Tag Archives: clams

Gratineed Clams with Spinach, Cheese and Crispy Lamb

clams stuffed 1 tastefood~ Gratinéed Clams with Spinach, Cheese and Crispy Lamb ~

It’s the final challenge of the Lambs + Clams Contest. For the past 4 months I have been 1 of 8 national bloggers assigned to devise a recipe using lamb provided by Border Springs Farm or shellfish from Rappahannock River Oysters, culminating in the Charleston Wine and Food Festival in March. For this final contest we received a variety pack. Think surf and turf – Lambs and Clams style – namely 2 pounds of ground lamb and 25 plump middleneck clams. I admit, these are 2 ingredients I’ve never combined in one recipe, but, hey, there’s always a first time. And I love a good challenge.

Right away I considered a Mediterranean inspired stew, imagining poached clams in a robust tomato broth, with spicy lamb keftas standing in for chorizo. But: I have already created a recipe somewhat similar to that.  It did get me thinking, though, of lamb doing double duty for something else, like, say, bacon. Now, had I received a hunk of meat, I could have made my own lamb bacon, but I had ground lamb instead. So why not spice and cook the minced lamb to a point of crispness, where it could stand in for crumbled bacon? Hmmmm.

Which brings me to the weather – as all musings and ramblings do at some point. For the record, it’s cold,  grey and  wintery at the moment, which in my book is the perfect climate for warm, cheesy gratinéed food. A picture was beginning to form of a gratinéed clam on a halfshell crowned with crispy spiced minced lamb. And since it’s the New Year when healthy resolutions abound, I added a mound of spinach to the mix.

So if you give a cook a challenge, then you get…

clams stuffed tastefood

Gratinéed Clams with Spinach, Cheese and Crispy Lamb

For the spinach:
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
6 ounces spinach leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano cheese

For the lamb:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 pound ground lamb
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne

16 middleneck or Manila clams

Finely grated Parmigiano cheese for sprinkling
Fresh Italian parsley leaves, chopped, for garnish

Prepare the spinach:
Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and red pepper flakes. Sauté until fragrant, 1 minute. Add spinach. Sauté until leaves wilt. Add salt. Transfer spinach to a cutting board. Cool slightly, then coarsely chop. Transfer to a bowl and mix in the cheese.

Prepare the lamb:
Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add lamb. Cook, stirring, until fat renders and lamb is brown. Drain and return lamb to the skillet. Add paprika, salt, pepper and cayenne. Sauté briefly to combine. Set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Add clams. Reduce heat to medium and partially cover. Cook until the clams open, about 5 minutes. Drain clams. (Discard any unopened clams). When cool enough to handle, pry apart the shells; discard the tops. Carefully loosen the clam muscle from the shell, leaving the clam in the bottom half of each shell.

Heat oven broiler. Place a heaping teaspoon of spinach over a each clam. Top with a teaspoon of lamb. Liberally sprinkle with cheese. Place in a baking dish. Broil until the lamb is crispy brown and the clams are sizzling, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a serving platter. Sprinkle with parsley. Serve warm.

If you like this recipe, please hop over to the Charleston Wine and Food Festival’s Facebook page where you will find all of the entries to the contest. To vote, you will have to ‘Like’ the page, and then click on the ‘vote’ tab in the navigation bar.

I would like to thank the folks at BBT’s Charleston Wine and Food Festival for sponsoring this contest and inviting me to participate. I also thank  Border Springs Farm and Rappahannock River Oysters for supplying gorgeous products for each challenge. Next month will be so uneventful without one of their packages arriving.

And have a look at the other contest participants’ blogs:
Peter Barrett @ A Cook Blog
Olga Berman @ Mango Tomato
David Dadekian @ Eat Drink RI
Gwen Pratesi @ Bunkycooks
Heather Scholten @ Farmgirl Gourmet
Cecilia Stoute @ One Vanilla Bean
Vivek Surti @ Vivek’s Epicurean Adventures

Lambs + Clams Round 2: Smoky Clam, Chorizo and Butternut Squash Stew with Saffron Aioli and Fried Oyster Croutons

Lambs + Clams Contest – Round 2
Ingredient Challenge: Rappahannock River Oysters and Clams

It’s not often, er, ever, that I receive a box of East coast shellfish delivered to my California front door – that is until 10 days ago when a special delivery box arrived with 4 dozen pristine oysters and middle neck clams from Rappahannock River Oysters in Virgina. They were as fresh as could be, cold and moist, smelling of seaweed and sand. A taste of the East lay at my feet. This was simply not fair.

