My Cape Cod Kitchen: Lobster Chowder and Trial and Error

Linda Maria Steele

Linda Maria Steele

“A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new”. ~ Albert Einstein

There’s a lot of truth in the Einstein quote above and somehow it makes me feel comforted, in the kitchen, but also in life too. If we want to grow and change we must be willing to make mistakes. As a mom, teacher, friend and even in love, I find there are so many opportunities to constantly learn and grow. One of the ways I’ve learned to manage being so far from perfect is the realization that mistakes are a part of life.

Recently I had a craving for homemade lobster chowder. Since it’s been so outrageously cold I’ve been spending more time than usual indoors (like the rest of us). Maybe the craving for something with lobster had to do with my deep desire for the warmer weather to return (soon). It reminds me of serving steamed lobster on my back deck in the summer when family visits from out of town. Whatever the reason, I made a batch of lobster chowder the other day. It reminded me of the simple truth that more often than not, life seems to be about trial and error. Trial and error is the effort to see what works and let go of what doesn’t.

With the bitter cold I realized my outdoor water valve needed to be turned off or I could soon find myself with a burst water pipe. Although I wasn’t entirely sure where the shut off valve was located, it was through trial and error I figured it out. It’s downstairs in the small ceiling crawl space near the laundry room. I added a small hand written tag to remind me in the future. My 11-year-old, Sophia, helped me to problem solve. I’d try different options and she’d call to me and let me know if the water was off or not.

Lobster chowder

Lobster chowder

As far as the lobster chowder goes, this is the first time I’ve made it from scratch at home. I’ve made many seafood dishes in my kitchen; steamed lobster, clam chowder, mussels, baked cod and even lobster salad and more. Yet for whatever reason, I hadn’t made the foray into making a lobster chowder before.

At first to simplify things, and in part because it’s in the dead of winter ,I considered (for a moment) using imitation lobster. This is where the trial and error comes in, because I soon realized it just isn’t worth using imitation over fresh, or even fresh frozen, lobster meat because it doesn’t taste nearly as good. Admittedly lobster chowder is a little decadent between the cream and the lobster meat, although when the temperature drops below zero (it was minus nine degrees at my house the other morning) a little indulgence might be in order. Even if it’s only a once-in-a-while special treat. Besides with all the ways we make mistakes in life, a little special indulgence now and then helps to keep everything in balance.

When it comes to cooking so much of the time, it seems to be about trial and error. What one person loves, another may not care for. I have a friend who would not eat this chowder if I added the onions. Although I can’t imagine chowder without sautéed onions. If I know she’s coming over I might substitute a cup of corn for the onions or maybe even a diced red pepper.

Simple Lobster Chowder


3 Tbsp. butter
1 small white onion, finely chopped
1 large garlic clove, chopped fine
5 large white potatoes, scrubbed clean and chopped into small bite-sized pieces
3 cups cooked lobster meat, cut into small bite-sized pieces
15 oz. heavy cream
3 cups whole milk
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp. rosemary
1 tsp. thyme


Cook the potatoes in a medium pot of boiling water until tender approximately 15 minutes.

In a large pot melt the butter and saute the onions until soften.

Add the potatoes to the onions and add the cream, milk, salt, pepper, rosemary and thyme.

Gently add the lobster meat and simmer on low while stirring occasionally.

Just before serving add additional thyme, rosemary, salt or pepper to your taste/liking.

— By Linda Maria Steele

KA_Linda Steele_Cape Cod Kitche Cookbook_012116__3Linda Maria Steele is a teacher, writer and baker who lives in Falmouth. She is the author of “Meet me in My Cape Cod Kitchen: Recipes for Seaside Living” and is adjunct faculty at Mass. Maritime Academy in the Humanities Department. She adores Cape Cod and enjoys cooking good food to share with friends and family.

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