Archive for the ‘seafood’ Category

Quarantining now, of course, but whenever I used to serve these tuna tacos to friends, I always got requests for the recipe. It requires a bit of setting up, but you can put it together right before serving to your guests…or yourself.

I use sushi-grade tuna for this dish, which is easily found online. It comes in 4-ounce packages, which is the perfect size for a single recipe. I buy them in quantity (it’s cheaper that way), and keep them in the freezer. You can also find tuna in small frozen “bricks” at Whole Foods or similar higher-end supermarkets. They might even have some fresh, in season.

If you’re worried about parasites in raw fish, sure, there’s always a chance something like that could happen. I’m willing to roll the dice when I eat raw meat when I make beef tartare, or use raw eggs in my Caesar salad dressing. To me, it’s worth the gamble. You have to decide what’s right for you.

It’s important you know where your tuna comes from, and if it was handled properly. If you go to a reputable seafood market, that shouldn’t be a problem.

The best way to get rid of parasites is by cooking or freezing. Cooking is not the answer for this particular recipe. But if you buy the frozen bricks, they’ve been in the deep-freeze long enough to kill any parasites. Also, when it comes to mercury, the smaller the fish, the better. So if this is a concern, opt for ahi (also called yellowfin) tuna.

 

 

The topping…
¼ cup sour cream
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lime juice

 

The marinade…
6 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon chili garlic sauce
Other Ingredients…
½ lb. sushi grade raw tuna, chopped into ¼-inch cubes
Tortilla chips, regular or the little bowls
Finely chopped scallions

Combine the topping ingredients in a bowl, and place it in the fridge.

Mix the marinade ingredients in a separate bowl and set aside.

Chop the tuna into ¼-inch cubes, and if it looks wet, place it on some paper towels to absorb the excess moisture. (It can release quite a bit of moisture if it was frozen…you don’t want it watery before you marinate it.)

Marinate the tuna in the soy/chili garlic mix for just 10 minutes, then pour off the excess. (It will be really salty if you let marinate any longer.) Keep it in the fridge as well.

Finely chop the scallions.

Just before serving, take a tortilla chip or little bowl, place 1 tablespoon of the tuna on top, top this with ½ teaspoon of the sour cream mixture, and then garnish it with the finely chopped scallions.

 

 

Serve them immediately, and eat these quickly, before the tuna makes the tortilla soggy!

 

 

As much as I want to support my local restaurants, quarantining has kept me away more than usual. There are some dishes I crave more than others, and Chinese shrimp and broccoli is one of them. But it’s really quite easy to make it at home, and it’s surprisingly low in calories if you’re really careful with the amount of oil you use. Oil is the biggest culprit when it comes to calories in Chinese cooking.

Second on the list of calorie culprits is rice. It looks innocent enough, but a cup of rice has 170 calories, and if you’re limiting yourself to a daily calorie count of 1500, like I am, that becomes pretty significant.

The good news is that shrimp is actually one of the lowest calorie foods you can buy, checking in at only 1 calorie per gram. Broccoli is also low in calories, so if you skip the rice, you can really eat your fill of this delicious dish.

 

 

I’ve come up with what I call my “Asian Mix,” which is a combination of five ingredients commonly found in the supermarket in the Asian food section. Add these to your shrimp and broccoli, and you will never need to leave home for really good Chinese food!

Asian Mix…
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
1 teaspoon rice vinegar (unseasoned)
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon chili garlic sauce

Combine these ingredients in a bowl, mixing well. Set aside.

 

 

1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 or 2 large heads broccoli, chopped into smaller, similar-sized pieces
1 lb. wild-caught American shrimp, peeled and deveined
Asian Mix, as listed above
peanut oil

I prefer peanut oil when cooking Asian dishes.

Heat a nonstick pan and add 1 tablespoon of peanut oil to it. Add the chopped onion, and cook until translucent.

Add the chopped garlic and stir for about 10 seconds.

Add the chopped broccoli and cook until the broccoli turns bright green but stays crunchy.

