Cooking On The Go
By Janet Groene, F47166
In some parts of North America, clam steams and clambakes are a ritual as common as spaghetti suppers or pancake breakfasts. On a recent trip to Cedar Key, Florida, from which 100 million succulent, farm-raised clams are shipped each year, I rediscovered clams, a food that was served on special occasions while I was growing up. For the cook on the go, fresh clams are easy to carry and cook. They can be prepared in many ways for an offbeat treat, and a dozen clams are the finishing fillip atop a simple seafood dish.
For the easiest meal, throw clams on the grill until they pop open; scoop out the meat; and dip in hot sauce, melted butter, or soy sauce. If they are the small, sweet, Cedar Key variety, you’ll need 12 to 24 clams per person. The following recipes will work with all types and sizes of clams. If the clams are large, cut the meat into bite-size pieces. Small clams can be used whole.
Orzo With Shrimp
I adapted this recipe from Jane Rodmell’s exciting new book, Best Summer Weekends Cookbook ($29.95, Cottage Life Books). This sturdy hardback cookbook includes mouthwatering color photos that show you how to present the dishes in dazzling ways. Don’t let the word “summer” in the title mislead you. This book is a year-round inspiration that’s worth having just for the illustrations. It is published in Canada, so measurements are given in metric units as well as in cups and teaspoons.
Using orzo “” tiny, rice-sized pasta “” provides an interesting substitute to the same old seafood-rice dishes. Don’t forget to pick up fresh herbs at the supermarket to make this cold dish sit up and sing. Cooked, peeled, cleaned shrimp is available frozen, or you can buy fresh shrimp from the seafood counter and prepare it yourself.
1/4-cup olive oil
Ground black pepper to taste
1 pound large shrimp, cooked and peeled
1/2-teaspoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2-cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1/4-cup fresh dill, chopped
1/2 green pepper, finely chopped
1/2 red pepper, finely chopped
2 green onions, finely chopped
1/4-cup sour cream or yogurt
1 dozen (or more) clams, cooked, then chilled in the shell
Cook the orzo in boiling, salted water until tender, which should take approximately eight minutes. Drain well. While the orzo is still warm, toss it with a drizzle of olive oil and freshly ground black pepper. Set aside. Thaw the cooked, cleaned, shelled shrimp if frozen. Prepare a dressing by whisking together the remaining olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, mustard, and salt and pepper to taste, plus half the parsley and dill. Add a little of the dressing to the shrimp and toss. To the orzo add the chopped peppers, green onions, the rest of the herbs, and enough dressing to coat and flavor. Refrigerate both the shrimp and orzo to allow the flavors to blend. Steam the clams, place them in a bowl, and refrigerate. When it’s time to eat, spoon the orzo onto leaf lettuce-lined plates. Whisk together the mayonnaise and sour cream for a topping, and garnish with the shrimp and clams in the shell. This recipe serves four, allowing three clams per person. Complete the meal with chunks of French bread with an olive oil dip. Have lemon chiffon pie for dessert.
Spaghetti With Red Clam Sauce
Purists cringe if you mention red clam sauce from a can. Here’s a compromise, combining the convenience of store-bought sauce with the integrity of fresh, flavorful clams.
2 dozen clams
Pot of boiling water spiced with a tablespoon of crab boil
32-ounce jar or can of your favorite spaghetti sauce
12-ounce package spaghetti
1 small can sliced black olives
Drop the clams into the boiling water until they open. Remove them with a slotted spoon; set aside to cool; and discard the unopened clams. Using a straining spoon, remove as much of the solids and spices from the water as possible and discard. Bring the water to a boil again and cook the spaghetti just until it’s tender. While the spaghetti is cooking, heat the spaghetti sauce in a microwavable container until it’s thoroughly hot. Remove the clams from their shells and place the meat in a warm bowl. Divide the cooked spaghetti into four serving plates, ladle on the sauce, and top with the whole clams (halved if the clams are large) and a scattering of black olives. Complete the meal with toasty garlic bread, green salad, and spumoni for dessert.
