Like Father, Like Daughter

My dad makes this outrageous clam chowder that people will literally put in requests for. Sometimes in the winter my mom and dad will host an oyster roast at their house and my dad will steam oysters under a wet towel on the grill outside and we’ll stand around shucking them over plywood laid out on saw horses with big steaming bowls of this chowder. It is really culinary perfection – exactly the way I love to eat and experience food.

The chowder that he makes isn’t thick and creamy like up north, this is what we call “Hatteras Style” clam chowder and it’s really more of a soup than a chowder. It’s brothy, chunky and extremely peppery. For the longest time I assumed it was some sort of complicated recipe that I didn’t want to take on, until one night when I was pining for it, he said nonchalantly,  “all you need is a can of clams and some potatoes.” What?? Seriously??

Anyways, the simplicity of this recipe doesn’t make it any less amazing. Much like me, my dad doesn’t cook to a precise recipe, so these amounts were estimated by me until it looked and tasted similar to his. I will say, just when you think you’ve added enough pepper, add some more.

Bob’s Clam Chowder, Hatteras Style

Hatteras Style Clam Chowder

Ingredients:

  • 3 stalks of celery, diced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 tbs butter
  • 4 medium red potatoes, diced
  • 2 small cans of chopped clams or 1 large can (depends on where you go – most grocery stores just carry the small, tuna can sized ones)
  • salt, pepper and parsley to taste

Method:

  1. Melt the butter in a large stock pot and add the onions and celery and saute until soft
  2. Add the potatoes, add salt and pepper and stir well
  3. Add both cans of clams – WITH juice, stir well
  4. Add 3 cups of water (or more depending on how brothy you want it)
  5. Bring to a boil, then down to a simmer for 15 minutes or until potatoes are easily pierced with a fork.
  6. Add more salt and pepper to taste. Serve steaming hot with oyster crackers

Hatteras Style Clam Chowder

This recipe makes about four hearty bowls. Double for more or triple for a crowd. At some stores you’ll be able to find the huge cans of chopped clams, which is probably worthwhile if you’re cooking for a small army.

 

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Shrimp Ceviche Saturday

I’m on my own this Saturday night and whenever that happens I like to make myself something special. Usually that means a giant wheel of Brie and a bottle of wine but since I’m cutting back on the cheese I decided to do something a little more “clean.” I accidentally bought pre-cooked shrimp at the grocery store the other day (instead of raw) – this is my problem with the grocery store. I want to get out of there so bad that I just blindly grab things that look right. I’m the worst grocery shopper ever. I usually only come home with half of what I need because I hate it so bad. It’s a conundrum to love to cook but to hate to shop for food. Oh well. Crosses to bear and all that. Anyways! Shrimp ceviche it is! It just sounded perfect. And it is. And easy. And there’s really no “cooking” involved. Cheers!

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Shrimp ceviche

Ingredients:

  • 1 red onion, diced small
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • the juice of two limes
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and diced small
  • 1 cucumber, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, each tomato quartered
  • 1 lb large, cooked, deveined shrimp
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • salt and pepper to taste

Method:

  1. Dice red onion and put into a bowl with the lime juice, season lightly with salt and pepper and let marinate at least 5 minutes 
  2. Dice the avocado, jalapeno, cucumber, tomatoes and add to bowl with onions
  3. Peel the shrimp and cut into three pieces per each shrimp – add to the bowl with the rest of the ingredients, mix well. Stir in the cilantro. Serve in martini glasses at room temperature or chilled.
Shrimp Ceviche

Shrimp Ceviche

Ceviche is a general term for any seafood dish, where the seafood is “cooked” by curing in an acidic  marinade, usually primarily made of lime juice or tomato juice. I can’t recommend to you that you use raw shrimp in ceviche unless you are getting it fresh off the boat, straight from the water and are curing it within half on hour of picking  it up. Fish is a little different, but with shrimp, just be careful.

This dish is so light and delicious and pairs perfectly with a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. So light and delicious, in fact, that before you know it, you’ve eaten an entire bowl of Ceviche and 3/4 a bottle of wine . . . although, to be fair, I only made half of this recipe. And to be perfectly honest, I drank the entire bottle of wine. What? It’s St. Patrick’s day weekend, give me break. Ceviche, take me away!

Try, try again

One of my favorite cooking traditions is on the weekends when Jeremy and I get up and make breakfast together, side by side at the stove – him frying bacon and me scrambling eggs. But this past weekend he was out of town and to console myself, and to keep from eating obscene amounts of bacon, I decided to get a little inventive with breakfast. I had dropped by Trader Joe’s late last week after dropping Jeremy off at the airport and scored (among many, many other things) some great smoked salmon and a bag of ripe avocados. Somewhere in the back of my mind a light bulb flickered: salmon and avocado crepes. OK, so I don’t exactly bake, and making crepes feels like baking – there is flour sifting involved. So I made some pancake mix work for my purposes and here’s what I came up with:

I used the pancake mix, with a little more almond milk than it called for and a plop (yes, a plop is a technical cooking measurement) of Greek yogurt, lemon zest and a squirt of fresh lemon juice. I poured that into a non-stick skillet very thinly and swirled the pan to cover the bottom, flipping after only a minute or so. Then I smeared a cream cheese/herbed goat cheese mixture on the crepe, laid out some smoked salmon and avocado slices, then rolled up and topped with another plop of yogurt.

