Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Linguine & Clams... Forgive the Atrocious Lighting, Please!

This was from way back a few weeks ago... Christmas Dinner, 2009.  Ugh.  I think I was disappointed by the quality of the photos, which is why it's appearing now for the first time.  This was pre-daylight florescent in the kitchen.  Oh, well.  It's still damn good, even if the photos aren't so great.  I'll just have to make it again.  And I'm serious... this might be the best linguine & clams recipe you'll ever find... ever!  I'm willing to bet on that.  In fact, I can't believe I'm airing this recipe w/o copyright protection.



INGREDIENTS:

Clams, In-Shell: 3 lbs.  They need to be AFAP (as fresh as possible!), so purchase the day-of, or at the worst, the day before making this dish.
Clams, Chopped: 16 oz, fresh or frozen, but NOT canned.  **Coastal Seafoods carries fresh-chopped clams w/ juices in a 16 oz container.
Anchovies: 2 oz, I prefer oil packed to keep control of the salt level in the dish.
Onion: 2 med, med dice - yellow or white, not red.
Roasted Garlic: one-half bulb, cloves squeezed from their skins. 
Bacon: 1 pound.
Linguine: 2 lbs.
Thyme: one-half bunch, must be fresh.  Do not substitute dried... it will not be the same.
Red Pepper Flake: 2 scant tsp - 1 tbsp if you like a more pronounced note of heat.
White Wine: 1 bottle - you'll use some and drink some while cooking, so choose something you like.
Lemon Zest: 1 lg lemon, save the fruit for a squeeze over the dish at the end.
Italian Parsley: healthy bunch - roughly chopped, but discard stems
On-Hand: unsalted butter, xvoo, s&p, all-purpose flour, Parmigiano Reggiano and a piece of its rind (NOT the Parmesan from a shaker bottle or shredded container... this is the real deal).


PROCESS:



1) Clean the clams: under running water, scrub the shells w/ a stiff brush to remove any grit.  Next, fill a large bowl w/ cold water and whisk in a couple heaped tablespoons of all-purpose flour.  Submerge the clams in the water for about 20 minutes... do not stir them around.  Gently remove them straight out of the bowl and transfer to a dry bowl.  **The idea is that the live clams will open up and exchange the water inside their shell for the new, cleaner water, dispelling any grit or dirt inside. 

2) While the clams are soaking, fry the bacon in a cast-iron skillet on med-hi heat.  Make sure it's crispy!  Drain bacon on a plate or tray lined w/ paper toweling to absorb the drippings and crumble it when it cools.  Drain most of the fat from the pan, but leave a slick along with the browned bits at the bottom of the pan.


3) Return pan to a med-hi heat and add the diced onion and a pinch of kosher salt.  Allow the onions to brown for 2-3 minutes before stirring.  The onions will release their liquids and begin to form a pan-sauce w/ the bacon drippings and bits.  **YUM!!!  Saute onions for about 5-6 mins.

4) In a large, shallow, 4-5 quart saucier pan (kinda like this, though I do not like non-stick), heat 4 tbsp of butter along with a couple tbsp. of xvoo on med-hi heat.


5) Transfer the onions/juices from the iron skillet to the saucier along with the anchovies, roasted garlic, thyme, red pepper flake, Parmigiano rind, a good pinch of ground black pepper, and a healthy splash of white wine.  **Make sure to pour yourself a glass of wine at this point if you haven't already!  Reduce heat to med and saute for 10-12 mins, stirring occasionally.  Continue to add wine as sauce thickens and reduces.  You should use at least half the bottle.

6) As the saucier pan sautes, bring a pot of water to boil for the linguine and cook about 7 minutes to a firm al dente.  Drain the pasta, timing it so the pasta goes immediately into the saucier pan to simmer.  **Do not rinse the pasta!


7) To the saucier, add the chopped clams w/ their juices, another good splash of white wine, season w/ s&p, and bring to a simmer.  Add about 2/3 of the drained linguine and toss w/ tongs to coat pasta in the sauce.  **There should be plenty of liquid for the pasta to simmer in.  You can add a bit more pasta if you want a lighter sauce at the end, but do not add more than 3/4 of the cooked linguine.