Empty the pan out into a bowl and, without wiping the pan down, add the shrimp to the pan (no more oil!), returning it to the heat. Let the shrimp heat in the hot pan for 30–60 seconds on one side, then flip the shrimp over and let them heat through for 30–60 seconds on the other side.That’s all you need to cook them, unless they’re really large. Just keep flipping them until they’re pink and firm, but don’t overcook them.

Remove the pan from the heat, and add a tablespoon of the Asian Mix to the shrimp, tossing them around to coat them with it. Don’t let them burn!

Now bring back the onions, garlic, and broccoli to the shrimp in the pan, tossing everything together, and adding more of the Asian Mix until everything is nicely coated.

 

 

 

Serve immediately…over rice or not!

 

 

 

I started a diet a few months ago, and one of the major changes in my eating habits was to incorporate more seafood and less meat into my diet. Seafood has a lot more protein and fewer calories. In fact, shrimp, lobster and oysters are some of the most delicious low-calorie foods you can enjoy, running about 1 calorie per gram. It’s what you add to them–oils, melted butter, batter–that makes them high in calories.

I’ve always loved sushi, but again, on a diet, I need to limit my intake of unnecessary calories, and rice is big on that list. I’ve found that I can use a lot less rice, or maybe none at all, when I make poke…and I get all the satisfaction of sushi or sashimi.

My two favorite fishes to eat raw are ahi tuna and wild-caught Alaskan salmon, like sockeye. There are many great purveyors of this super-high quality seafood online, and I usually buy a decent amount of fish at one time–hermetically sealed and frozen in 4-ounce packages–to last me a long time. (The price is often much better when you buy in quantity, because they have to be shipped frozen overnight.)

 

Yes, please.

 

There are many ways to prepare poke, and the only limitations are what’s in your fridge. The first recipe, using salmon, is closer to a traditional poke recipe you’d find in a restaurant.

 

 

6.5 ounces wild-caught Alaskan salmon, in the refrigerator (thawed, if previously frozen)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup chopped raw cashews
1 scallion, green and white parts finely chopped
Keep the thawed salmon in the refrigerator. Remove the salmon from the fridge, and remove the skin if it is still on the fish. Cut the fish into half-inch cubes. I like t place the salmon cubes on a clean paper towel to absorb excess moisture from thawing. Then I place the salmon cubes in a bowl and put it back in the fridge while I combine the other ingredients.
In another bowl, combine the soy sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar, and lemon juice. Whisk them together.
Chop the cashews and add them to the bowl, mixing them in.
Cut the root ends off the scallions, chop the green and white parts finely, and add them to the bowl, mixing them in.
Add the salmon to the bowl, mixing gently, so that you don’t damage the fish.
Let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes, if you can wait that long, and then: eat!
My tuna poke recipes have also used similar ingredients…
More recently, I mixed up a batch of what I call my “Asian Mix,” a blend of five Asian flavors that really work well together: soy sauce, hoisin sauce, chili garlic sauce, rice vinegar, and sesame oil. I let my tuna or salmon marinate in this mix for about ten minutes before adding the other ingredients and feasting.

Tuna poke with lettuce, onion, pine nuts, black and white sesame seeds, rice and my “Asian Mix.”

 

But my proudest achievement was taking my favorite sandwich from my home town of New York, and making it into a bowl. The sandwich is an everything bagel with salmon and cream cheese, and my poke version uses just a bit of the bagel, yet you still get the flavor without all the calories. The secret is a seasoning you can buy already prepared.
3 oz. wild-caught Alaskan sockeye salmon, cubed
1 tablespoon capers
1/2 small Vidalia or sweet onion, sliced very thin
1/2 tomato, seeds removed, sliced thin
1/4 of a toasted plain bagel
1 tablespoon cream cheese
2 teaspoons Everything Bagel seasoning
1 chopped hard boiled egg
Cut the salmon into small 1/2″ cubes and place it in a bowl. Add the tablespoon of capers (including some of the brine), chopped onion and tomato. Mix gently.
Toast the bagel and use only 1/4 of it (I use that little for the sake of calories. But you can use more, if you like!) Spread the tablespoon of cream cheese on the toasted bagel, then carefully chop it up into small cubes. Add this to the bowl. Sprinkle in the Everything Bagel seasoning and the chopped hard-boiled egg, and give it all one last gentle toss.
Then take a forkful, close your eyes, and imagine you’re in your favorite New York deli!

