Chicken and Clams

Nothing goes together like chicken and clams.  Nevermind…

Surf and turf they call it.  Long associated with stained red lobster claws and tails, a hunk of juicy aged steak butter and potatoes.  Nothing says steak house like good ol’ drawn butter a bib and meat.   I like the flavor that clams and other seafood creatures lend to land critters when thrown together in a pot.  Just when I thought I was cooking for two, I then found out that I would be welcoming a third, so I decided to head down to my local seafood monger and bought some clams.   As I tasted the broth I knew that clams would be a great addition, not only would it stretch my meal but it would also give the braise additional broth when the clams open.

There is a heavy Italian influence here.  The kitchen staples to work, aromatics to start with and creating an inviting and aromatic dish.  This recipe allows the avid home cook to gain access to cooking a basic and delicious nonchalant dinner.  From this simple dish you can add olives, lemons, different meats,  different herbs.  Allow yourself to experiment with other root vegetables, as well as spices,  as well as using canned verses fresh tomatoes.

The marjoram and fresh herbs in this dish as well as the freshness of the tiny plum tomatoes sweeten and freshen the braise.  Instead of a braise it becomes a juicy stew, and thus is lighter than a thick and unctuous sauce.   Served over rice, or over pasta, maybe cous-cous, and even polenta it creates a delicious dinner for a mildly breezy summer night.

My pantry needs, Olive Oil, Salt, Pepper, Lemons, Onions, Garlic, eggs, herbs, and canned tomatoes.  If I have that I can make and create a dinner in no time.  .

Chicken and Clam Stew w/Plum Tomatoes and Herbs over fresh Tagliarini
Serves 2-4
 
3-4 Chicken Legs
12-16 Manila Clams
1 C. Red Wine
1/4 C. Red Wine Vinegar
1 Medium Yellow Onion
1 C. Carrots
3 Cloves Garlic
1 T Each – Marjoram, Oregano, Thyme
Capers
1 1/2 C. Plum or Cherry Tomatoes
Olive Oil 
Salt 
 
You will need a pot that could go from stovetop to oven.   Salt and pepper chicken, let sit, pay dry.  Heat pan, add Olive Oil.  Add chicken and brown well.  
Remove chicken when skin side is well seared and browned.  Remove some fat from pan.  Add a bit more olive oil, and add onions and garlic and salt.  After about 4 minutes, add red wine, vinegar scrape pan.  Add herbs, carrots, tomatoes and 1 C. of water-cover and simmer on low for 20 minutes till tomatoes blister and pop.   Assist the popping by puncturing the tomatoes with a fork if needed.  Add Chicken, capers continue to cook for another 20 in a 375° oven. Take out of oven and add clams, place back into oven for another 10 min or so just enough until the clams pop open.  
 
Place atop fresh pasta and drizzle with some young olive oil. Yum.
 
 
[youtube http://youtu.be/AdimD8Z-ppY]

City Hike

I went on a little city hike yesterday.   Tuna sandwich, cherries, and guava juice.  I huffed and heaved hoed my way up the hill and came upon bushes and bushes of thorny branches, filled with ripe and unripe berries galore.  I grabbed a couple,  climbed over some railings and foretold of a bloody fall.   Backing away from the sloping hill I grabbed what I could.

I continued up the hike to see more berries!  Not now…I waited till I finished my hike before I succumbed to my greed.   Berries…berries…berries! Some where not the sweetest nor were they the easiest to pluck.  I put my sandwich bag to use, these downward facing hills wouldn’t detour me from dreams of making a city jam, but maybe the constant pricking of thorns might help.

My jam fantasy came true, my city hike gave me a mini bounty of fragrant dark gems to bring home.  I had just enough time to cook and jar them before I went off into the night.

