The day before we left for our 10 day vacation in Nantucket, Husband M had his 30th birthday. Since we were pretty busy packing and tying up loose ends before we left, we were only able to have a small celebration. I made one of his favorite easy summer recipes…Martha Stewart Everyday’s Grilled Steak with tomatoes and scallions and a brownie from the farmer’s market. His Aunt T had thrown him a big birthday party in Maine the weekend prior and I also had plans for a lobster bake while we in Nantucket. His work also threw him a afternoon party with freshly baked cookies, so all in all, he had 4 birthday parties this year.
For the Nantucket lobster bake, we ordered pre-cooked lobsters and steamers from Sayle’s fish market. Our little cottage did not have air-conditiong and the day of the party happened to the hottest day we were in Nantucket. Thank goodness we bought pre-cooked lobsters…I can’t imagine how much hotter the place would have been if I had been cooking lobsters for hours. They did a great job packing them and they stayed warm for quite awhile.
For a starter, I decided to make a batch of clam chowder. We were having 10 people over in all and this recipe I put together made well over this amount (if served as an appetizer). I used Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything No-Holds-Barred Clam Chowder recipe as the base and tweaked it based on a few other recipes I have made in the past.
Nantucket Birthday Clam Chowder
Serves 10+ as an appetizer
-1/2 pound applewood smoked bacon (or similar high quality), chopped
-2 cups minced onions
-5 cups peeled and chopped baking potatoe
-4 tablespoons flour (I used wheat)
-2 teaspoons dried thyme
-7 five-ounce cans of clams
-4 eight-ounce bottles of clam juice
-2 cups milk
-2 cups heavy cream
-2 tablespoons butter
-fresh chopped parsley
Fry the bacon in a large stock pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat until crisp. Remove the bacon with a with slotted spoon and put aside. Cook the onion and potatoes in the bacon fat until the onion softens and is translucent (10-15 minutes). While they are cooking, drain the canned clams and reserve the drained clam juice. Add the flour and thyme to the onion and potatoes, and combine. Add the 4 bottles of clam juice and the reserved clam juice from the cans. Cook until the potatoes are tender (an additional 10-15 minutes). At this point, I turned off the heat and put the lid on the pot to keep it warm until the guests arrived.
About 5 minutes before I was ready to serve the chowder, I added the salt, pepper, milk, and cream (put the milk and cream out for about 20-30 minutes to get to room temperature so it does not curdle when you add it). Add the drained clams and bring to a low simmer. Add the butter on top of the chowder- the clams will be finished cooking once the butter melts. I served the chowder with the chopped parsley and oyster crackers on the side.