Verdict? Meh. Yeah, I admit, they look amazing. You would easily pay $12-15 for this plate at a restaurant, and maybe if I had I would have thought more highly of them, but something about the mouth feel of so many “creamy” things wasn’t doing it for me. Salmon, avocados, creamy cheese and the soft cake was all just a little too much. I was hoping the yogurt would tang it up a little, but it was too little, too late. Probably plenty of people would love this, if that flavor profile works for you, but it just doesn’t for me.

But I refused to be defeated. When Jeremy came back I decided to reinvent this dish into dinner and I knew exactly how to solve the problem. The answer was in the yogurt and the lemon all along. Instead of making crepes, I opted for two big pieces of naan. Then I made a tzatziki sauce with greek yogurt, cucumbers, lemon zest and juice, garlic, salt, pepper and dill. I toasted the naan, rubbed in some olive oil, covered with a layer of tzatziki, then topped that with a mashed avocado mixed with salt, pepper and a squirt of lemon juice. Then I quick “cured” the salmon by laying it flat on a plate topped with cucumbers and dill, then squeezed an entire lemon over top of it all and let it sit while I put the salad together. Then I put the salmon, cucumbers and dill on top of the avocado and voila – perfection.

The problem with the first dish was the similarity of textures and, to a degree, taste. This dish solves that problem by adding in the crunch of the cucumbers, the tanginess of the yogurt and the bright, fresh flavor that the lemon gives to everything.

Redemption: it’s what’s for dinner.

So the lesson is: if at first your recipe is gross, try try again. Seriously. Every chef or cook who has ever invented a recipe has taken it through various tests and many of those tests are bound to fail. You can’t get it right the first time, every time. Although sometimes you do, and it’s amazing, but those times are rare.

Do you have a unique recipe that you created? If so, share it with me! Post it in a comment and maybe I’ll give it a try on the blog! 

Get to crackin’

Let’s talk crabs. Of the crustacean sort, of course.

Blue crabs fresh from the Currituck Sound

Blue crabs are a way of life here. They are how many people, my uncle included, have made a living on the local waters. Growing up around bays where blue crabs thrive means that you learn how to crack a crab claw open before you learn how to use a fork, and I’m not kidding. Which brings me to one of my food obsession: food that takes a lot of work for a little bit of food. Crabs, shrimp, oysters, even pistachios – I LOVE eating food that is a challenge. There’s a sense of accomplishment, for one thing. It also extends the meal itself. Ever eaten a bushel of crabs with a small group of people? Two hours later and you’re wondering why there is still half a bushel of crabs left.  It forces you to relax, take your time, enjoy the company, the food, and everything else that entails.  Which is good, because for nearly $100/bushel, you should really, really enjoy them.

These crabs were caught by my (2nd? once removed? who knows) cousin, Mason who learned to crab from my uncle Wayne – his grandfather. They were delicious (both times) and I never take for granted the amount of work, from the crab pot to plate, that this kind of meal requires. Of course, you can’t have crabs without beer . . .

Crab claws make great beer-tab openers

I can eat crabs all by themselves….without stopping….for days on end….but I did decide to make a little cucumber and tomato salad with some local produce I’d gotten at the farmers market. One cucumber, halved, seeded, and cut into half moons, with halved cherry tomatoes in a sauce of Greek yogurt, dill from my garden, lemon zest and juice, garlic, salt and pepper.

Tomato and cucumber salad in Greek yogurt dressing

It’s a fun table to set: crabs, beer, fruit salad (local watermelon and peaches) and tomato and cucumber salad.

Crab dinner

And of course, we eat our crabs Carolina style – dipped in apple cider vinegar with salt and pepper. Another thing about growing up around here is learning to stomach, then appreciate apple cider vinegar. It goes on everything: BBQ, crabs, vegetables, collard greens – you name it. But did you know that it’s has some pretty serious health benefits? From WebMD.com “The effect of vinegar on blood sugar levels is perhaps the best-researched and the most promising of apple cider vinegar’s possible health benefits. Several studies have found that vinegar may help lower glucose levels. For instance, one 2007 study of 11 people with type 2 diabetes found that taking two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar before bed lowered glucose levels in the morning by 4%-6%.” Blue crab meat is also a great source of protein and is low in fat. It’s also a pretty amazing source of vitamin B-12, zinc, calcium and other nutrients. It’s also a good local “Sensible Seafood” decision, according to the Virginia Aquarium’s Sensible Seafood guide. But it’s important to note that what is a “sensible seafood” can vary by region, so while it’s sustainable here, it may not be in other parts of the country or world. Check out the original Sensible Seafood program at the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Site.

What are your favorite foods that you have to work for?