~
While I now live in California, and before that called Europe my home, I am a New Englander at heart. And I miss it. This is evident by how I gravitate to environments and sensations that remind me of a place I haven’t called home since 1991. I crave 4 distinct seasons, and reminisce wintry blizzards, humid summers, and the smell of fallen leaves with chimney smoke hanging in the air. I seek vignettes suspiciously similar to a traditional New England setting, old structures and neighborhoods steeped in history, creaking with wood, lined with cobblestones. And the sea must never be far away. Nothing epitomizes New England to me more than the seashore – especially on a chilly foggy day laden with mist, with the cries of seagulls and the clanging of buoys punctuating the sound of the wind and waves.

So there I was, a week ago, with 2 nets of memories before me in the form of shellfish, still moist from their beds, gritty with sand, smelling of brine and salt. It transported me to New England, and I knew that I would have to do them justice. I headed to my kitchen – the heart of our family home and life, no matter the coast or the country. The place where I go to recreate memories, carry on traditions and evoke sensations of time and place.

The oysters and clams were ridiculously fresh, and I knew I had to get to work fast. (OK, I admit a few oysters were instantly slurped straight up with a squeeze of lemon and dash of Tabasco. Hey, you would’ve too). I thought about how to create one recipe showcasing both oysters and clams, drawing inspiration from the East coast, while embracing my adopted West coast sensibilities – with a touch of the Mediterranean. I am a fan of chowders and cioppinos, and I decided on a stew, with layers of flavor and texture. It’s autumn after all, the season of layers – layers of clothing, layers of bedding and layers of nourishing, sating ingredients in our meals.

Each ingredient would stand out yet complement the whole of the stew, with a balance of sweet, smoke, heat and brine. I addressed each ingredient separately before uniting them, taking care to prevent a muddle. I browned the chorizo slices first for color and flavor. They would be added to the stew in the end, preventing softening and loss color by overcooking in the soup. Their legacy, the flavorful oil, remained in the pot infusing the stew with heat and smoke. I sautéed planks of sweet butternut squash in the oil. This step ensured the squash were thoroughly cooked and slightly caramelized. The chunks would be added in the end, like the chorizo, avoiding excessive mushiness and preserving their brilliant saffron color. Roasting the red pepper coaxed out its natural sugars and imparted another layer of smoky flavor to the soup. The clams cooked in the stew, opening and releasing their briny juices in the stock. Finally, I fried the oysters, first soaked in buttermilk and Sriracha, then rolled in cornmeal, ensuring super-crispy results with a playful bite. They would garnish the stew as a riff on croutons one might add to a Mediterranean seafood stew with a definite nod to the American south. A spoonful of saffron scented aioli added a creamy finish to the soup with the kick of heat.


Smoky Clam, Chorizo and Butternut Squash Stew with Saffron Aioli and Fried Oysters Croutons

Serves 4.

Aioli:
1/2 cup mayonnaise (preferably homemade)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
1/2 teaspoon Sriracha or hot sauce

Oyster Croutons:
16 shucked oysters
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon Sriracha or hot sauce
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Stew:
Extra-virgin olive oil
12 ounces Spanish-style chorizo sausage, sliced 1/2-inch thick
1 small butternut squash, cut in chunks, approximately 1 1/2-inch square, 1/2-inch thick
1 cup chopped yellow onion
1 sweet red pepper, roasted, peeled, cut in 1/4 inch julienne
2 large garlic cloves
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 28-ounce can Italian plum tomatoes, with juice
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons fresh thyme
12 to 16 middle neck clams
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

Vegetable oil for frying
Fresh chopped Italian parsley leaves for garnish

For the aioli:
Whisk together all of the ingredients in a small bowl; set aside.

For the oysters:
Place the oysters in a small bowl. Whisk buttermilk and Sriracha in a separate bowl. Pour over the oysters to cover and set aside. Whisk the cornmeal, flour, salt and pepper together in another bowl and set aside.

