Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Behold the Delicious Clam

I have loved clams all my life, beginning with my Grandma Kaloutsis' clams and rice dish, which as I recall had a tomato base and was absolutely reeking of garlic (as did we, after dinner). My dad had to take bicarbonate of soda after our Friday night dinners but my brothers and I had no problem eating that dish. The clam dish I'm writing about now is also Mediterranean, but distinctively Italian. This recipe is a little different from the usual; I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

First of all, a clam isn't a clam isn't a clam. I particularly like littlenecks, such as Manilas or the beautiful cockles with green shells. Steamer clams, such as the ones I just used are fine. Get small to medium clams, alive and snapped shut tight. I usually use generic dried linguine pasta but this time I tried Trader Joe's Garlic Herb Linguine, which was tasty but has a softer texture. I love lots of clams so I make this recipe heavy on clams and lighter on pasta. I thought I was still hungry but about 20 minutes after eating I felt full. However, if you are a big eater and not eating light like me, pile on the pasta.

Since I wanted to lighten up this dish, bacon is conspicuously absent. If you want it I recommend pancetta (unsmoked Italian bacon), cut into medium dice and cooked until browned, then adding the rest of the ingredients.

Linguine & Clams

Serves 2

1/2 to 1 full jalapeño, split lengthwise and seeded
2 teaspoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon minced garlic cloves (or use a garlic press)
2 shakes red pepper flakes
1 1/2 pounds fresh, live clams in their shells
1/4 cup dry white wine
4 ounces dry linguine
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons chopped flatleaf parsley
juice and zest of one lemon
shredded fresh parmesan
cheese, if and as desired

Heat oven to 400° and brush your jalapeño with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake on a sheet for 10 to 15 minutes, until pepper is soft. Let cool and chop finely. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook the linguine according to the package instructions, preferable to al dente (Goldilocks style - just right).

Meanwhile, heat your large nonstick saute pan with the oil and and saute the jalapeño, garlic and pepper flakes for 1 minute. Turn up the heat and add the clams and wine and cover. Remove the clams to a bowl as they open so they won't overcook and become mushy. Your pasta should be just about done so add the butter, parsley, lemon zest and juice to the pan along with
the clams. Mix in the drained pasta and parsley. Divide up into two plates and dig in.

I confess I have never served this to company, not sure why. But if you want to serve four clamophiles, up your clam count to about 3 pounds and use a pound of linguine. Add a little more butter, maybe a little more wine and you're good. Just don't forget the lemon.

Dessert-to-die-for alert: last month Paul and I took my mother to Filoli Mansion and Gardens in Woodside for a fun birthday outing. We took the two (yes, two) hour tour of the mansion and amazing gardens. So worth the trip over the San Mateo Bridge and a wee bit farther. At the end of our tour our docent (tour guide) told me we must go to Buck's in Woodside for the boysenberry cobbler. Since she said it was to die for I signed us up. Woodside is an extremely small place and Buck's is no problem to find. I told our server we were there for the boysenberry cobbler experience and she confirmed that it was the smart thing to do. It was served very warm, in a crock, with lots of crusty bits, and a slab of vanilla ice cream on top. The three of us shared it without too much fighting and pronounced it excellent. I look forward to going back. I just won't drink the coffee again.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

You Can Coq au Vin

I recently made coq au vin for family and it's such a nice dish I wanted to share it with you. Coq au vin is French comfort food; it means chicken and wine and ooh la la it's good! The original recipe has lots of fat and since I wanted to make it hip and thigh friendly I have modified it so that it's delicious and pretty guilt free. It really helps to have excellent nonstick cookware (I prefer Swiss Diamond). Removing all skin and fat from the chicken is a must, and I really cut back on the bacon. To further save on calories I increased the chicken broth to red wine ratio. It will still be divine. Serve with mashed potatoes and you will be in heaven.

Coq au Vin
Serves 4 what I consider generous portions
Prep time about an hour. Bake about an hour.

1 teaspoon olive oil
1 ounce good bacon, cut crosswise into 1/4 inch pieces
1 carrot, cut into medium dice
12 frozen pearl onions
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
4 whole chicken legs (legs and thighs attached), skin and fat removed
kosher salt and black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 cups budget hearty red wine, like Livingston, Gallo, Inglenook. I prefer cabernet sauvignon.
1 cup chicken broth
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons fresh thyme, stripped off the stems
12 cremini mushrooms, halved (I like the flavor better than white buttons)

In your excellent nonstick saute pan, cook the bacon over medium heat until it is moderately brown. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon and cook the carrots and onions in the bacon fat until onions start to brown. It could take 5 or more minutes. Add the garlic and cook 2 more minutes. Remove vegetables from pan and put in a bowl.

Preheat your oven to 325°; meanwhile salt and pepper your chicken and brown it on all sides in your excellent nonstick pan with the olive oil. Remove chicken and place in a baking pan. Put the vegetables and bacon back in the saute pan and add the flour. Cook, stirring constantly for about 3 minutes. Add the red wine, chicken broth, bay leaf, thyme and mushrooms. Bring to a boil and then pour everything over the chicken and cover the pan with a lid or foil and bake in the oven for 40 minutes. Uncover and bake another 15 to 20 minutes, or until chicken is really tender.

Put chicken quarters on a platter and cover with foil. Reduce sauce over medium heat, if you wish, until it thickens up a bit. (You probably won't need to degrease the sauce.) Spoon sauce and vegetables over chicken and serve. Put some sauce in a gravy boat for your mashed potatoes if you wish - it will be swoonworthy. Bon Appetit!