Cape Cookery

Cape Cod Cookery

Buttermilk-brined Roast Chicken

The only difficult part of this recipe for a supremely tender and flavorful roast chicken is remembering to start brining the bird a day before you plan to cook it. Other than that, it couldn’t be simpler! I like to cook it in a cast-iron pan but a small roasting pan is fine, too.

(SERVES 4-6)

A 3-4 pound roasting chicken

2 cups buttermilk


The evening before you plan to cook the chicken, mix 2 tablespoons of kosher salt or 4 teaspoons fine salt into the buttermilk.  Put the chicken in a gallon-size resealable plastic bag and pour the buttermilk over it.

Seal the bag and turn it over a few times to cover the chicken with the buttermilk. Put it on a rimmed plate and refrigerate. (Turn it over the next morning and once or twice during the day.)

Take the chicken out of the fridge an hour before you plan to cook it to bring it to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 425 F, with a rack set in the center position.

Take the chicken out of the bag and wipe off the buttermilk lightly.  Tie the legs of the chicken together with butcher’s twine and put it in cast iron skillet or shallow roasting pan.

Put the pan in the oven with the legs facing to the rear. After about 20 minutes, when the chicken starts to brown, reduce the heat to 400°F.

Continue cooking for another 40 minutes or so, until the chicken is brown all over and the juices run clear when you insert a knife down to the bone between the leg and the thigh. (Check occasionally to make sure the skin isn’t over-browning and if necessary, loosely tent the bird with some aluminum foil.)

When the chicken is done, remove it to a platter and let it rest for 10 minutes before carving and serving.

Scallops in Browned Butter

My fisherman friend, Matt, made these glorious scallops fresh off the boat! It’s a super simple recipe with super yummy results!

(2-3 servings)

1 pound scallops

4 tablespoons butter

1 finely chopped shallot or 1 minced glove garlic

1/4 cup dry white wine

Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat until you see it just beginning to brown.

Toss the scallops in a plastic zip bag with some flour to dredge them lightly, then place them one by one in the browning butter. This should slow the browning down considerably, but keep an eye on it. If the butter is getting too dark, turn the heat down.

Cook the scallops for 2-3 minutes on that first side until they are golden brown on the underside, then turn them to the other side and cook for another minute or so.

Take the scallops out of the pan with a fork or tongs and put them on a plate while you make the sauce.

Toss the shallots or garlic in the browned butter for just a minute or so and then add the wine. Turn the heat up to cook down the wine a bit for about a minute.

Add the scallops back into the pan, toss with the sauce and serve!

Aunt Ida’s Cape Cod Clam Chowder

A real Cape Cod clam chowder is a thing of modest beauty.  It is not thickened or overly creamy. It is nothing more than tender clams, little crispy cubes of salt pork (or bacon), some minced onion and celery, a couple of diced potatoes – all swimming in a rich, milky, buttery broth redolent of the sea. The below is my best re-creation of the chowder I used to make with my grandmother.

In A Side of Murder, Aunt Ida digs her own quahogs (just like Granny and I did), but any reputable fish monger should have fresh hard shell clams on hand. If these aren’t available to you, frozen or canned clams are a perfectly respectable substitute.

(10-12 servings)

2 1/2 pounds hard shell clams such as littlenecks, cherrystones, or quahogs (in order of increasing size)  

OR 1 pound frozen clams (unshelled)

OR 2 cups of chopped or minced canned clams, drained (six 6.5 oz. cans)  

4 cups bottled clam broth (if using canned or frozen clams)

1 quart whole milk

1 1/2 pounds (about 3 cups) russet (baking) potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes no larger than 1/2-inch

2 bay leaves

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Optional: 1 cup heavy cream (Aunt Ida never would, but it does make it extra yummy)

1) If using fresh clams, rinse them under running water to clean the shells and set aside. If using frozen clams, thaw them in the refrigerator overnight and chop them roughly, if necessary. Canned clams can be used right out of the can.

2) Put the cubed salt pork (or bacon) into a heavy-bottomed stock pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Cook until it has begun to get brown and crispy. Add the butter, minced onion and celery and to cook for about 5 minutes or until onions are softened but not browned.

3) If using fresh clams: Add the clams and 1 cup of water to the pot and turn the heat to high. Cover and cook, opening the lid every once in a while to stir the clams, until they begin to open, which should take about 3 minutes. As the clams open, remove them with tongs into to a large bowl, keeping as many juices in the pot as possible and keeping the lid shut as much as possible. After 8 minutes, discard any clams that have not yet begun to open. Roughly chop the clam meat and put it into a separate bowl with any of their juices. 

Add the milk and bay leaves to the pot, and add the cubed potatoes. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the potatoes are very tender and starting to break down. Add salt and pepper to taste.   

3) If using canned or thawed clams: Stir the bottled clam juice and the milk and bay leaves into the pot and add the cubed potatoes. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the potatoes are very tender and starting to break down. Add salt and pepper to taste.   

4) Add the chopped clams to the pot. Add the cream if you are using it, bring to a simmer and cook for two or three minutes (one minute for canned clams).  Serve immediately. (I like it with a pat of butter melting on the top, but that’s just me.)

NOTE: If you are making the chowder in advance, do not add the clams and the cream until you reheat it for serving.