Recipes from The Cellar Restaurant and Chef John Bennett

Clam Chowder, Crab Cakes + Trifle Chantilly

New England Clam Chowder with Parmesan Cheese Toast

As served at The Cellar at Hightower circa 1964


Serves 8 

3 large baking potatoes, peeled, cut into medium-sized cubes
4 cups clam broth or clam base and water
1/4 pound salt pork, rind removed, cut into small cubes
1/2 stick unsalted butter
1 medium yellow onion, small dice
3/4 cup white flour
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme leaves
1 bay leaf, whole
Black pepper
1 1/2 cups canned chopped clams
1 cup half-and-half
1 cup heavy cream
Tabasco sauce
Worcestershire sauce

In a medium-size pot, cook potatoes in the clam broth with bay leaves until not quite done. Drain and set aside. Discard the bay leaf and save the broth. Meanwhile, in a large heavy stockpot, brown salt pork until lightly browned. Remove salt pork and drain on paper towel. Set aside. Drain all but 4 tablespoons pork fat, leaving that in the pot. Add butter and melt. Add onion and saute in butter and pork fat until translucent but not brown. Stir in flour to make a thick roux. Cook until golden but not brown.

Add clam broth and stir over medium heat with a whisk until thick and creamy. Add thyme, black pepper and half-and-half. Turn down heat to medium-low. Add drained clams and potatoes and simmer for 15 minutes to allow the potatoes to finish cooking. Be careful about stirring the potatoes or they will break up. Add the heavy cream, Tabasco and Worcestershire sauce. If too thick, add more half-and-half. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. When cool, refrigerate. Will keep a week or so.
When reheating, you may need to add some milk or half-and-half.


Chef John Bennet's Parmesan Cheese Toast

Editor's Note: I'm not reformatting this one in any way. JB was serious about this one, so I present it to you in his EXACT words, meaning that directions will be listed in with ingredients, so I advise reading the recipe through a couple of times before you begin. It isn't difficult; it is just more charming when read completely in his words. 

This is a very detailed method to make these cheese toast. Use exactly what's called for in the recipe and do not substitute.

Pepperidge Farms "Hot and Crusty" rolls or club rolls. We served PF Club Rolls for lunch and dinner and used the ones not served to make the cheese toast.

Melted clarified unsalted butter, microwave butter, let set and pour the clear butter into bowl, use the rest to season vegetables.
Slice the club rolls lengthwise about 1/4 inch thick, place on sheet pan with sides. Arrange the rolls side by side leaving no space between them.

Using a wide butter brush, thoroughly coat the bread with the clarified butter pushing down to soak the bread (You can't get too much butter.)
Combine Kraft grated Parmesan cheese in a bowl (green can) with a little paprika for color and a little cayenne.
Thoroughly coat the buttered slices with the Parmesan cheese mixture; do not press the cheese down or it will be tough. Just bang the sheet pan on the table and the cheese will settle.

Place pan in the middle of a preheated 350-degree oven and bake until the bottom of the slices begin to brown. Continue baking until top is brown and bottoms are brown and crisp.

Remove, allow to cool. Do not cover, refrigerate, or put in Zip-Lok or they will become soft.

Serve with soup or salad.

Crab Cakes

1 16-ounce can pasteurized jumbo lump or colossal crabmeat
1 cup yellow onion, diced
1 cup celery hearts, diced
1/2 cup diced green pepper
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon finely ground white pepper
6 dashes Tabasco sauce
6 dashes Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons celery seed
Fresh breadcrumbs made from Pepperidge Farms – unbaked rolls ("Hot and Crusty") run through a food processor (not too fine)

Mix all ingredients but crab and breadcrumbs. Taste and adjust seasoning. Add crab and toss/mix lightly. Fold in some of the breadcrumbs until the mixture will hold its shape in your hands (It will be moist). Shape into a ball squeezing to hold together then drop in a bowl with more of same breadcrumbs and continue to shape into a large disc about the size of a small teacup. The cakes will be flat on top and bottom and about 2 1/2 inches thick. Place on a sheet pan and chill until cakes are firm and easily

When ready to brown, remove and dust again with more bread crumbs. Melt unsalted butter with some peanut oil in large non-stick skillet until very hot. Add crabcakes. Do not crowd them, and do not move them until they have browned on one side. Carefully turn them and allow to lightly brown on other side. Remove to a sheet pan.  When ready to serve, place in 375-degree oven for just a few minutes until warm. ( I don't like to serve them too hot ). Accompany with a hot, honey or herbed mustard sauce.


Trifle Chantilly


1 large sponge cake or pound cake
1 recipe custard sauce
1 cup sugar
2 quarts strawberries and/or assorted berries, washed, stemmed and sliced. Reserve a few berries to garnish the top of the trifle. 
Grand Marnier and/or Kirschwasser
Vanilla sweetened whipped cream

Take 1 quart of berries and put in a saucepan with 1/2 cup water and 1 cup sugar. Bring to a boil. When the berries have lost their color, remove and strain, pressing gently. Throw out the cooked berries and return the liquid to the same saucepan. Add 1 tablespoon cornstarch dissolved in 1/4 cup cold water and bring to a simmer, taking care not to scorch it. After it thickens, remove from heat and allow to cool. When the glaze is cool, add the remaining quart of sliced berries. Layer slices of cake in one large or small individual bowls, and sprinkle with liqueurs. Add a layer of custard, followed by a layer of the glazed berries. Repeat until the trifle reaches the top of the bowl. Top with a layer of whipped cream, and garnish with berries and fresh mint.

Custard Sauce/Creme Anglaise

1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
3 well-beaten egg yolks
3 tablespoons cornstarch, dissolved in 1/4 cup cold milk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste

In a stainless steel saucepan, combine milk, 1/2 cup heavy cream, sugar, egg yolks and cornstarch mixture. Place over low heat and beat well, scraping the bottom of the pan as the sauce begins to thicken. 

Meanwhile, place the remaining 1/4 cup cold heavy cream into a bowl with a strainer on top. When the custard is thick, add the vanilla and stir. Pour the custard through the strainer into the cold cream; this will stop the cooking. Mix the custard into the cream and occasionally beat to cool. Chill with a layer of plastic film pressed on top until ready to use. 

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