*I never add pectin into my jams.  I add a little more sugar and leach out as much of the juices as I can then I reduce and reduce.  The lemon always adds a nice brightness.  The natural pectin from the pith as well as the acid always helps with thickening.  Jams are not very complicated.   Stir, watch it, and reduce it.  For the home cook, nothing should be very complicated about making a jam.  Just don’t burn it.  A special copper pan would be nice, and a thermometer would be nice and that spoon test…forget about it all and just watch your jam like you would watch over a toddler in a kiddie pool.  

 
Blackberry City Jam
 
2 1/2 C. Blackberries
1 1/2 C. Sugar 
1 Lemon
 
Rinse blackberries of dirt and debris.  Cut whole lemon into thirds or quarters remove seeds.  Place berries & lemon in pot, add sugar.   Cook on medium heat.  Stir to ensure that nothing sticks to the bottom of your pan.  At this point you will see your berries shrivel and the majority of your pot will be taken over by the juices of the berry.   This is a time to really watch your heat!  Gently stir bottom of pan and sides.  Turn heat to med-low, and just let this reduce to thicken.  I recommend 20+min.   Thicken it to about less than 1/2.  If you insist on doing that spoon trick-stick a metal spoon into the freezer.  Put some jam on the spoon and place back into the freezer, from here you can quickly see the gelling as well as desired thickness.  Before placing into jars remove lemons and squeeze excess.  Want it thicker? Cook it more-but be very mindful of not scorching your molten jam by stirring the bottom of the pan. 
 
 
 
Put into a clean sterilized jar eat and enjoy. 
 
 

Use your hands.

Use your hands.

In addition to other items at dinner, we have eaten Padron peppers three days in a row. These nibbles of green are actually pretty mild and addictive. My favorite part is being able to eat them when they are still hot, while the juices and the seeds gallop into your mouth like a flavorful injection, dispersing themselves onto your taste buds. I like to eat them whole, stem and all. It’s a satisfying feeling, like being able to to leave no trace of what was left on your plate. YUM.

When these pods of scrumptiousness come around, they come in abundance.

They are clean, with little flesh yet meaty with a thin skin. They do cook up quickly. The sizzle of oil and moisture released onto the pan as it sears the pepper lends a smokey flavor. Sometimes you get that one or two or three that can tingle and burn your mouth. Every cook I know often comments on those being the “lucky” ones. The coveted ones.

Padrons are best when cooked in a very hot pan, quickly and simply tossed with olive oil and finished with sea salt or even flavored salts like citrus salts, or smoked salts. Although accompaniments like zest and cheeses are delicious too. Soft crumbles of cheeses, chopped nuts, and fruits go well with Padrons

The other night I heated up a saute pan, tossed the Padrons and Shitake mushrooms in olive oil and placed them in the hot smoking pan. Being sure not to overcrowd and to toss every minute or so, I looked for the good char on the skin and looked for the mushrooms to soften then quickly placed onto a plate. Drizzled with some Olive oil, some flaked sea salt and a squeeze of lemon. They become a great snack or starter.

Sitting around a table, using your hands and pummeling through them with friends is the best way to eat padronsespecially on a warm summer night.

Thumbs out…

For any of you that know me, you know that travel is constantly on my mind.  It is a hidden treasure filled with many wondrous delights that sparkle and charm me with so many glorious chills.  All that time thinking…cloudy and full of dreams I am FINALLY heading to ITALY!!!!!!

Will any of you in the world of blogging help me on my journey.  To delight me with thrills that I can only begin to imagine!?   Recommendations, accommodations, cooking adventures, people, places…

I think I am about to pinch myself.   Pin, tweet it do what you will.  I am also willing to cook abroad…dot dot dot….

You’re Gonna Change

You’re totally going to change.

