch the edges.  Let rest in the refrigerator again until the pie batter is done.

Makes 1 crust

Pie Batter
1 1/2 cups lightly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 tablespoon Kentucky Bourbon
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon Ancho chili powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Melt the brown sugar and butter over low heat.  Cool slightly so that the pan is comfortable to touch and then add the bourbon and vanilla extract.  Mix in the eggs one at a time.

Sift the flour, baking powder, ancho chili powder, and salt into the sugar and butter mixture and stir.  When the dry ingredients are completely incorporated, add the chocolate chips.

Spatula the pie batter into the prepared pie shell and bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until the pie crust is golden brown.  If a fork poked into the center comes out slightly gooey this is okay.

Cool slightly and serve while still warm with Brown Sugar Whipped Cream.

Serves 8 to 12

Brown Sugar Whipped Cream
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Combine all ingredients in a medium-sized bowl and beat with a whisk until soft peaks form.




Getting excited to go sailing!  You should come with us this summer!