8) Cover the saucier w/ a lid and saute the pasta for 3-4 minutes.  Remove the lid, toss the pasta, then add the shell clams, parsley, and lemon zest but do not mix yet.  Cover the pan and allow the clams to steam open for the next 6-7 minutes.  Now toss pasta w/ the clams and again cover for another 2-3 minutes.  **This will be ready to serve immediately, so have a big bowl or individual plates ready to go! 

9) Transfer pasta to a bowl or plate, top w/ crumbled bacon, freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano, and a squeeze of lemon juice.  **Heaven!!



Chicken Stock... Getting Back on Track!

I have not posted anywhere near what my plans have been.  I wanted to post 3-4 items each week.  Well, we're still getting into the swing of things post-holidays here... and that involves reserving some cash each week from our booze-fund.  Thank God for leftovers!  Oh, I was sick for a few days, actually... and astonishingly could not stomach the thought of food at the time.  And I need to not worry so much about grammar, spelling, wit, or any of that crap... as long as the recipe is correct.  Really, that's the only reason I'm doing this.  Well, aside from the promise of fame & fortune. 



Okay... I made homemade chicken soup for Edwin last week after a minor surgical procedure.  Nothing feels better after an illness, injury, surgery... whatever... than a good chicken soup.  It's actually the only thing I could stomach the thought of eating when I was sick the week prior, but alas... no leftovers in the freezer.  This recipe is for the chicken stock itself... or the 'Vroom', as Edwin calls it.

INGREDIENTS:

Chicken bones/parts: 3 lbs - they can be frozen/thawed, raw/roasted... I'm not getting too picky at this point.  NO giblets... but definitely reserve the neck.  **You can also substitute a 3-4 lb. whole chicken or chicken pieces.
Onion: 1 lb - white or yellow, don't use red.  Rough chop, don't be perfect.
Carrots: 1 lb - whole or babies... roughly chopped.
Celery: 1 lb - ribs & leaves... roughly chopped.
Garlic: one-half to one whole head - smash the cloves to remove the skins... don't need to be chopped.
Bay Leaf: 3-4 leaves, whole - dried or fresh.
Sage: 6-7 leaves, fresh - no need to chop.
Rosemary: 1 med sprig, fresh - don't chop.
Thyme: one-half small bunch, fresh - guess what... don't chop.
Water: about 3 gal - enough to fill a 16 quart stockpot to 1/2 inch from the top.  Hot or cold, your choice.
**Note: I do not add salt or black pepper to my stock because I always add it to-taste when I'm using it for soups, chili, rice, etc.

PROCESS:

1) Add all ingredients to the pot and fill with water.  Set on stove and turn burner to hi-heat.  Cover the pot with a lid so it comes to temperature quickly.  Stir the pot a few times to distribute the heat.  Should be simmering/boiling within 20-30 minutes.  **Don't take a bubble-bath during this portion... it may boil over if you aren't watching it somewhat attentively. 
2) Once the pot has achieved a simmer/boil, remove the lid, stir the pot, and allow it to boil for a few hours uncovered, stirring every-so-often. **Now you can take your bath.


3) Once the pot has reduced by at least a 1/4 but not more than 1/3, turn the heat off.  Use a slotted spoon or a Chinese Wire Strainer (photo on left... not sure if it's the correct name, but it's an amazing tool... you must get one!) to remove the solid pieces from the pot.  Transfer pieces to a bowl before discarding so that drippings can be saved from them.  **If you're really motivated, reserve the soft pieces, not the bones, and put through a food mill held over a wire-mesh strainer to get even more of the concentrated liquids from the solids.

4) Pour remaining stock through a fine-mesh strainer held over another pot or bowl(s) large enough to hold the contents... there should be around 2 gallons of liquid, give-or-take.  You may want to use a cup or smaller bowl to strain the stock instead of pouring the whole batch at once.  **I recommend doing this in your kitchen sink!!
5) Once the stock has cooled for another 15-20 minutes, you can container it and throw it in the freezer.  This is liquid gold, I'm telling you!!


