Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Mussels & sausage


Why eat light when you don't have to, am I right?

Here's my thinking. I never ate a bowl of mussels steamed in garlic and white wine without doing serious damage to a good loaf of bread for sopping up the juices. This, of course, substantially ups the calorie count of the dish, but then it also vastly improves the pleasure that I derive from it. 

Being an all-or-nothing kind of guy, I figure what's the harm in collecting a few more energy units. In the form of a couple of sausages.

Okay, so it's more than just a couple of extra calories. What are you, my doctor?

If you are a fan of the classic steamed mussels in garlic and white wine, and don't mind the occasional indulgence, I highly recommend putting this "Surf & Turf" on your to-cook list. Just don't forget the bread.

MUSSELS & SAUSAGE
Recipe

3 tablespoons olive oil
5 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
Hot pepper to taste (optional)
1 pound sweet Italian sausage meat (removed from the casing)
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 pounds fresh mussels
Fresh parsley

Clean the mussels by scrubbing the shells and rinsing under cold water. Set aside.

In a pot or pan large enough to hold the mussels, saute the garlic (and hot pepper if using) in the olive oil until garlic is soft but not brown.

Add the sausage meat and cook until all sign of rawness is gone.

Add the stock and wine and bring to a boil.

Add the mussels and cover to allow steam to build up.

When the mussels are open (this should only take around 5 minutes; discard mussels that do not open) transfer to bowls, top with fresh parsley and serve.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Gramercy Tavern baked clams


A not quite ironclad tradition that My Associate and I share around the holidays is an extended (and always lovely and satisfying) lunch at The Gramercy Tavern in New York, in the bar area specifically. This past holiday was an "on" year for our tradition. Which brings us to these clams.

I had chosen them off of the menu, as an appetizer, something to accompany the bubbly that the lovely woman seated next to me was so enjoying. I did this with some trepidation, as all baked clams to me are judged against two no-less-than-stellar versions: my Aunt Anna's and Don Peppe's.

Anna's and the Don's are the most traditional of baked clams. The Gramercy's are certainly not that (scallops are used as an ingredient in the stuffing), but they are very, very good nonetheless.

A few days after arriving home to Maine after Christmas with the family I was dispatched to the fish market to gather a few items, among them a bunch of clams. Seems that my lunch companion at the Gramercy had taken note of how well I had enjoyed my appetizer. She had also received "The Gramercy Tavern Cookbook" as a gift days earlier, and so, well, here we are.

Enjoy your clams. I did.

Gramercy Tavern's Baked Clams
Recipe
Reprinted from "The Gramercy Tavern Cookbook"

• 1 cup white wine
• 1 shallot, sliced, plus 3/4 cups minced shallots
• 3 garlic cloves, smashed, plus 2 tablespoons minced garlic
• 1/3 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, plus a few stems
• 20 large cherrystone clams, cleaned
• 1/4 cup olive oil
• 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
• 1 1/4 cups minced onions
• 1 1/4 cups minced leeks
• 1 1/2 tablespoons ginger, peeled and minced
• 2 teaspoons thyme leaves
• Salt and pepper
• 1 3/4 cups panko or dried breadcrumbs
• 7 ounces sea scallops, chopped
• 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

• 5 cups rock salt
• 1 lemon, cut into 8 wedges


1. In a large pot, bring the wine, 1 cup water, the sliced shallots, 2 of the smashed garlic cloves, and the parsley stems to a boil over high heat. Add the clams, cover the pot, and steam until they open, 6 to 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the clams to a large bowl and discard sediment.
2. Remove the clams from the shells and save half (10) of the shells. Cut the clams into quarters and transfer to a small bowl; cover and refrigerate. Separate the 10 reserved shells and rinse them. Strain the broth into a small container.
3. Make the filling. In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil and 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium-low heat. Add the onions, leeks, minced shallots, minced garlic, ginger, and 1 teaspoon of the thyme and cook until the onions are softened, 12 minutes. Reduce the heat, pour in the reserved clam broth, and simmer until the pan is almost dry. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer onion mixture to a large bowl and set aside to cool.
4. In a large skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil and 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Add the panko, the remaining teaspoon of thyme, and remaining smashed garlic clove and toast, stirring constantly, until golden brown, about 4 minutes. Season with salt, discard the garlic, and transfer panko to a medium bowl.
5. To finish the filling, add the clams, scallops, chopped parsley, and lemon juice to the onion mixture, season with salt and pepper, and mix well.
6. Preheat oven to 375°F. Spread the rock salt in a large baking pan.
7. Gently pack the filling into the reserved shells. Cover the packed clams evenly with the browned panko, lightly patting to help them stick. Nestle the clams in the salt. Bake just until hot, 15 to 20 minutes. Serve with lemon wedges.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Sauerkraut, Italian style


You are not hallucinating. That is indeed a big old mess of sauerkraut being added to a simmering pot of tomato sauce.

Weird, huh?

Not if you are a member of my family, it isn't. To many of us, this dish has been a staple for many decades. In fact, it was the subject of the very first item that ever appeared on this blog, back in April 2010. (Click here to see the original story.)

It being a new year I decided to start it off by giving this unusual family recipe the full step-by-step treatment, which it did not initially receive. It is the concoction of a man named Luigi, the stepfather of my dear Aunt Laura. Luigi was from Trieste, in the north of Italy and on the border of Slovenia. This would explain his affinity for sauerkraut, but in decades of research I have never once come across a recipe that, like his, puts the stuff together with a red sauce.

You may be tempted to write this off as too oddball a pairing to attempt. I know that it sounds weird, believe me. But I have served this dish to many people over the years, including serious chowhounds and even a couple of professional chefs, and rarely am I not asked to provide a recipe.


Okay, so get yourself a couple of those one-pound bags of sauerkraut you see in the refrigerated case and dump them into a colander so that the liquid drains out. (Luigi did not rinse his kraut, and neither do I, but you may choose to in order to cut down on the acidity a bit.)


Cut up about a pound of pork butt into one-inch cubes.


In a medium-size sauce pot saute two or three garlic cloves (and some hot pepper if you like) until softened.


Add the pork and allow the meat to brown.


Then add two 28-ounce cans of tomatoes and bring to a boil.


Then stir in the sauerkraut and turn down the heat so that the sauce cooks at a slow to medium simmer.


In about an hour the sauce should be done, but you could also simmer it for longer. I usually give it a taste and decide.


If you did happen to click on the original story about this dish then you will have noticed that the headline was "Luigi's polenta." That's what we call this dish in our family, and over polenta is the only way that we eat it. I strongly urge you to follow our lead here and have ready a nice potful of the stuff.


You will not be disappointed.

Have a very good year everybody!

Luigi's Polenta
Recipe

2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 pound pork butt, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 28-ounce cans of tomatoes
2 pounds sauerkraut, drained of the liquid (you may also rinse it, to cut down on the acidity, though I don't)

1. In your favorite pot for making sauce, saute the garlic in olive oil until softened. (I also add some hot pepper.)

2. Add the pork and saute until lightly browned.

3. Add the tomatoes and bring to a boil.

4. Add the sauerkraut (we use the bags you get at the supermarket in the refrigerated section).

5. Turn the heat to low to medium and let simmer for at least an hour (longer is fine if you prefer).

6. Serve over polenta.

 
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