For the stew:
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausage slices, in batches, and brown on both sides, turning once. Transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel. Add the squash, in batches, to the skillet and pan fry until golden on both sides, turning once. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon oil from the pan. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and onion. Sauté until softened, about 2 minutes. Add red pepper, garlic, paprika and red chili flakes. Sauté until fragrant, 1 minute. Add wine and deglaze the pan, scraping up any brown bits. Add tomatoes, bay leaf and thyme. Simmer, uncovered, until somewhat thickened, 15 to 20 minutes. Add clams. Cover pot and cook, shaking occasionally, until clam shells open, about 10 minutes. (Discard any unopened clam shells). Add salt to desired taste.

While the stew is simmering, fill a large heavy saucepan with 2 inches of vegetable oil. Heat over medium-high heat until a deep fry thermometer reads 350 F. Remove the oysters from the buttermilk, shaking off any excess liquid. Dredge in cornflour. Fry in batches, without overcrowding, until golden and crispy, 1 to 2 minutes. Drain on a plate lined with a paper towel

Ladle the stew into warm serving bowls. Top each bowl with 4 oysters. Spoon a little saffron aioli into the center of the soup. Garnish with parsley. Serve immediately.

What is Lambs + Clams?
A contest hosted by the Charleston Food and Wine Festival where 8 food bloggers create a recipe in 4 monthly contests leading up to the festival to be held in February ’13. Each contest will spotlight either lamb, clams or oysters supplied by Craig Rogers of Border Springs Farm and Travis Croxton of Rappahannock River Oysters. Each month a winning recipe will be selected by a panel of judges and fan votes (which do indeed count) on the Festival’s facebook page. The winner is awarded an all-expense paid trip to the Festival. I encourage you to visit the facebook page and cast your vote!

And visit my fellow food bloggers and check out their recipes:
Peter@A Cook Blog; Olga@Mango Tomato; David@eat drink RI; Gwen@Bunkycooks; Heather@Farmgirl Gourmet; Cecilia@One Vanilla Bean; Vivek@Vivek’s Epicurean Adventure

 

Cioppino with a Twist


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I would like to call this recipe a cioppino. Cioppino is a fish stew with a San Francisco pedigree reaching back to the 1800’s. The name is derived from the Italian term ciuppin, which means “to chop.”  It’s believed that the Italian and Portuguese fisherman would chop up leftovers from their daily catch to make this robust and flavorful soup. The reason why I hesitate slightly about labeling it a cioppino is that I have taken a liberty with this recipe that is neither Italian nor Portuguese at all. It’s Greek.

Wine is a key ingredient in the cioppino stock, and recipes gamely call for white or red, depending on the source. I usually use red wine, however in this recipe I tried white. The result was a lighter, more acidic broth that I felt needed a little oomph. Additional salt and extra pepper helped, as did a spoonful of sugar (which often works wonders in tomato-based stocks and sauces.) Still, something was missing. I looked no further than the fennel I had sautéed with the onion as a base for the stock, and I reached for the Ouzo, a Greek anise liqueur, in the back of the pantry. It was a perfect shot. The Ouzo coaxed out the licorice flavor of the fennel, adding depth and roundness with subtle anise notes. So here you have it: Cioppino with a Greek twist.

Cioppino
Serves 6

1/4 cup olive oil
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 28-ounce can Italian plum tomatoes, with juices
2 cups dry white wine
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup Ouzo or other anise liqueur
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon granulated sugar (optional)
18 littleneck clams
18 medium shrimp, peeled, deveined
6 large sea scallops, about 3/4 pound
2 cooked crabs, legs cracked, flesh removed from bodies
1 pound firm fleshed white fish such as halibut or sea bass, cut in 2 inch chunks

Fresh Italian parsley

Heat oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add garlic, onion, fennel, bay leaf, oregano and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring until vegetables are soft and onion is translucent without coloring, about 8 minutes. Stir in tomato paste. Add tomatoes, wine, chicken stock, Ouzo, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, 30 minutes. Taste for seasoning. If necessary add a spoonful of sugar. Add clams. Cook, stirring, until they open. (Discard any clams that do not open.) Add shrimp, sea scallops and white fish. Cook, partially covered, stirring occasionally, until all of the fish is cooked through. Add crab legs and meat. Simmer to heat through. Serve hot in bowls. Garnish with fresh parsley.

If you like this, you might enjoy these recipes:
Smoked Salmon Chowder from TasteFood
Spicy Halibut Stew with Chorizo and Kale from TasteFood
Shellfish Risotto from Ciao Florentina
Brazilian Fish Stew from Leite’s Culinaria