THOUGHTS:

- I have never tried a stock that simmers low and slow for hours on-end... I'm not sure how much better it would be, but it's worth a shot at some point. 

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Sausage/Kale/Rice Soup: 12/30/09



Although this is going to be out of sequence (yet to post Linguine & Clams, Caesar, etc. from Christmas), it's on the stove as I type (or was on 12/30 when I started this post!). And... it makes this crazy cold weather completely worthwhile!

INGREDIENTS:

Sausage: 1.5-2 lbs, 1/4-1/2" slices.  I used 1 lb Polish Sausage and 1/2 lb smoked (ultra smoked!) raw beef sausage homemade from Edwin's (my partner) family.
Onion: 2 med, medium dice.  Yellow or white.
Garlic: 7-8 cloves, smashed, rough chop.
Diced Tomato: 3 c, strained from juices.  Yes, from a can.  (Container and freeze the juices for something else).  Stay tuned for my preferences on brand.
Kale: 4 c, blanched and spun of excess water, coarse chiffonade.  Ratio of raw to blanched kale is about 1:1, lbs to cups.  No need to get too crazy, just make sure no huge pieces will get in the soup.
Bay Leaf: 2-3.
Red Pepper Flake: 2 tsp or a bit more... this is more to spike the flavor than to create a spicy heat... but make it a-spicy if you like.
Chicken Stock: 6 c, I actually used homemade turkey stock (recipe coming soon), although it's not often you'll have that on-hand.  **Note: it's handy to pre-heat the stock in another pan so that the soup comes to a simmer faster than with cold or room-temp stock.
Rice: brown, white, wild... whatever your preference.  I prefer this on-the-side, not actually in the soup.  If you have a rice cooker (I don't, but really must get one), you're set!  If not, I'll include a quick recipe in the process below.
On-Hand: xvoo, s&p, cider vinegar, Parmigiano Reggiano, scallion

PROCESS:

1) Heat a couple tbsp/rounds of xvoo in a pot (stainless works... enameled is great... makes sure it's 8 qts or larger) on med-high heat.  Add chopped onion and let brown for 2-3 minutes.  Add a good pinch of salt, some cracked black pepper, the red pepper flakes and bay leaves.  Give a good stir and let saute for 8-10 minutes.
2) Add the sausage and garlic to the onions, stir and continue sauteing for 7-8 minutes, stirring a couple times.
3) Add the diced/drained tomatoes, stock and water to the pot; stir to incorporate.  Cover the pot for 5-6 minutes until the soup starts to steam a bit.  Add the kale and stir well to incorporate; let simmer another 10-15 minutes until flavor is where you want it.  Season with s&p to your taste.
4) Add a scoop of rice to a soup bowl, then the soup.  Top with freshly shaved Parmigiano Reggiano. 
**Rice: 2.5-to-1 ratio, water (or stock) to rice .  Always rinse your rice (removes excess starch and reduces sticking/clumping).  Bring water to a boil in a covered pan.  Add rice and stir... bring back to a boil, then reduce heat to a very, very light simmer in the pan.  Keep cover offset on pan to allow steam to escape... simmer for the next 20-30 minutes.  DO NOT STIR!!!  You can lightly fluff with a fork no more than twice during cooking to make sure rice has absorbed the liquid.  


ETC...
 
- You MUST serve this with a couple slices of hot, crusty (and buttered!) bread like sourdough, French baguette, etc.
- Using the rind of Parmigiano Reggiano in the soup... just a couple smallish pieces... richens the flavors and can add a creamy quality to the soup (thanks, Giada).
- Adding fresh herbs like thyme, oregano, or sage... yum.
- Other toppings such as fresh chopped Italian parsley, scallion, dollop of sour cream...
- Switching out the starch like small pasta, diced/cooked potatoes, barley... I still prefer to keep my starches separate from the actual soup since they can significantly alter the consistency and texture.