Saturday, June 28, 2008

Clam digging and diggin clams!!

Fabulous night

I didn’t mean to invite myself on someone else’s boat, really. I felt kinda guilty. It started with a conversation about clam digging. I’ve never been, you see. When I was having thoughts about going and heard some others talking about it, I suggested all of us go together. What I didn’t know was that they were all going out on Brian’s boat. So, effectively, I invited myself boating. I thought that was a bit rude but Brian didn’t seem to mind.

So with some instructions, I headed out to Benny’s, the local five and dime, where I picked up a clam rake, a pair of water shoes, a clam knife and an out of state Clam license. I’m set. As the newbie, I grabbed the Sam Adams as well. Summer Ale seemed to be the consensus. It was off to the dock.

The ride down the Pawcatuck River out of Westerly, Rhode Island was quite awesome. There had been some thunderstorms earlier in the day but now the distant clouds over Watch Hill were quite tranquil in appearance. The sea was also invitingly calm making the ride enjoyable. Add the beer drinking camaraderie and this night was shaping up perfectly.

Clouds over Watch Hill, Rhode Island

I was so excited that I forgot to take a few things into consideration. Namely the water temperature and how deep the water was that we’d be in. Being a “non-clammer”, I had visions of ankle deep water and rolled up kakis. I was a bit off. We were in chest/shoulder deep water and for a Florida boy, it was damned cold. Now I know many of the folks out there think that 71 degrees is plenty warm but I am not one of them. And for a short time I contemplated allowing the other guys to enjoy the experience while I guarded the beers. Tim, however, was the 1st one in and in short order he tossed me the 1st clam of the night. It took about a minute for me to figure out how to get into this little guy. Now I’d brought a few things with me for just this moment. I picked up some Champagne and Pomegranate Vinegar that I chopped some fresh garlic into as well as some Chipotle Tabasco and lemon wedges. After a few drops of each of the aforementioned condiments, down he went. Any reservations I had about entering were now digested with my first ever fresh clam. I wish I could explain how deliciously sinful this was. Rake in hand, I immediately jumped in. EXPLITIVE OMMITED. This was cold. I figured I better start raking or get out so to work I went. The process of digging clams requires a bit of a touch. The guys explained it to me but it still took about 20 or so minutes to catch on. Once I had the process down, I spent the next hour cleaning the floor of them. If you’re a conservationist the next statement might be a bit troubling. I’m not sure if the waters off the Connecticut/Rhode Island border have any clams left; specifically Little Narraganset Bay. I feel personally responsible for potentially upsetting the delicate balance of New England’s ecosystem. Brian’s transom was quite full. I don’t want to get into trouble, but we may have pushed the envelope on any set limits (which I only learned about afterwards). I probably ate 10 or so myself on the boat and shucked a few for each of the other guys as well. I was only limited by my ability to effectively shuck fresh clams. We certainly had plenty.

I would have to eat this Quahog Clam underwater to have it any fresher

Once we all regrouped back on deck, it was more apparent that we’d spent an hour and a half in this cold water. Tim seemed the least effected and I feel like I was right behind him. Brian looked pretty cold on deck and Edgar’s lips stayed blue till we returned to the dock. The beer helped. So did the raw clams. The sunset was spectacular and I haven’t had such a great time in I don’t know how long. I told Brian I felt like I was on vacation.

Digging for Clams

We didn’t give proper thought on how to transport these heavy fellows from the boat to their final destination nor had we thought of who was taking what. I was in a hotel so I was out. Brian said he had a fridge full already. So Edgar and Tim split them and we made a loose plan to eat them together the following night. The next day it was decided that we’d go to Tim and Tina’s house to prepare them. If you’re an avid “Louis Loves Food” blog reader (God help you) then you’ll recall the evening of Meatloaf at Tim and Tina’s house a couple of months ago.

