Island Cooking: Don’t clam up – it’s still time for seafood

I am definitely tired of fried clams after this summer – but that always seems to happen to me. I’ll say to myself I will only have them a couple of times, but then there’s a great excuse when you have company and, of course, most everyone likes to go out for seafood and that is when I seem to not be able to control myself: I have to order them everywhere I go, but mostly as an appetizer – that way I can still have some other seafood as an entrée.

I know, it’s sad but true: I just love to eat. I find it a little ironic that growing up and even into adulthood I couldn’t stand clams any which way. Then I finally started to eat mussels and finally one night while eating out someone ordered  a couple of huge plates of steamers and talked me into trying them. And with all that dripping butter to dip them in, I was hooked. Then I eventually ventured into eating the fried clams and since I’m not a huge fried food eater year round I seem to give myself permission to go all out in the summer with the fried clams and the occasional fried fish sandwiches and, of course, French fries on the side that for me just seem to go hand-in-hand with the clams.

Of course, cooking seafood at home can be a disaster if the kids are around since they are definitely not fond of the smell. They wrinkle their noses and I get to hear all about how the smell in the house lingers forever. Usually as they prattle on and on I find my mind wandering back to the days when they seemed a lot cuter but they were pretty smelly at times too and I didn’t throw them out like three-day-old fish and I have to bite my tongue so I won’t mention this to them, because when they go on and on that starts to sound like a good idea.

With the cooler weather coming but seafood still pretty plentiful, I thought a couple of seafood stews would be nice on a chilly night with a nice cocktail or two on the side.

And what goes better with seafood stew on a cold night than beer? So choose your favorite and get cooking.

End of Summer Seafood Stew

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1/2 cup yellow onion, finely chopped

1 rib celery, finely chopped

1/2 bulb fennel, finely chopped

1 large garlic clove, minced

1 tsp. thyme

1 cup dry white wine

16 ounces of chicken broth or clam juice, your choice

16 ounces of tomato sauce

8 to 10 clams, steam and chopped

1 dried bay leaf

1/2 pound firm fleshed white fish

1/2 pound bay scallops

1/2 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined

Heat oil in a stewpot on stove over medium high heat. Add onions, celery and fennel and cook until the vegetables are translucent, about 5 or 6 minutes. Stir in garlic and thyme and sauté for 1 minute. Add wine and cook until reduced by about half. Add broth or clam juice, tomato sauce and bay leaf. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Add seafood and simmer until seafood is done, 5 or 6 minutes. Pour a glass of chilled wine or cold beer and enjoy!

We live in lobster country so there is nothing better than lobster stew; and it’s especially good the next day. This might not be a calorie friendly recipe, but it sure does satisfy any cravings you may have.

Easy Creamy Lobster Stew

1 pound cooked, chopped, lobster meat in cubes (never hurts to use more I find)

1 cup real butter

2 quarts heavy cream

In a large saucepan big enough to fit all ingredients, sauté the lobster meat in the butter until nice and hot. Slowly add cream and heat until hot, but do not burn. Serve in large soup bowls with oyster crackers and enjoy.

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Holly Simason

Columnist at Mount Desert Islander
Former Islander cooking columnist Holly Simason is co-author of the mystery series “Death of a Kitchen Diva." Simason has collaborated with her screenwriter brother Rick Copp for the Bar Harbor-based series. The books are written under the pen name Lee Hollis.