6 slices white bread, cut in half diagonally
1 cup clams, cooked and cut up
1/2-cup mayonnaise (“lite” or regular)
1/2-cup grated Monterey Jack cheese
1 small onion, finely diced
Set the oven to 400 degrees. Assemble the bread on a baking sheet. Stir together the clams, mayonnaise, cheese, and onion and spread evenly on the bread pieces. Bake for approximately seven minutes or until it is puffy and golden on top. Serve as snacks or with a green salad for lunch.
Classy Chicken-Clam Paprika
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
8-ounce package sliced mushrooms
1/4-cup water or clam juice
1 tablespoon instant-blending flour (e.g. Wondra)
Salt, pepper, paprika to taste
1 cup clams, cooked and cut into bite-size pieces
8-ounce carton sour cream
In a large skillet, brown the chicken in the hot butter and olive oil, turning often. Cover; reduce heat; and cook for 10 minutes to make sure the chicken is cooked through. Turn up the heat and stir in the mushrooms. Pour the water or clam juice into a separate bowl and stir in the flour, salt, pepper, and paprika. Stir the flour mixture into the chicken-mushroom mixture to thicken over low heat, adding a little more liquid if necessary. Stir in the clams; turn off the burner; and stir in the sour cream until well blended. Spoon over hot noodles and serve with boil-in-the-bag peas and a salad on the side. This recipe makes four servings.
Breakfast Clam Slam
The next time you’re grilling or steaming clams, save a cupful of cooked clams for this unusual breakfast or brunch treat. Assemble it the night before and bake it in time for the Sunday morning coffee klatch. Note that the spinach must be thoroughly thawed, then pressed dry with paper towels.
1 loaf French bread, torn into bite-size pieces
Freshly ground pepper
1 cup milk
10-ounce package chopped spinach, thawed and pressed dry
1 cup clams, cooked and chopped
4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1/2-cup cream or evaporated milk
1/4-teaspoon ground nutmeg
Generously butter a 9-inch-by-13-inch casserole, arrange the bread pieces in it, and shower with freshly ground pepper. Pour on the cup of milk, using a fork to press the bread into the milk and absorb it. Don’t worry if all the liquid doesn’t soak into the bread; it will by morning. Dot the bread with the remaining butter, tufts of spinach, the clams, and the cheese. In a separate bowl, whisk together the cream, eggs, and nutmeg and pour over the casserole. Cover and refrigerate overnight. In the morning set out the casserole as early as possible to take the chill off. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and bake the casserole for approximately 45 minutes or until it is puffy and golden. Spoon the casserole onto serving plates and serve with hot cross buns and steaming coffee. This recipe makes six servings.
Bake these burritos immediately after rolling them, because salsa tends to create soggy spots. Serve at once.
4 large (10-inch) flour tortillas
1-1/2 cups clams, cooked and cut up
4 ounces Monterey Jack cheese
3/4-cup of your favorite tomato salsa (hot, medium, mild)
Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Working on a flat surface, lay out the tortillas; scatter with the clams and cheese; and spoon on the salsa, using a draining spoon if it’s excessively juicy. Roll up the tortillas, folding the sides in, and place seam-side down on a baking sheet. Bake for approximately 15 minutes or until the cheese melts. Serve whole, one per person, with an assortment of garnishes, such as extra salsa, chopped onions, sour cream, guacamole, tortilla chips, and hot refried beans.
- Buy only clams that are tightly shut. If a clam is open, tap it lightly and it will clam up if it’s alive. If it doesn’t close, it is dead and should be discarded.
- Scrub clams well before cooking them so the resulting juice is clean and free of sand.
- Live clams will stay alive in the refrigerator for up to a week if they are kept between 38 and 40 degrees and lightly covered with a damp cloth. Don’t keep live clams in an airtight container. Shucked clams will keep up to a week in the refrigerator in a tightly lidded container.
- Per 4-ounce portion, clams have only 1 gram of fat, 80 calories, and zero saturated fat.
- Never overcook clams. That toughens the meat.
- Never eat clams that don’t open when cooked.
