Monthly Archives: May 2012

Clam Bake & Chowder

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One of my favorite ways to pass a beautiful summer day is to gather my friends and family for a clam bake. Our clam bake has also become a traditional part of our Memorial Day weekend. We purchased a large outdoor burner (the kind used for frying turkeys), this way we can be outside with everyone while the clam bake does it’s thing. This can also be done on your stove top or the side burner of your grill. Nothing says summer quite like a clam bake does.

Since each clam bake varies a little, and has a different number of people in attendance, it is very hard to give specific quantities. I try to allow one dozen clams and one dozen mussels per guest. Of course there is always plenty of other food on hand. If you don’t plan on having any other food on hand, I would probably bump that up to two dozen of each per guest. This seems to work out and leave leftovers for chowder. I then use a dozen ears of corn (broken in half), one pound of red potatoes, and one pound of chorizo for every ten to twelve dozen of the clams and mussels. Sometimes I also throw in shrimp (for this batch I didn’t because one of our guests is allergic), about two pounds per ten to twelve dozen of the clams and mussels. If I plan on doing a large quantity, I do it in batches so there is always a warm batch on hand and everything cooks evenly. This estimate is my typical batch.

The first step is to clean the clams and mussels well. This is probably the most time-consuming part. Most of the clams and mussels you buy in the store these days are already fairly clean, but if necessary scrubs the outside clean of any dirt and/or barnacles. Remove the beards from the mussels if necessary. Fill the sink with cold water, and add in about ten to twelve dozen clams and mussels. Sprinkle with corn meal and allow to soak for at least a half hour. Drain, rinse and repeat. After the second soaking with corn meal, drain, rinse and fill with cold water. Leave out the cornmeal and soak for a minimum of another hour. I like to soak them for a total of two hours minimum to make sure they are not gritty. The cornmeal causes them to eat it, and expel any sand or dirt they have in them.

Next, place the corn and potatoes in the bottom of the clam bake pot (basically a LARGE steamer pot). Add enough water to just cover. Sprinkle very generously with Old Bay. You can mix and match ingredients, but please please please do not leave out the Old Bay. It’s flavors make the clam bake what it is. The bottom pot can be taken out onto the burner set to a medium flame while you prep the top pot.

The clams and mussels go into the top pot, along with the shrimp (if using) and the chorizo which has been sliced into two-inch pieces. I prefer the mexican style smoked chorizo, however you can use fresh or even substitute another type of sausage if you prefer. Once again, sprinkle generously with Old Bay. Place the top pot on the bottom pot and cover.

Steam until all of the clams and mussels have opened. For a ten to twelve dozen batch, this takes somewhere around an hour. Pour out onto a newspaper lined picnic table or large dishes like we do and enjoy!

Make sure to reserve the juice from the bottom pot for the next day’s (or sometimes the same day or night’s) chowder.

If there are leftovers (and I always try to figure enough so there will be), they make a fabulous chowder. Shuck the clams and mussels and place into a stock pot. If you used shrimp, rough chop it and add into the pot. Rough chop the chorizo and add in. Remove the corn from the cob, and dice the potatoes and add them in as well. I also add in two cans of diced tomatoes with their juice. Pour in enough of the reserved juice from the clam bake to cover and give the soup enough broth.

Allow the chowder to come up to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about a half hour until the flavors are well combined. You may need to season with some additional Old Bay, salt and pepper. Adjust the seasoning at the end to avoid over seasoning. Enjoy with some crackers or nice crusty bread. The chowder also freezes well to be enjoyed on chilly fall days.

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Roasted Chicken with Root Veggies

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This is one of those great Sunday afternoon meals that take time, effort, and a little bit of tender loving care, but are well worth it in the end. The main meal is savory and soothing, then the next night have a warm and comforting soup made with the leftovers.

Preheat the oven to 475*. Make sure to remove the chicken approximately one hour prior to putting in the oven to allow it to come to room temperature. Remove the neck and innards and season well with salt and pepper inside and out.

Slice two shallots and five cloves of garlic and slide them under the skin of the chicken. Place an onion which has been quartered and a bundle of fresh thyme and oregano into the cavity. Coat the skin of the entire chicken with extra virgin olive oil.

Now for the root veggies. Clean one pound of fingerling potatoes, eight beets (reserve the greens to cook as a side dish), four turnips, and six parsnips. Peel one onion and cut into quarters. Peel and slice eight cloves of garlic. The fingerlings potatoes get cut in half. Chop all the root veggies to approximately the same size as the fingerling potatoes.  Toss everything together with extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper until well coated.

Place the chicken breast side down in a large roasting pan. Arrange all the veggies around the chicken and place in the oven and roast for twenty minutes. Flip the chicken half way through.

Turn the heat down to 400* and continue to roast until a thermometer placed in the thigh reads 165*. This will take somewhere around an hour. Make sure to baste the chicken several times throughout the entire cooking time so that it stays nice and moist. No one like dry chicken! If the chicken is done before the veggies, remove and allow to rest while the veggies finish cooking. The chicken needs to rest at least twenty minutes prior to carving.