Back in the 80’s, I worked at a radio station in Mobile, Alabama. My New York buddies thought I was crazy to move to the South, but that’s where the job was. When they realized that I was only a 2-hour ride from New Orleans, I wasn’t so crazy after all! What a great town. I spent every possible weekend there: the food, the music, the people…

When I moved to Rhode Island, I really missed all the fun of the Big Easy. So I decided to have a Mardi Gras party every year. I’d invite 80+ people, and I cooked all of the dishes myself. (Not bad for a single guy!) I made all the classics: red beans and rice, crawfish etouffe, gumbo, Cajun chicken (see my previous blog for the recipe), and, of course,  jambalaya.

 

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For the seasoning mix:
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

 

I find it easier to measure and chop all the ingredients before I start cooking.

I find it easier to measure and chop all the ingredients before I start cooking.

 

4 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups finely chopped onions, in all
1 1/2 cups finely chopped celery, in all
1 1/2 cups good quality chopped ham
1 1/2 cups chopped andouille sausage (Here in RI, I use local Portuguese chourico from Mello’s in Fall River, MA)
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper sauce (I use Frank’s Red Hot)
3/4 cup tomato sauce made from pureed whole tomatoes
2 cups uncooked rice (I like Texmati brown basmati rice)
3 cups chicken stock (preferably homemade)
1 lb. peeled and de-veined wild-caught American shrimp

 

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Over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil in a large sauce pan. Add 3/4 cup of the onions and 3/4 cup of the celery. Cook until the onions are translucent.

Stir in the seasoning mix, then the chopped ham and the chourico, and then the cayenne pepper sauce. Cook until the onions are a dark brown, about 20 minutes, stirring constantly.

Add the remaining 3/4 cup of the onions and celery. Cook about 5 minutes.

Open a can of whole tomatoes and puree them in a food processor to make sauce. Add 3/4 cup of this and cook for about 5 minutes.

Stir in the rice, mixing well. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 12 minutes.

Add the chicken stock, stir well, and bring it all to a boil. Then reduce the heat and simmer, covered, over very low heat until the rice is tender but firm, about 15 minutes.

Remove the cover, toss in the shrimp, stir, then put the cover back on and cook for 5 minutes more.

 

Sometimes it’s hard to get wild-caught American shrimp at my local seafood store or supermarket. But for me, buying tiger shrimp or other Asian products is not an option. Once I learned about how they are farmed, I decided I’d never eat those shrimp again!

When I find wild-caught American shrimp locally, I buy extra to keep in the freezer. For many years, I bought my shrimp online from http://www.cajungrocer.com. Not only will you find shrimp there, you’ll find many other Cajun classics: King cakes, Turduckens, andouille and alligator sausage, even live crawfish. And the price of their shrimp, even with shipping, is the same as the nasty Asian shrimp you buy in the store. Make some room in your freezer, order large to save, and stock up on the real deal!

 

Calamari is the official appetizer of the state of Rhode Island. And for good reason. Squid means big business, and what we catch in Rhode Island accounts for up to 50% of the east coast’s quota every year! Squid have a lifespan of 12 to 18 months, reproduce twice a year, and can be caught year-round, with very few catch limitations, making it lucrative for fishermen.

Great fried calamari is an art form. It may seem like a simple dish, but to make it light and crispy, you need to be on your game. That’s why it can be a real hit-or-miss item on most restaurant menus. And there’s nothing worse than getting what would have been a great plate of calamari had the chef not decided to pour sauce all over it, turning the crispy cephalopod into mush.

What makes great fried calamari are three basic elements: it needs to be wild-caught in the US (preferably Rhode Island!)…properly cleaned…it needs to be fried at the right temperature for the right amount of time so that it’s perfectly cooked and not greasy…and the coating needs to be light and crispy.