- To steam two pounds of clams, put 1 cup of dry white wine, 2 teaspoons chopped garlic, 1 teaspoon of thyme, and 1/2-cup of chopped onions in a pot or skillet that has a tight lid. Simmer for three minutes, then add the clams; cover; and cook until the clams open. Remove the clams and continue cooking the liquid until it’s reduced to 3/4-cup. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in the sauce, pour over the clams, and serve with chunks of crusty bread for sopping up the sauce.
- If you’re serving guests you don’t know well, ask in advance if they eat shellfish, and plan to have an alternative dish on hand as well. Clams are not kosher. Also, some people are highly allergic to some or all shellfish.
- Think of cooked clams as nuggets of pure, sweet meat with a unique flavor. Scatter them on pizza or bruschetta. Add them to seafood dishes of all kinds. Stir them into softened cream cheese for a dip or spread.
- Turn gazpacho into a main-dish cold soup by stirring in 1/3-cup of chopped, cooked clams per bowlful.
- Can’t remember which clam chowder is which? The old saying, “There are no cows in Manhattan,” can help you remember that the cream-based type is New England clam chowder. Manhattan clam chowder has the tomato base.
- Cook up 2 cups of your favorite curry sauce; stir in 1-1/2 cups chopped, cooked clams; and combine with 4 cups rice to make a zesty curry that serves four.
- Top macaroni and cheese with bite-size, cooked clams to add a briny touch.
- Process cooked clams in a food processor until they are coarsely ground and use instead of conch to make conch fritters.
- Many of the previous recipes call for cooked clams that have been drained and cut up. But don’t waste the cooking liquid. Use it in chowders or serve it hot in cups for drinking or for dipping chunks of crusty bread.
- Add chopped clams to your favorite stuffing mix to make baked, stuffed sole.
- If you use a smoker, try smoking freshly cooked clams.
- Turn scalloped potatoes into a main dish by adding steamed or smoked clams.
Books for cooks
Regular readers of this column know I’m a big fan of the “125 Best” cookbook series published by Robert Rose Inc. New to the list is 125 Best Microwave Oven Recipes by Johanna Burkhard ($18.95). One of this book’s most exciting features is that some recipes call for the use of a regular oven, too. That makes them ideal for the combination microwave-convection ovens that many motorhomes are equipped with. Quick, clean microwave recipes are provided for appetizers, main dishes, and desserts and, unlike some microwave oven cookbooks that require endless instructions, these recipes require minimal steps. With its luscious color photos and 125 recipes, this book is a winner.
Of all the treasures found at roadside produce stands, tomatoes top the list. When you find a farm stand that sells them in all their colors and sizes, buy them by the bushel. Then get out The Tomato Festival Cookbook (Storey Publishing, $16.95) and celebrate tomatoes galore. Author Lawrence Davis-Hollander provides such a variety of recipes for so many different tomatoes that you may not notice that you’re eating “love apples” with almost every meal. Tomato aficionados also will enjoy the background information about today’s and yesterday’s tomato varieties, such as Mikado, Green Zebra, Pink Brandywine, Paragon, Black Krim, and many more.
The only baking cookbook you’ll ever need is the award-winning King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion ($35, Countryman Press). Featuring more than 600 pages, it’s too big for most coach cooks to tote, but it will supply recipes as well as detailed instructions for baked goods to fill your freezer for trips. I’m sold on the way it explains every step of the most complex recipes for making such delights as brioche, baguettes, cakes, pies, biscuits, and the whole range of yeast breads. This is a book for all bakers, from beginners to professionals. The cookbook can be purchased at bookstores; from online booksellers; directly from King Arthur Flour by visiting the company’s Web site, www.kingarthurflour.com; or by calling (800) 827-6836.
King Arthur Flour offers much more than a baking cookbook. It’s an entire movement that includes supermarket products, a complete line of foods and baking equipment available through the catalog (or online), and a cooking school offering demonstrations and hands-on courses. Located in Norwich, Vermont, the company has tours, a store, and no end of goodies for foodies. If you’re a home baker traveling in the east Vermont-west New Hampshire area, do yourself a favor and stop in. It’s open Monday through Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and Sunday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. King Arthur Flour baking classes range in price from $40 to $200 or more depending on their complexity and length. Course descriptions and the complete catalog of King Arthur Flour products can be found at the company’s Web site.