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My Great American Road Trip – Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts

August 8, 2020

I’ve spent a little time in Maryland and I like it. But I’ve spent a LOT of time in both Maine and Massachusetts and I love them. Both states deserve my full attention and their own post, but you deserve better than listening to me wax poetic about how much I miss my homeland now that I seem not to be able to get back there.

Here are my favorite trees from both states though. The first from my cousin’s farm in Maine, the second on the grounds of Tanglewood. I love those trees.

I had three days (more like a week) of shellfish between these three states, which is why I combined them all. While some states are really hard to choose what to cook, each of these three had a no-brainer choice – New England clam chowder in Massachusetts, crab cakes in Maryland, and lobstah rolls downeast. My sister is allergic to shellfish and, while I am not, I tend not to eat it alone, just in case that it the moment the allergy kicks in and my throat closes. But, in service of this silly project of mine, I decided to take my life in my hands, and go for it.

First up, Maine.

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I spent a good part of my childhood in Auburn, Maine and I have cousins living all through the state. I love Maine. And I love lobster rolls. In fact, my death row meal would be a Maine lobster roll and french fries eaten by on an oceanside dock that smelled a little too much of the sea.

Connecticut is also known for it’s lobster rolls, but there is a difference. Connecticut lobster rolls are served hot with butter. Maine rolls are cold with mayo. Honestly, I love them both (Maine is superior in every other way, however).

I feel like if I’m going to do this, I should do it right and put a live beast in a boiling pot of water, but it turns out that lobsters are not easy to find in Miami Beach. Instead, I got three lobster tails that I boiled in salty water until they turned bright red and then quickly transferred them to an icy bath (where they garnered some attention from The Great Catsby, who has loved this week).

Once cold, the lobster is chopped into bite sized pieces, mixed with mayo – I added in some horseradish and chopped celery – and jammed into a split topped roll, which has been toasted a bit. The best way to cap off a delicious lobster roll lunch is with some ice cream.

That was a good day!

The next day, I traveled in my imagination to Maryland. The last time I was in Maryland was in late January, 2017, when I travelled with women from all over the country to march on Washington in protest of the predator about to be invested in the White House and who, please lord, we can finally get out this November. My dear friend Laura met joined me from Colorado, and we stayed in Bethesda with her high school bestie Beth Ann. Do not listen to media reports telling you that march was anything less than inspiring.

Crab, besides stone crab, is similarly hard to find in Florida and I ended up with a can of Chicken of the Sea crabmeat. Unknown-6.jpegSkeptically, I opened the can and mixed it with some chopped onions, celery mayo, dijon mustard, fresh parsley, Old Bay! and panko. You form patties and then leave them in the fridge for an hour or so before frying them in a small amount of canola.

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I made a quick coleslaw to go along with my crab cakes from red onions, carrots, and cabbage drenched with a little bit of my Alabama white barbecue sauce. (that stuff goes with everything!), and some tartar sauce with pickle relish, dijon, mayo and chopped red onion. The result was a perfect summer meal!

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And, on we go to Massachusetts!

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I don’t love clam chowder, but it is truly a Massachusetts delicacy. And nothing is more quintessentially Mass than Legal Seafood.  Legal is where every important life event was celebrated when I was growing up. When my friends Nicola and Tiffany came to Boston, my mom took them to Legal’s without even waiting for me to arrive. I remember her awe at Tiffany’s lobster eating technique. It is where I met my dad’s cousins, Brenda and Frank before Red Sox games or Pops concerts, and where I insisted they, along with my step-mom and cousin Susan, drink pink martinis, before we all went to see Pink Martini at Symphony Hall. And it is where we spent my mother’s 70th, and last, birthday. It is a special place, not just for me. Ask anyone from Boston and they will have a story about Legal’s.

And they, very helpfully, put their recipe online. I made a number of substitutions in mine, based on what was on hand. First up you render the salt pork, which, who the hell knows what that means. I googled it and the answer came back cut the pork into cubes and render it. Very not helpful. Basically, you cut up the pork, stick it in the pot until the fat liquifies and take out the now super crunchy meat (the cracklings – that’s what cracklings are. I also learned that).

Unknown-10Into the pork fat goes chopped onions and a garlic clove. When the onion is translucent, you add some flour to make a modified roux. In goes some fish stock, I had veggie stock, so that’s what I used, plus a bottle of clam juice which is a thing you can buy. Also a whole bunch of chopped up potatoes. After that simmers for a while, you add chopped clams, two cups of cream, and those delicious cracklings. It is very important that clam chowder be served in a mug with oyster crackers. I also like a generous grind of black pepper on mine.

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I ate it out on the porch and while I still don’t love clam chowder the warm soup and warm memories made me feel like New England was just a little bit closer.

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