In May I wrote a guest blog post on Charlotte Druckman’s Tumblr.   Charlotte is an accomplished writer/journalist living and working out in New York who regularly contributes to the WSJ.Com  and New York Times T Mag Blog.  She is also writing a book on women chef’s called  Skirt Steak: Woman Chefs on Standing the Heat & Staying in the Kitchen due out Fall, 2012 on Chronicle books.  During this time I felt ill with loss and separation from my accomplishments and felt much disappointment, but  there was also rediscovery and rebirth which I continue to do.  In response to that post there were some great chefs that contacted me and told me to keep on looking actually MOVE forward.  I needed that,  I yearned for the voice and participation of other women in my field that have stuck through it.  Here is the link (finally) to those who haven’t read it…

COOK INTERUPTED: 
“When I started to cook, my eyes were cloudy with romanticism. Here I was, finally cooking.   I was intent on learning and having a mentor.  I was super-idealistic about the evolution of a chef—what it was going to be like to button up those whites. ..”
(Click To Continue reading the post from Charlottes Blog)

During that time I kept busy and not so busy passing the time by questioning my motives.  It was too hard to try to forget that moment when I looked in the mirror with utter despair, and told myself everything was going to be okay.   The images of other chefs telling me to not give up, and with Charlotte’s help  I was able to speak to different chefs, and some allowed me into their kitchens, because this is what they do.

Happier times ahead… fruitful ones realizing that I have put just too much on my shoulders. Giving myself a bit of time to inhale and exhale.

Calm Waters.

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.” 

― Ira Glass

Sweets

I am happiest when laughter wraps around me, when sun drenches me with warmth and rays, when I hold a strong hand, a passionate kiss, when I have an extremely sharp edge on my favorite knife, when that knife slices green onions beautifully on a bias, when a soup has all the body and richness it needs because of the well made stock,  and when an unexpected recipe turns out better than expected.

Learning every day on the line I am sometimes get bored with the daily routines but,  it is at home that I will continue to happily divulge and blog about my miscellaneous adventures in my cooking.  Even though my career involves pots and pans and cooking, it’s when I am in my quaint kitchen that I can cater to my own creative impulses.  New or old they are mine

Those droplets of cookies that you see on the top are an experiment.  I love coconut macaroons and I love a deliciously nutty financier, so combined they become a delicate and nutty and chewy delight.   An american delight, the coconut macaroon is usually a densely sweet pastry made with shredded coconut, egg whites & sugar.  A financier is a french sweet made with a beurre noisette, egg whites, flour, sugar and almond meal.   What happens when you combine them?  They become a great post dinner treat with coffee or tea .  Best of all they are airy, crisp, yet chewy and in this recipe gluten free.

Coconut Almond Macaroons.
 
8 Oz. egg whites or the whites of 4 eggs
2 C. Toasted Almond meal or Ground Almonds (finely ground and toasted) or Almond Flour 
1 C. Shredded Coconut 
1 C. Sugar 
1/4 C. Water 
1/2 T. Pure Vanilla Extract
1 T. Lemon Juice (Stabilizer)
1 T. Cornstarch
1/8 tsp. Salt 
 
Using a whisk or a whisk attachment on your machine, start by beating your egg whites – add salt – in separate bowl mix cornstarch, lemon juice, and vanilla extract.  
Add mixture of cornstarch, lemon juice etc.  into your egg whites – clean sides and continue to whisk on speed 4 until you reach medium peaks. 
In a small saucepan combine water and sugar- dissolve mixture till it comes to a rolling boil and sugar is completely dissolved preferred heat would be 118°.
Slowly add in the molten hot sugar into the egg whites.  
Your mixing bowl should be cool when the egg whites get to a stiff peak.  During this stiff peak period, take out the whisk attachment, clean sides of the bowl and add your toasted and cooled almond meal, and coconut.  
Fold lightly till incorporated. 
Set oven to 325°.  Place parchment paper on cookie sheet, using two spoons – one to scoop and one to push out batter- spoon out a non uniform and lovely little plump batter on cookie tray.  Dry them out for at least 60 minutes.  
Place in oven and bake for 15-20 minutes.  Eat immediately. 
 
*note on a humid day – you may want to re-crisp them in the oven at 300°. 
 

Fa la la ….