2020 Stonington, Maine: After months on the road, Mark and I set our eyes on a leisurely week and seafood in Stonington, Maine, with visions of lobster, clams, and mussels. After settling into the charming family-run Boyce’s Motel, we grabbed a bottle of red and headed down to their private deck overlooking the harbor where the fishing boats setting out to sea for the night.
Savoring the Sea
The following morning was misty, and we wandered about the village, arriving at the dock as several fishing boats arrived. One included a father with his two children, his boat pragmatically named “is what it is.” It was a working dock, equipped with swinging booms to deliver the day’s nets, bait, and lobster crates. There were no faltered movements as the fisherman’s red gloves moved each item to its particular spot on the boat.
Securing Our First Lobster
We secured our first lobster fix at the sparsely occupied Harbor Cafe. I think it came with a half cup of drawn butter. After sitting back with a sigh of satisfaction, I asked for a take-out bag for taking the shells home for stock. The waitress gave me a funny look, but I have learned that flavor comes from the stuff that most people throw away.
Sourcing Our Shrimp and Clams
The local grocer had beautiful shrimp and littleneck clams, which we could not resist. Growing up on a ranch, our family mainly enjoyed beef at the core of our food traditions. Clams are unfamiliar territory. Luckily, our host provided books on cooking seafood, and I learned that clams should not be held on ice. They need a clean saltwater environment to filter water through their digestive tract. That helps them expel the sand and other dirt and grit that resides there from their usual seafloor environment. I was excited to put this theory to the test. And so I foraged around for a bucket, salted the water, and waited a couple hours for the magic to happen. After the gumbo came to a simmer, I added the shelled shrimp and four clams to steam their way to doneness.
The gumbo bowled up beautifully, but when we greedily scooped out the clams, we found them still gritty. I realized we needed more exploration to determine how long it actually takes to get out all that nasty grit.
The difference between purging clams for a couple of hours and overnight was huge. I am convinced that it requires 8-12 hours to get the job done right.
We popped over to Cold Water Seafood Market for a lobster. Oh my! We followed their tip, and froze the lobster for a couple of hours to put it in a coma. Then we added it in the boiling water. That method feels so much more humane than some of the others. Relying on the time recommended, however, proved to be a mistake. Even though the shell turned bright red, we kept on steaming and the tail flesh turned out a little rubbery.
Moving forward, I committed to trusting the color transformation.
Enjoying Our Final Lobsters
On our final full day in Stonington, we picked up two more lobsters for our final experiment. We ended up picking up a 1 1/2 pound new shell and 3-pound old shell, both very active.
I must say, I do not recommend buying a three-pound lobster. He was a little scary. It was clear he would have launched an attack if his claws had come free of those triple bands. As we maintained the advantage, we successfully swaddled both lobsters into paper bag bags to hold their tails straight, and put them in the freezer.
This time, we trusted the moment the shells became bright red.
Mark began cracking the shells and extracting the flesh into a bowl. The three-pounder’s claws proved so thick that the seafood cracker handles bent and we resorted to pounding them with shells flying everywhere.
They were delicious!
For Mark’s memories of our trip, be sure to go to his Stonington Travel Byte!