 

calamari

 

1 lb. wild caught cleaned squid (thaw if frozen)
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1  teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup milk
1 large egg
oil, for frying (I use avocado oil)

Thaw the squid and slice them into bite-sized pieces. In a bowl, whisk the milk and the egg together. Toss in all the squid pieces into the bowl to coat. Place the bowl in the fridge for at least 15 minutes.

In another bowl, combine the flour, oregano, paprika, parsley, garlic, salt and pepper. Set it aside.

Fill a large pan halfway with oil…or use a deep fryer if you have one. Heat the oil to 350 degrees.

Working in small batches, remove the squid from the milk and egg mixture, letting some of it drip off, then place the squid in the flour mixture and toss to coat. Shake off any excess flour and place it immediately into the hot oil. Fry the squid until it’s golden brown, about 4 minutes. Serve it immediately with tartare sauce, tomato sauce, hot peppers, whatever you like. (But keep the sauces on the side for dipping.)

About the oil: I cook almost exclusively with olive oil. But for hot frying like this recipe requires, I go with avocado oil, which can take higher temperatures.

Shrimp with an orange sauce is something you see on every Chinese restaurant menu. I didn’t have oranges, but wanted a citrus kick to my sweet and spicy sauce. I went with grapefruit and I never looked back!

Although I call this recipe “Asian shrimp,” I never buy my shrimp from Asia! Only wild-caught American shrimp will ever do. When you realize just how nasty Asian shrimp can be (farmed in over-crowded conditions, swimming in their own filth and fed chemical food pellets and antibiotics) you’ll never eat it again.

Green beans looked good in the produce aisle, so I used them, but feel free to substitute with broccoli, asparagus, or any veggies you like.

Chili garlic sauce and hoisin sauce can be found in most supermarkets, in the international foods section.

As long as you use gluten-free soy sauce and hoisin sauce (the brand La Choy is GF), this dish is gluten-free!

 

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For the rice:

1 cup cooked basmati rice (I use Texmati brown rice)
2 cups seafood stock (I use homemade shrimp and fish stock, but vegetable stock will work)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 scallions, finely chopped

 

For the veggies:

1/2 Vidalia onion, finely chopped
1 lb. fresh green beans, washed and cut into 1/4′ pieces
1 teaspoon soy sauce
splash of peanut oil

 

For the shrimp:

2 dozen thawed, peeled and de-veined wild-caught USA shrimp
1 tablespoon chili garlic sauce
3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
juice and zest of 1 grapefruit
splash of peanut oil

 

Making your own seafood stock is easy: just peel the shrimp you’re going to use in this recipe, and place the shells in a saucepan full of water. Let it boil until you’ve reduced it to 2 cups. Strain out the shells and discard them. Then use the stock to cook your rice, according to the package directions. Once the rice is cooked, toss in the chopped scallions, mix well, and set the rice aside.

Add peanut oil to a hot pan and sauté the onions until translucent. Add the green beans and cook them until they’re al dente. Add the soy sauce, stir, and then pour the contents of the pan into the rice. Mix well.

Using the same pan, add a little more peanut oil and sear the shrimp on both sides. Don’t overcook them! Push the shrimp to the sides of the pan so that a circle remains in the middle. Add the chili garlic sauce and hoysin sauce and stir them together, then blending in the shrimp until the shrimp are covered with the sauce. Add the grapefruit zest and juice and stir until everything is combined and the sauce has thickened just a bit.

Pour the contents of the pan into the rice mix and combine. Add more soy sauce to the rice, if you like.