Tina and I talked about how to prepare these hearty bivalves and she suggested we go down the Portuguese road. So after perusing the recipe that she emailed me plus a few others, I was off to the store. Being a non-purist, I used the recipes I’d read as a suggestion. The only consistencies I saw were the Portuguese Chorizo sausage and the tomatoes. After that, artistic liberty abounded. I also needed a side dish. Since the clam and sausage preparation was promising to add a bit of a kick, I thought a cold pasta salad of sorts might be in order. So I looked up a few recipes for that as well but had a difficult time settling on one. I realized later that what I made was almost identical to one I saw in Bon Appetite. Subliminal messages abound. After a trip to the grocer, I was off to my friend’s house to prepare our feast.

My concerns about having a cooking vessel large enough for the amount of clams we were preparing disappeared when Tim pulled out a pot big enough to bath his two small sons in (I didn’t ask if he ever had). Well, off to work then. This recipe turned out better than I had imagined. Almost all of the clams were Quohogs (pronounced cohog). Those are the large meaty variety. Every one of them opened perfectly in the cooking process meaning they were genuinely fresh. A good crusty bread to sop up in the fantastic tomato-y wine broth that is left from the cooking process is also a must.

So on with the recipes. I have picked up great clams at my local fish market before so they are out there. One does not need to dig their own (although I highly recommend the experience). Also I scaled this recipe back a bit to feed a more normal size crowd.

Portuguese Clams

Portuguese Clams

1 tablespoon olive oil
8 ounces fresh pork chorizo (Portuguese style) Sliced on a diagonal
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
I cup dry white wine
1 can (14 1/2 ounces) chopped tomatoes
1 Lemon sliced into wedges
24 large clams (any variety but we used the Quohogs), scrubbed
1/3 cup Flat leaf Italian Parsley
1/3 cup chopped green onions

In a large stock pot over medium high heat, add the oil and Chorizo. Stir sausage until it starts to brown, then add the onion. Cook, stirring, until sausage is browned and onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the wine and cook for an additional minute or so. Stir in the tomatoes. Let come to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer until thickened slightly, about 10 minutes.
Add the clams and lemon wedges. Shake pan to coat clams with sauce; increase heat to medium. Cover pan and cook until clams open, about 10 minutes (discard any that do not open). Stir in the parsley and green onion and serve.
Makes 6 servings.

Orzo Salad

Orzo, Green Bean and Fennel Salad with Dill Pesto and Feta Cheese

So I tried to avoid a couple of things in this recipe just to see if I could keep it a touch on the healthier side. I could not. It needed a tablespoon of Mayo and the Feta. Otherwise it was too bland. With the addition of these to magical ingredients, the frog was an instant prince. Give it a shot.

10 oz fresh green beans (stems removed)
10 oz orzo
2/3 cup chopped fresh dill
2 cloves garlic
¼ cup olive oil
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Juice from ½ lemon
1 large English cucumber peeled and chopped into ½ inch cubes
1 fennel bulb, diced
1 tbsp mayo
1 cup crumbled Feta Cheese
4-5 chopped green onion (also called spring onion or scallions)
Salt and pepper to season

Add the green beans to a pot of salted boiling water. Cook for about a minute and then place them in ice water to stop the cooking process. Once cool cut into bite size pieces (1/2 to 1 inch). In the same salted water used for the green beans, add the orzo. Cook until al dente, about 5 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water to also stop the cooking. Mushy orzo would be yucky in any recipe. This can be done a couple of hours in advance if you want but place a tablespoon or so of the olive oil in the orzo before popping into the refrigerator to prevent the starch from sticking.

In a food processor or blender combine the dill, olive oil, garlic, vinegar, lemon juice and salt and pepper. Blend until smooth. Also can be done a couple of hours ahead and stored in the fridge. Just stir well again before adding to the salad.

Combine the beans, orzo and pesto with the rest of the ingredients and toss well. Salt and pepper to taste.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The picture of the orzo salad doesn't do it justice. It was delicious and a great mix of crisp greens and whites.
Everything was delicious, as usual!
Tina :)