June 20, 2018
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Scallop chowder hits the spot on cold hunt

By Bud Leavitt

Editor’s Note: The Best of Bud is a compilation of advice and recipes gathered by the late Ralph W. “Bud” Leavitt, who retired as the Bangor Daily News executive sports editor and outdoor editor in the fall of 1988. He continued to write a weekly column for the paper until his death on Dec. 20, 1994. During his nearly half-century as the BDN’s outdoor columnist, he penned more than 13,000 columns and one book, “Twelve Months in Maine.”

We were duck hunting off Brooksville with Basil L. Smith of Orono, Joe Sewall, and his son, David, Old Town.

It was a bitter cold day. The seas were rolling heavy and I wasn’t about to leave the snug comfort of Joe’s inboard cruiser.

“I’ll stay on board and look after things in the galley,” I offered. “Don’t worry about me. I have some writing to do. I’ll take care of your lunch needs.”

Smith, Joe and David launched the tender and headed toward the point of land on a small island, a prime shooting spot for those low, hard-flying Canadian redlegs.

Joe Sewall never goes half-fare with respect to activities such as hunting and fishing. He’d purchase a gallon of freshly boated, outsized Maine scallops.

I looked around and found the ingredients to make a personal favorite, Maine scallop chowder.

Then I set out to make a chowder for four.

2 medium-sized onions, peeled and cut crosswise into 1-inch thick slices

2 quarts milk, ½ quart light cream

¼ lb. butter

2 medium-sized boiled potatoes cut into ½-inch strips

2 lbs. scallops, cut into quarters


I found a 3-quart saucepan and melted about 2½ tablespoons of butter over a simmering heat. When the foam subsided, I added the onions, stirring gently and slowly, I let cook for about 6 minutes, until the onions were soft and translucent, not brown.

Next came the milk and cream combination. The liquid was heated over the moderate heat for about 10 minutes. The diced up potatoes were next, placed into the milk combination.

I then dropped in the scallops, turning them almost constantly with a slotted wooden spoon.

You may be asking how come the scallops were not pre-cooked, or fried, before being dropped into the broth? Frying or stewing anything so delicate and tasteful as a freshly claimed Maine scallop loses a whole lot in the frying or stewing, and scallops need little help, beyond warming, if at all.

I added another 2½ tablespoons of butter, seasoned with salt and pepper, and pushed the pot to the back of the stove to “set” for three hours.

Along about 3 o’clock in the afternoon, I opened the cabin door and coming across the reef in a howling sea were the Sewalls and Smith. When the tender got close enough to the cruiser, I handed each, Joe, David and Basil, a cup of hot scallop stew.

After a social hour or two, it was time for supper.

I ladled out the scallop chowder, sprinkled each bowl with a dash of paprika and after that one outing I never had to defend my decision of remaining on board ship while a terribly cold Nor’easter raged and roared across Penobscot Bay. I had earned my stripes.

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