Can you believe that I had never tasted clam chowder or a traditional New England lobster roll until I moved to the Island five years ago? Before then, I lived on a Caribbean island, where seafood was typically fried beachside and soups were on the cooler side. Now, the trusty flavors of chowders and lobster rolls are the staples we treat ourselves to on this Island. As much as I’ve come to enjoy the classic lobster roll over the years, I can’t help but hear the flavors of my Caribbean home call to me. How could I spice up a lobster roll with some Caribbean flair? I went in search of recipes that incorporated my hometown seasonings and the classic New England seafood recipes popular in these parts.
First I came upon a Spicy Chorizo Clam Chowder by food writer Alejandra Ramos of the blog Always Order Dessert. A lighter version of the classic, this chowder recipe is packed with Spanish-style chorizo and smoked paprika, adding that unique flavor. Ramos also replaces the original potatoes in the recipe with rutabaga, which I think is genius! Give the recipe below a try the next time you’re craving a lighter, spicier version of chowder.
Now, if you’re in the mood for a lobster roll, how about trying the second recipe for LoLo’s Lobster Roll, by Chef Raymond Mohan of Lolo’s Seafood Shack in Harlem, N.Y.? In the Caribbean, johnnycakes, or cornmeal flatbread, are known all over and are the perfect snack when slathered in butter or served with cheese. Here, the chef takes poached lobster, tosses it in a spiced rémoulade sauce, and serves it inside a warm johnnycake. An unusual take on the classic, but definitely on my summer bucket list to try!
Spicy Chorizo Clam Chowder
By Alejandra Ramos of alwaysorderdessert.com
Serves 4 to 6
4 pounds clams (such as manila or littleneck), shells scrubbed under cold running water
⅓ pound Spanish-style chorizo, diced
2 strips thick-cut bacon, diced
2 stalks celery, sliced
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp. smoked paprika
1 medium rutabaga, peeled and diced (or use 2 large russet potatoes)
1½ cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
Kosher salt and black pepper
¼ cup minced fresh parsley and/or scallions, for garnish
Combine the rinsed clams with 2 cups cold water in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Cover and let steam until the clams open — about 8 minutes. Remove all the open clams, then re-cover and continue to cook any that haven’t opened for an additional 1 to 2 minutes. If they still don’t open, discard, but reserve the cooking liquid.
Strain the liquid through a sieve lined with cheesecloth or other fabric, discarding any solids and reserving the remaining liquid.
Remove the clams from their shells, and place in a bowl covered with a damp paper towel (this keeps them from drying out).
Combine the chorizo and bacon in a large, heavy-bottomed pot, and sauté until bacon is rendered and chorizo is slightly crisp. Use a slotted spoon to remove the bacon and chorizo, leaving the fat in the pot. (If your bacon isn’t very fatty, you may need to add a teaspoon or two of oil).
Add the celery, onions, garlic, paprika, and rutabaga, and sauté 2 to 3 minutes, just to soften them a bit. Add the strained clam liquid and 1½ cups of water, and cook until the rutabaga is tender (about 10 to 15 minutes).
Add the milk, cream, chorizo and bacon, and let simmer gently for 10 minutes (do not let it boil or the milk will curdle). Stir in the clams, and let simmer an additional 5 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper as desired. Garnish with parsley and scallions before serving.
LoLo’s Lobster Roll
By Chef Raymond Mohan of LoLo’s Seafood Shack in Harlem, N.Y.
Makes 4 portions
1½ cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup cornmeal
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1½ Tbsps. granulated sugar
¼ tsp. salt
1 tsp. chopped scallions
½ tsp. chopped fresh thyme
½ cup water
Place all dry ingredients in a mixing bowl and mix together by hand. Add water and knead dough until it forms a large ball, then portion out into four equal-sized balls. Place on pan and cover and with plastic. Allow to rest for 1 hour at room temperature.
Place each ball of dough in a tortilla press to press. Fry at 350° for 3 to 4 minutes, turning it over until golden brown and puffed.
½ cup mayonnaise
½ Tbsp. mustard
1 tsp. finely chopped pickles
½ lemon, zested and juiced
½ tsp. salt
Whisk all ingredients together.
To prepare the lobster rolls:
Take 1½ pounds of lobster and poach for 6 minutes in boiling water. Remove lobster from water and soak in ice bath to halt the cooking process. De-shell the lobster and cut it into bite-size pieces tossed in rémoulade sauce. Serve inside warm johnnycakes sliced lengthwise.