I’m limiting my daily calorie intake on my new diet, but I’m not limiting flavor! Shrimp is a dieter’s best friend because it’s low in calories, high in protein, and delicious! A 4-ounce serving of the following recipe (without pasta) has just 224 calories!
Almost 95% of all shrimp sold in the United States comes from farmed shrimp in countries like China, Thailand, Vietnam and India…as well as Latin America. The stuff you buy at the supermarket comes frozen (since shrimp is highly perishable) and then is thawed out and placed on ice to make the display look nice. But the shrimp you’re getting is not “fresh” (unless you’re lucky enough to get some wild caught local shrimp) and it’s from countries where the methods of farming are questionable at best.
Shrimp farming in Asia and Latin America is destroying mangrove forests and because of that, coastal villages as well. Disease is commonplace in shrimp farms, so they’re pumped full of antibiotics and pesticides.
Imported wild shrimp are also a problem because of bycatch. For every pound of wild shrimp caught, several pounds of other animals such as turtles die needlessly in the trawler nets.
Wild-caught American shrimp is the best way to go for your health and the environment. American shrimp fishermen are required by law to reduce bycatch. For example, they’re required to use Turtle Exclusion Devices to stop turtles from being caught in their nets.

The real deal, from CajunGrocer.com.

On top of everything else, wild-caught American shrimp tastes better. And why shouldn’t it? The shrimp are eating their natural foods found in the wild…not some pellets thrown at them that contaminate the water and the shrimp themselves.
My favorite website for wild-caught American gulf shrimp is www.cajungrocer.com. I’ve been ordering my favorite Cajun foods, like Turduckens and alligator sausage, from these people for many years, but they also sell frozen shrimp and live crawfish (in season.) But just about every supermarket in the US now sells wild-caught American shrimp. You just need to read the label.
Don’t cheat yourself, your friends or your family out of something really special. Wild-caught American gulf shrimp costs the same, supports our economy, is better for you and tastes better.
The basics of this recipe come from my friend, Lee, a retired chemist in New Jersey who also enjoys creating in the kitchen. What I found interesting about his recipe was the touch of sugar that doesn’t really add sweetness but rather helps create the light, tasty caramelized crust that forms on the shrimp when you sear it. I tweaked a few things in this recipe, but the essence of it remains the same.

Seasoned shrimp.

 

1 lb. large peeled and deveined wild-caught American shrimp
Salt
Freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon sugar
4 tablespoons softened butter
1 clove of garlic, squeezed through a press
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 teaspoon oregano
Extra Virgin olive oil
Toss the shrimp, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon sugar in a bowl.
In a separate bowl, mash the butter with a fork, folding in the garlic. Add the lemon juice, parsley, oregano, and 1/4 teaspoon salt.
Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add half the shrimp in a single layer to the pan and cook it at high heat until it’s caramelized on one side, about 1 minute. Flip the shrimp over with tongs and cook for another 30 seconds. Don’t over-cook it!
Remove the cooked shrimp to a covered bowl and similarly sear the other half of the shrimp, then return the other half of the shrimp back to the skillet. Turn down the heat to medium and add the butter/garlic/lemon/parsley/oregano/salt mixture, occasionally tossing shrimp around in the pan to evenly coat them with the glaze.
If you’re serving the shrimp over pasta, you might choose to increase the amount of butter and olive oil to just lightly coat the pasta. (But I don’t, because I’m counting every calorie!) Toss the cooked pasta into the pan of shrimp to combine.
I like to season lightly at the end with a tiny pinch of Fleur de Sel. Serve immediately.
Shrimp is the perfect food to eat on a diet: full of protein and low in calories. Here’s the total calorie countdown for the entire recipe.
Shrimp = 360 cal.
Salt & Pepper = 0 cal.
1/4 tsp. sugar = 4 cal.
4 tablespoons butter = 408 cal.
1 tablespoon olive oil = 120 cal.
1 tablespoon lemon juice = 3 cal.
parsley, oregano = negligible.
Total calories: 895 for a dish that can serve 4! (Not including the pasta, of course.)

This dish is absolutely delicious and worth the effort. Despite the fact that we first had it in the middle of summer on a vacation to the beautiful island of Santorini, Greece, we always cook it around the holidays in wintertime. We don’t have access to that unusual Mediterranean lobster, but our cold water New England lobsters are a fine substitute!