While everything is cooking, clean and rough chop the greens from the beets. Chop and saute four slices of bacon until browned. Add in the chopped beet greens and some red wine vinegar. Saute approximately fifteen minutes until tender.

When the veggies are done cooking, toss well in the chicken drippings. All that is left of the main course is to enjoy!!

After the main course has been thoroughly enjoyed, place the chicken carcass in a large stock pot with enough water to cover. Over high heat, bring to a boil for ten minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer thirty minutes.

While the carcass is simmering, chop the remaining chicken and veggies into bite size pieces. No need to add anythign else in, the leftovers should work just fine.

Strain the carcass, removing any remaining meat. Place the chicken and veggies into the stock pot and add the broth back in. Simmer fifteen minutes or so to combine the flavors and heat through. There shouldn’t be any need to season since the ingredients were already seasoned well. If needed adjust the seasoning at the end. Enjoy with some nice crusty bread.


Gumbo

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One night, while shopping at the Farmer’s Market, my husband and I sampled some double smoked kielbasa. I think he thought I was a little crazy when I instantly thought of gumbo, but not after he tasted it!

Clean and cut three pounds of chicken thighs into one inch cubes. In a gallon size ziploc bag combine one cup of flour, salt, pepper and cayenne pepper. Place the chicken cubes in the bag and shake well until the chicken is evenly coated.

Meanwhile, heat a tablespoon or so of vegetable oil in a dutch oven over medium heat. Brown the chicken well (may need to be done in stages) and transfer to  a plate. This takes ten to twelve minutes, depending on the number of batches.

Add a half cup of oil to the dutch oven and sprinkle in the remaining flour to create a caramel colored roux. This is important to the texture of the gumbo. You need to stir constantly so you have a nice roux, not a burnt roux.

Once the roux turns a nice caramel color, add in two onions, three green peppers, six stalks of celery. and three cloves of garlic which have been chopped. Stirring often, cook until starting to soften. This will take ten minutes or so.

Add in six cups of chicken broth, and one can of unsalted diced tomatoes. Bring to a gentle boil, and add in two cups okra (unfortunately I could only find canned, I prefer fresh), the chicken, three bay leaves, a bundle of fresh thyme, and a few dashes of tabasco. Reduce heat and simmer until chicken and vegetables are cooked through. Approximately an hour of simmering time.

About fifty minutes into the simmering time add one pound of double smoked keilbasa (or andouille sausage, which is the traditional sausage used) and a pint of oysters in their liquid. Adjust seasoning if needed.

During cooking time, you may need to add some additional broth if the gumbo starts to get to thick. We enjoyed this gumbo with some homemade corn bread made in my favorite cast iron skillet.


Clams and Mussels in White Wine

Sometimes the most simple dishes are the most enjoyed dishes. This is one of those dishes, simple,  yet satisfying and savory.

I started with four dozen clams and four dozen mussels. The first and possibly most important step is to clean the mussels and clams well. Most of them time, the outsides are pretty clean when you buy them. If not, scrub well and rinse under cold water.

Next, fill the sink with cold water and submerge the clams and mussels. Sprinkle in about a half cup of cornmeal. Let soak for half an hour or so. I dont’ remember who taught me this trick, but by adding the cornmeal, the clams and mussels eat the cornmeal and expel any sand remaining in them. After a half hour, drain, rinse well, a refill the sink with cold water. Allow them to soak for at least another half hour. If soaking longer, change the water every half hour or so. I like to soak mine about two hours to make sure there is no sand remaining. Nobody like gritty clams and mussels!

Into a steamer pot over high heat went a bottle (yes the whole bottle) of Niagara wine. I will only cook with wine I will drink, this one was one of our favorites from a local winery. Into the liquid add one head (head not clove) of garlic that has been thinly sliced. Also add a generous bunch of fresh herbs. I used oregano, thyme and basil from my herb garden.

Next, put the clams and mussels into the steamer basket and insert into the pot. Steam until all the mollusks are completely open, about ten to fifteen minutes. If there are any that do not open, do not eat them!! Throw the unopened ones away!!

Place some clams and mussels into a bowl, scoop some of the broth over them and serve with garlc bread for dipping.


Tofu Curry

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In trying to eat healthier, we have been incorporating more meatless meals into our lifestyle. This is one of my favorites! Before going to work in the morning, one fourteen ounce package of tofu went into the tofu press in the fridge.

Heat a medium-sized skillet over medium-high heat on the stove top. Add one tablespoon of vegetable or canola oil and saute the tofu until crisp on the outside and slightly browned. Maybe two minutes per side or so.

