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Lobster Chowder

This traditional chowder is made with lobster, pork, onions and potatoes, but differs from the New England church-supper type recipes in that it is not made from milk. This stock and cream chowder almost never separates and has a wonderful creamy consistency. Sweet corn fritters are a wonderful match as a side dish.

2 live 1-pound chicken lobsters
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
4 ounces slab country bacon
Kosher or sea salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 medium onions, diced
1 teaspoon Hungarian paprika
1 pound all-purpose potatoes, cut into 3/4-inch dice
1 cup heavy cream
Freshly ground pepper
About 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives and/or parsley for garnish

Parboil the lobsters in plenty of boiling water for 3 1/2 minutes. Let stand until cool enough to handle. Remove the meat from the tails, knuckles and claws. Cut into large pieces, about 3/4 to 1 inch. Cover and refrigerate. Split the carcasses in half and discard the head sacs. Remove the roe if there is any, chop it and add it to the lobster meat. Leave about half the tomalley in the body to flavor the stock. Discard the rest or serve it on toast. Too much tomalley will make the broth bitter.

Place the shells and carcasses in a 6- to 8-quart pot and cover with 2 quarts of water. Bring to a boil.

Meanwhile, pick the leaves off the thyme and add just the stems to the stock. Also add the peppercorns and bay leaves. Trim the rind from the bacon and add the rind to the stock. Cut the bacon into 1/2-inch dice. Turn down the heat and simmer for 1 hour. Lightly salt the stock and taste for strength. Simmer for up to 30 minutes, more if needed. Strain the stock. You should have 3 to 4 cups.

Fry the bacon in a heavy 4-quart soup pot over medium heat until crisp and browned and most of the fat has been rendered. This will take about 8 minutes. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon fat, leaving the bacon in the pot. Add the butter, onions and thyme leaves. Cook over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes until the onions are tender but not browned. Stir in the paprika. Add the potatoes and enough stock to cover them (about 3 1/2 cups; add a little water if you do not have enough stock). Turn up the heat and boil for 15 or 20 minutes until the potatoes are tender. This hard cooking will break up some of the potatoes so that their starch is released and the chowder becomes slightly thickened. Remove the pot from the heat.

Add the lobster meat and heavy cream. Season with salt (very little will be needed) and pepper. Let the chowder sit off the heat for 30 minutes to 1 hour. If you let it sit longer than 1 hour, cover and refrigerate it. You can make this a day in advance if desired.

Reheat the chowder, check the seasoning and divide evenly among 4 large soup plates. Sprinkle with chives and parsley and serve at once. Serves 4 as a main course or 8 to 10 as a starter.

"Lobster at Home" Scribner.

Thursday, July 27, 2000

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