Santorini gets a bad rap these days, because they’ve allowed the cruise ships to take over, and they just can’t support the massive crowds that invade this small, beautiful island every summer. Once you’ve opened the floodgates, it’s hard to suddenly turn around and tell tourists not to come. Santorini’s tourism industry drives the entire country of Greece. Sadly, it seems that many beautiful places in the world, once discovered by the masses, have to deal with this issues. (My beloved island of St. John in the USVI, is another example.)

But despite the hoards of tourists that swarm the island every summer, Santorini remains one of the most amazing places I’ve been to in my life. Having traveled there at least 4 times now, I know all the cruise ship tour bus routes and stops to avoid, and where I can still go to experience the real Santorini.

It was in one of those out-of-the-way places that we first had this dish. Taverna Giorgaros is a simple family-run restaurant that is on the road leading to the lighthouse, past the ancient ruins of Akrotiri. We’ve gone there every time we’ve visited Santorini, and only once did they have the freshly caught lobster that allowed us to enjoy this dish.

 

Where we first had our pasta with lobster sauce in Santorini.

Where we first had our pasta with lobster sauce in Santorini.

 

Love the signs!

Love the signs!

 

First, it’s absolutely important to make a good stock: the base for all the other flavors to follow.

 

Cooked lobster LTL

 

For the stock…
2 1-1/2 lb. lobsters, slightly under-cooked
12 cups water
1/2 onion, chopped into quarters
3 celery stalks, chopped into quarters
1 carrot, chopped into quarters

 

Under-cook (steam or boil, whatever your favorite method) the lobsters. (You’ll be cooking the meat again later.) Remove the lobster meat from the shells and set it aside.

Place the cleaned lobster shells, claws, tails, legs and bodies in a large pot. (You don’t want any of the internal organs or tommaley.) Crush the shells, if needed, so they fit in the pot. Add the water, onion, celery and carrot. Set the heat on high. Cook it until it’s reduced by half.

Strain the stock, discarding the lobster shells and veggies. Bring the stock back to the heat and reduce it until all you have left is 1 cup of intense stock.

 

Pasta with lobster sauce

For the lobster sauce…
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
pinch of Italian red pepper flakes
teaspoon fresh chopped parsley
extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup lobster stock
1/4 cup San Marzano tomato sauce (see below)
splash of dry un-oaked white wine (I use an Australian Chardonnay)
salt and pepper

 

Final ingredients…
reserved lobster meat
1/2 lb. cooked pasta

 

Add some olive oil to a large pan and sauté the onions until they’re translucent. Season them with salt and pepper. Add the garlic and cook for 10 seconds. Add the red pepper flakes and parsley.

Add 1/4 cup of the lobster stock and let it cook, reducing by half. Add the other 1/4 cup of lobster stock and the tomato sauce. Let it cook for a couple of minutes and add the white wine. Cook for a few minutes more.

Cook the pasta and drain it before it reaches the al dente stage. Place the pasta in the pan with the sauce, heating and coating thoroughly. Add the reserved lobster pieces and warm them through, tossing in the sauce. Serve immediately.

For the San Marzano tomato sauce: Pour a can of whole San Marzano tomatoes in a food processor and blend. Pour the sauce into a pan and reduce it over medium heat by half, until the sauce has thickened. Use this sauce in the recipe.

This is what I’m serving my guests at Christmas dinner. It’s a rich and delicious surf-and-turf, using wild Texas boar and locally caught Rhode Island scallops, that beats steak and lobster hands-down! Wild boar isn’t an ingredient you can find everywhere, but pork belly is, and it works just fine.

 

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For the pork belly…
3 lbs. fresh pork belly (I used wild boar belly)
salt and pepper
1–2 tablespoons leaf lard or olive oil
1 carrot, coarsely chopped
1 celery stalk, coarsely chopped
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 fennel bulb, quartered
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
4 cups beef stock
1 cup hard cider or apple juice

Pre-heat the oven to 350.

Season the belly with salt and pepper. On medium-high heat, melt the leaf lard, then sear the meat on all sides in an oven-proof pot big enough to hold it in one layer. Add the carrot, celery, onion, fennel, thyme and peppercorns and continue cooking for another 5 minutes, until caramelized.

