If I’ve learned one thing so far this summer, it’s this: I love being a tourist in the state I call home. Since early-May, we’ve had a steady stream of family and friends coming in and going out of our house, which has given me a good excuse to go places I haven’t been and do things I haven’t done. And it’s given me a good excuse to do some of my favorite things again. It’s lovely. And exciting. And exhausting.
We’ve stargazed (and seen the rings of Saturn), sat on the deck for hours, buried our feet in the sand, shopped in centuries-old buildings, swam in cold lakes, eaten donuts, warmed ourselves beside an outdoor fire, cooked over said fire, marveled at tall ships, treasure (sea glass) hunted, enjoyed flights of local brews, and restaurant-hopped from one Portland eatery to the next.
I prefer to think of a year in seasons rather than months and I think of seasons as bowls to be filled. I like to imagine 4 bowls lined up, all a different shape, a different glaze, and depositing each memory into the designated season’s bowl until it’s filled. This summer’s bowl: it already runneth over.
This past week, I had the pleasure of having my best friend and her partner come visit from North Carolina. It had been ages since we’d seen each other, and despite the transformations that have taken place since we last met, the foundation on which we built our friendship is as solid as it ever was.
In true New England fashion, we welcomed our guests with a good ol’ lobster bake. It started in the seafood market where we picked out our lobster, and let me tell you: these suckers were feisty. It took the fish monger 5 minutes catch 4 for us. We lugged them home in a bag, and before cooking, I couldn’t resist trying something I read about on Food52-Lobster Yoga (or Lobstah Yogah in Mainer). By putting the lobster on their heads and curling their tails underneath, it calms the creatures immediately and they’ll stay in their headstand pose.
Playing with our food aside, there was a benefit for them; when cooking lobster, I prefer to calm them (by the yoga method or popping them in the freezer to put them to sleep) before [asking Chris to] drive a knife through their heads so they don’t suffer when they’re dropped into the pot, but to each their own. And lobster-killing aside, I loved everything about this meal because 1) it involved a bonfire, 2) it was virtually hands-off, so we got some QT to spend with our guests, 3) it filled up 4 very hungry, wine-drenched friends, 4) it was impressive and delicious, and 5) it was easy clean-up.
We set-up a grate over our fire pit with a burning hot fire underneath, put a large pot lined with corn husks (you can use seaweed, too) over it, and layered 4 lobster, 5 ears of corn (cut in half), 4 lbs. of small red potatoes, 6 chorizo sausages, 2 lbs. of little neck clams, and a dozen raw eggs. We covered everything with more corn husks, dumped in a bottle of white wine, covered it, and let it steam for 45 minutes.
When it was ready, we dumped the baked food on newspaper, dusted everything with a little Old Bay, and brought out the claw crackers and lobster bibs and dug in.
You’ll notice in the above recipe that I didn’t add any seasoning to the pot as it was cooking but rather did a light sprinkling of Old Bay right before serving. That’s because I wanted everyone to have the option to season their food with what/how much they wanted. My hand tends to get a little heavy with seasoning; I chock that up to growing up Southern.
Speaking of Old Bay, I did create a compound butter to go with this fine feast, and it was a perfect accoutrement to all the meats, corn, potatoes, and grilled bread we served. So, it’s versatile. And spicy. And salty. And delicious. I also think it would be phenomenal as a base for scrambled eggs. I can’t tell you for certain because the batch I made was polished off in one sitting.
- 2 sticks (16 Tbsp) of unsalted butter, room temperature
- 2 cloves of garlic, pressed through a garlic press
- 2 Tbsp. of Old Bay Seasoning
- Squirt of lemon juice
- On a cutting board, pour Old Bay Seasoning over the pressed garlic and juice from ¼ of a lemon. Run the side of a large chef’s knife over the mixture repeatedly until a paste forms. Add butter to the garlic-Old Bay mixture and cut the ingredients into each other by using the back of your knife or a fork. When smooth and creamy, transfer butter to a jar or from into a log and wrap in parchment if feeling fancy.
To friends and memories and filling the bowl full.