Remove the tofu from the skillet, and add a small amount of oil if necessary. While the tofu was cooking, two red bell peppers, one ancho chili pepper (remove the ribs and seeds for a milder curry), and two onions got sliced. Add these into the skillet, as well as half a pound or so each of baby corn, baby carrots and snow peas. Saute until the veggies are tender, maybe ten minutes or so.

Once the veggies are tender, add in curry paste to taste ( I used hot  red, but whatever you prefer). The more curry paste you add, the hotter the curry will be. Also add in one-half of a can of lite coconut milk. Reserve the other half. Turn the heat down to low and simmer fifteen minutes or so to allow all the flavors to combine. Add the tofu back in and toss well to coat it. There should be sauce on all the elements of the dish.

I served with coconut rice, but plain jasmine rice or soba noodles would work well too. Simple, delicious and healthy!!

For the coconut rice I used my rice cooker. This freed me up to make the curry.

Into the rice cooker goes two cups of jasmine rice (love the texture), two cups of water and one cup (the reserved half can) of lite coconut milk. Cook about twenty minutes (until the rice cooker clicks over to warm). Let stand ten minutes or so, fluff and enjoy!


Dairy Free Chicken Parmigiana

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Who knew dairy free could be so awesome? It was tough coming up with a good dairy free chicken parmigiana recipe, but I was craving it one day so here is my best attempt. The other change I made to what most people think of as chicken parmigiana is I only lightly floured it and baked it. No heavy breading or frying here!

First thing, I preheated the oven to 350* while I started putting everything together.

In a gallon size zip lock bag I combine about three-quarters of a cup of flour, a tablespoon or so of basil and oregano and a teaspoon of sea salt. A pound of chicken breast, which I cleaned, dried and pounded thin went into the bag. Shake well (this part is actually kind of fun) until the chicken is nicely coated.

Meanwhile, heat a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil in a medium size skillet over medium-high heat. Into the skillet the chicken goes. You may have to do this in stages to avoid overcrowding the skillet. When the chicken is nicely browned, remove to a baking dish. While the chicken was browning, the bottom of said baking dish was coated well with marinara sauce.

Into the blender go one fourteen ounce package of soft tofu that has been drained (not pressed, you want some mositure), a dash of lemon juice, salt, basil, oregano, garlic powder, and onion powder. The spices are to taste, but I probably use about a teaspoon of each. Slowly drizzle in a small amount of extra virgin olive oil (maybe a tablespoon) and blend until the tofu begins to take on the texture of ricotta cheese. You may need more or less olive oil depending on the moisture level and texture of the tofu.

When all of the chicken is nicely browned and in the baking dish, cover well with marinara.

Spoon a generous dollop of the tofu ricotta onto each piece of chicken. Next top the entire dish with your favorite non-dairy mozzarella (I used Daiya shredded mozzarella).

Cover with aluminum foil and bake for fifteen minutes, uncover and bake an additional fifteen minutes.

While the chicken is baking, get a pot of water boiling for your favorite pasta. I used penne this time, but really, any pasta works. Toss with the remaining marinara sauce.

When the chicken is done baking, serve of a scoop of the pasta. You will not even miss the dairy, I promise!!


Baked Empanadas

Being as it’s Cinco De Mayo….I thought this weekend’s blog should be Mexican related. So, I flipped through my journal and found this gem. Empanadas are one of my favorites, but let’s face it, the original fried recipe is not exactly healthy. So, I adapted it to be dairy free and a little healthier a long the way. WARNING: I took a lot of liberties from tradition here. The end result was really good though!

I started by preheating the oven to 375*, because my first change is to bake the empanadas instead of frying.

Then I removed the skins of one twelve ounce package of hot italian turkey sausage. It went into a skillet over med-high heat to brown. While browning, crumble the sausage up well. Probably about twelve to fifteen minutes until the sausage is nicely browned. Once browned well, transfer to a paper towel lined plate to drain away any excess fat.

Clean and cube four large yukon gold potatoes. I leave the skin on them, but feel free to peel them if you like. They went into my four quart stock pot with enough cold water to cover. Boil for about fifteen minutes until fork tender. Then the potatoes get drained and rinsed. Back into the pot (or a large mixing bowl) they go and smash them well.

I added the turkey and an eight ounce bag of Daiya Cheddar (dairy free soy cheese, feel free to use whatever cheese makes you happy) into the pot with the potatoes. Smash and mix well to combine.

This next step really tortured me….I tried and tried to come up with a good dough recipe with no success. So I put a shout out to my latino friends and found out that hands down, the response was “Use Goya Empanada Discs”. So, in the end, that is what I did. Although, I really wanted to make my own dough!

Take out one package of the discs to defrost ahead of time. Spoon a generous (but not to generous or it will seep out) amount of the filling onto one side of the disc. Fold the other half over and crimp the edges with a fork to seal.

The empanadas go onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Spray with canola oil cooking spray, lightly dust with cinnamon and nutmeg and into the oven they go. Thirty minutes later they come out piping hot and ready to enjoy. Enjoy we did, these did not last long in our house!


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