Add the beef stock and the cider. Cover the pot with a lid or seal with aluminum foil, and braise the belly in the oven for 3 hours, until tender.

Remove the pot from the oven, carefully remove the pork belly, and put it on a plate. Cover it with foil. If you’re cooking earlier in the day, you can place the belly in the fridge at this point.

Strain the leftover braising liquid from the pot and discard the vegetables and thyme. Skim off the excess fat. If starting this dish earlier in the day, you can put this liquid in the fridge and the fat will harden, making it easier to remove.

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For the glaze…
braising liquid, strained
1 tablespoon espresso
1 tablespoon honey

In a small saucepan, reduce the brazing liquid by half, then add the espresso and honey. Cook a few more minutes until the sauce thickens. When it coats the back of a spoon, it’s ready. Set aside.

For the scallops…
Fresh scallops
salt and pepper

When you’re ready to serve, heat a pan on high heat with a little more leaf lard. Cut the belly into equal pieces and sear on all sides for about a minute. Place the scallops in the same pan, season with salt and pepper, and sear them on both sides, being careful not to overcook them.

To serve, place the belly on a plate. Top with a scallop or two. Drizzle glaze over the top. Season with Fleur de Sel or sea salt and serve immediately.

I’ve had Clams Casino in many different forms. Back when I worked in Italian restaurants in New York, we would make a breadcrumb mixture, press it onto a freshly opened whole clam, and then place a small piece of bacon on top before it went into the oven. It was good, but the clam often stuck to the shell, and many people didn’t want to gulp down a whole clam like that.

 

Oyster knife (left) and a clam knife (right.) Different tools for different jobs.

 

When it was time for me to make my own recipe, I decided that I would chop the clams and mix them into the breadcrumb mix, so that every bite was the same.

 

2 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup finely chopped Vidalia or other sweet onion (about a 1/2 an onion)
2 garlic cloves, squeezed through a garlic press
1/3 cup dry white wine
1/3 cup unflavored bread crumbs
1 tablespoon fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
Freshly cracked black pepper
2 dozen medium neck clams
1/3 lb. bacon, cut in small squares to fit the clam shells
Heat the olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the onions, and sauté them until they’re translucent. Add the garlic, and cook for 10 seconds. Add the wine and simmer for a minute. Add the bread crumbs, and stir the mixture until it becomes thicker, like a paste. Add the parsley and oregano. Season with pepper. (There’s going to be plenty of salt in the clam juice and bacon, so no salt is needed.)

The bread crumb mixture.

Remove the pan from the heat and let it cool.
It’s time to open the clams. If you know how to do that, open them over a sieve with a bowl underneath so that the clam meats and juices are captured. Discard any broken shells, but save the good ones.
If you struggle with opening clams, this method makes it a little easier: Bring a large pot of water to boil, and drop the clams into it, about 10 at a time, for 30 seconds. Don’t let them open! Remove the clams with a slotted spoon and place them in a bowl to cool. Continue doing this in small batches until all the clams have been in the water. You’ll find this makes opening the clams much easier. Then proceed as above.
Once you’ve shucked all the clams, let the clam juice sit for a bit, so that any grit settles to the bottom of the bowl. Then pour off the clean clam juice and add it to your bread crumb mixture. (Don’t worry if it looks soggy at this point.)

Looking a little soggy, but that’s OK.

I like to hand chop the clam meats instead of using a food processor. You want tasty clam chunks, not too big but not mush. Add the clams to the the bread crumb mix.
At this point, if the clam mix looks very soggy, simply add a little more bread crumb to dry it out.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Line a large baking sheet with foil. Separate the clam shell halves and wash them, making sure you don’t have any shell fragments left in the clam shell.  Fill them with the clam mixture, mounding them slightly, and placing each one on the baking sheet.

Clams and bacon…delicious!

Cut the bacon in small squares to fit the clam shells. Place a small piece of raw bacon on the top of each clam.
Bake until the clams are just cooked through, the topping is golden, and the bacon is cooked, about 30 minutes.

This makes a great appetizer, but it’s hard to just eat a few!