The perfect entertaining menu for casual summer celebrations
By Kate Bowler
When I set out to write my cookbook, “New England Invite: Fresh Feasts to Savor the Seasons,” I was determined to bring to life the things that I cherish most about entertaining throughout the year. Living on the South Shore, it’s no surprise that the book contains a substantial summer menu lineup.
New England summers were made for entertaining. Each warm weekend gets me one step closer to the opening of the vibrant local farmer’s markets where I gather my ingredients. I wait patiently for the fields to open at Tree-Berry Farm in Scituate, where I fill coffee-tin pails to the brim with blueberries destined for desserts and cocktail syrups. I relish spending warm sun-kissed days on the beach and long, cool summer nights entertaining family and friends on the patio.
My favorite summer menu (perfect for Fourth of July celebrations) is inspired by the South Shore’s local seafood and produce: a New England clambake. Whenever we prepare a one-pot clambake, it becomes a communal cooking experience. Everyone gathers around the large pot to help load in the corn, lobsters and cheesecloth—bundled shellfish. Pulling the steamer basket out at the end of the cooking is like a grand-finale; a final unveiling of our feast before we settle down to start cracking open shells and dipping mussels into the flavorful broth. The meal is rich and savory, full of drawn butter and steamy potatoes. I like to serve it with a bright refreshing cocktail and a sweet dessert made with fresh-picked local berries. It’s casual dining at its finest and an experience worthy of everyone’s summer bucket list.
Recipes adapted from
“New England Invite: Fresh Feasts to Savor the Seasons”
by Kate Bowler, Globe Pequot Press - 2018
Bring about 4 inches of water to a boil in a 30-quart lobster pot over a propane burner that is set up outside your home. (Note: If you don’t have this equipment, cut the recipe in half to accommodate a 16-quart stock pot that can be heated on your stovetop.)
Prepare a seasoning pouch by laying out a large square of cheesecloth and filling it with one peeled and halved onion, one halved lemon, 1 head of garlic with the top sliced off, a bay leaf, celery, peppercorns, and sea salt. Tie the opposite corners of the cheesecloth together to create a secure pouch for the seasoning mixture and add it into the boiling water.
While the water is being infused with the seasoning pouch, prepare and clean the mussels and clams. Create two more cheesecloth pouches and place the mussels in one and the clams in the other. Tie the opposite corners of the cheesecloth together (loosely this time) to create two pouches.
Insert a steamer basket into the pot and add the potatoes, which should be just covered with water. Poke the potatoes after 10 minutes with a fork to test their doneness. Once the potatoes are about halfway cooked (just soft to the touch of the fork), add the sliced kielbasa pieces, halved ears of corn and white wine to the broth mixture. Cook for 5–7 minutes.
Open the pot to add the lobsters, then cover with the lid and continue to boil for about 7 minutes.
Add the pouches of clams and mussels to the top of the pot and boil for another 5 minutes, until the shells open.
Remove the steamer basket from the lobster pot and shake out the remaining broth and liquids before transferring the contents of the basket to serving bowls. Divide the clambake into one large bowl for the lobsters, another for the potatoes, corn, kielbasa and clams, and a smaller bowl for the delicate mussels. You can discard the seasoning pouch at the bottom of the pot, but reserve the broth to ladle over the mussels.
Garnish the meal with fresh parsley and serve immediately with melted butter and lemon wedges.
To make the blueberry reduction, combine sugar, blueberries and lemon juice in a small saucepan and simmer for 20 minutes, until the berries begin to break down and the sauce thickens.
Remove reduction from the stove and strain through a mesh strainer, pressing down on the berries to release the juices. Discard the berries and let the remaining liquid cool until ready to use.
To assemble the jars, cut the frozen cheesecake into eight slices and then cut each slice into small cubes. Evenly distribute the frozen cheesecake cubes into eight small mason jars.
Divide the blueberry reduction among the jars, pouring the sauce over the frozen cheesecake.
Top each jar with about 1/4 cup fresh berries and finish with sprigs of fresh mint.
For each simple syrup combine the ingredients in a small saucepan and simmer for about 20 minutes, until reduced by half.
Remove from stove and strain remaining herbs and berries out of the liquid. Use a funnel to transfer the syrups into glass containers and chill until ready to use.
Pour syrups over chilled sparkling wine or unflavored soda water to make berry-flavored cocktails. Garnish with additional berries and herbs.