Darcy Scott here, coming to you mid-summer from the good ship Skater, where cooking, like writing, is a decidedly creative endeavor—one often wildly impulsive in direction, especially when unforeseen culinary substitutions become necessary. In our case, this most often occurs when the chef (moi) inadvertently leaves something important off the provisioning list, not realizing it until shortly before the boat is to leave the harbor. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Along about mid-spring each year, after the boat’s been launched and the ship’s kitchen (a.k.a., the galley), has been filled with a summer’s worth of provisions, hubby and I drop the mooring line for a four or five day shakedown cruise to test the various repairs and upgrades we’ve made over the course of the long winter. This initial cruise of the season includes a number of important traditions, including the RITUAL OF THE SEAFOOD CHOWDER—a dumbed down, ship’s version of the classic that I linger over on our first day at sea, then let rest in the fridge for several days. It’s a kind of cheat, really, as there’s not a chunk of ham or a piece of bacon in sight. Worse, we use Snow’s canned clam chowder as a base to which we add all manner of goodies. I know…I know…sacrilege, right?
Our habit is to sleep onboard the night before heading off on any cruise, something that ensures our usual 6:00 a.m. start—this after I’ve rousted the grumpy captain, who’s known to require two cups of black coffee before arising from his bunk. This year, having settled in for the night, lulled to sleep by the gentle motion of the boat, I was jolted awake around two, eyes wide with the knowledge I’d forgotten a key ingredient for said chowder: namely a small potato—those delightfully dissolved little bits being an all important element in the thickening of the soup.
Mind racing, my captain snoring softly beside me, I mentally tallied the larder for possible substitutions. That pile of bananas I’d brought along for a pancake feed or pie? Hardly. A handful of crushed potato chips? Yuck. It was then I remembered the extra corn I’d bought against the unlikely possibility of dinner guests (remember those?) who’d go along with our admittedly rigid social distancing demands, seniors that we are. Corn chowder in all its various permutations has been around forever, of course, just not in my galley. Not as a thickening agent, in any case. Anyway, problem solved. In fact, this new version tasted so good, it’s now my new go-to.
SKATER SEAFOOD CHOWDER
1 Small potato, diced (if I can manage to remember it)
½ Small onion, chopped
3 TBS. salted butter
Salt AND LOTS of ground pepper
2 Small pieces flounder
1 Can Snow’s Clam Chowder
1 Pint of fat-free half and half
Handful of large sea scallops, cut into bite sized pieces
Handful of large, peeled shrimp, cut into chunks
1 ear of corn, cooked, kernels removed
Brown the onion and potato in the butter over low heat until softened. Salt and vigorously pepper. Add the flounder and sauté until the fish breaks up. Add the Snow’s as well as the half and half, cooking over medium heat until it comes to a gentle boil. Add the scallops, turn down the heat, and simmer for maybe an hour. Take off the heat, toss in the shrimp and corn, and let sit for a while. Should you have a bit of leftover lobster meat (is there even such a thing?), you might toss it in as well. Refrigerate for 2-3 days to allow the favors to meld.
While I’m on the subject, I thought I’d share a few other recipes that comprise a typical dinner onboard (no worries, they’re just as tasty prepared at home): my mother-in-law’s Quick Chicken Curry and my Mom’s Philadelphia Cole Slaw—both the kind of simple boat fare I gravitate toward because those gentle, late afternoon breezes often build in intensity until we’re being tossed about the waves like the good ship S.S. Minnow of Gilligan’s Island fame. Remind me to tell you about my world-class bread-making disaster during our 1995 passage to the Caribbean sometime. Took a good half hour to scrub the oozing dough off the galley wall. Not pretty.
LOIS’S QUICK CHICKEN CURRY
My mother-in-law, Lois, made no secret of the fact she didn’t like to cook (or measure ingredients—see below). Getting through the process of meal preparation as quickly and painlessly as possible was her only goal. This was her favorite recipe.
Small chopped onion
Large apple or two, peeled and cut into chunks
Lots of curry
Boneless, skinless chicken thighs cut into chunks
Large handful of white raisins
Water or chicken stock, whichever is handy
Brown the onion in oil. Toss in the apple and cook a bit. Add lots of curry and stir until it coats the apple and onion. Add chicken, browning and cooking ‘til it looks about right. Add the raisins and the liquid (Lois was known to douse the whole thing with white wine if she was feeling particularly peevish) and cook until the meat is tender. Add more curry. Serve on a bed of white rice or whatever.
MOM’S PHILADELPHIA COLE SLAW
One small cabbage, shredded
Small can of pineapple chunks (juice reserved)
For the dressing: combine ¾ cup sour cream, ¾ cup mayo, some yellow mustard, a splash of white vinegar, a sprinkle of salt and some of the reserved pineapple juice to taste.
Combine the dressing and cabbage. Toss with the chopped pineapple and refrigerate for a few days, turning two or three times daily so the whole mess can stew in its juices.
Darcy Scott (Winner, 2019 National Indie Excellence Award; Best Mystery, 2013 Indie Book Awards; Silver Award, 2013 Readers Favorite Book Awards; Bronze Prize, 2013 IPPY Awards) is a live-aboard sailor and experienced ocean cruiser with more than 20,000 blue water miles under her belt. For all her wandering, her summer home and favorite cruising grounds remain along the coast of Maine—the history and rugged beauty of its sparsely populated out-islands serving as inspiration for much of her fiction, including her popular Maine-based Island Mystery Series. Her debut novel, Hunter Huntress, was published in Britain in 2010.