Tag Archives: clams

Fideua: Spanish Pasta with Clams, Mussels, and Shrimp

I had an urge to make paella — but not the more traditional kind made with rice — and now that I think of it, if rice isn’t in it, then it’s probably not called paella.  No, I’d seen a recipe featured in Saveur some time ago which used thin, short pieces of pasta resembling spaghetti broken to bits, and it’s taken me until recently to give it a go.  I haven’t made paella for years thinking that having a best friend who’s a pro at whipping out her four foot diameter authentic paella pan whenever anyone mentions “party” has kept me lazy.  I don’t have a paella pan, but can manage a batch in a large skillet on my stove instead of a wood fueled fire on the patio which could incite neighbors to call 911 because they think the house is on fire.

The intrigue of the pasta or fideos based paella is the cooking process.  It’s very similar to a rice-based recipe, but pasta absorbs the liquid more quickly, and there’s less a worry about whether or not to stir the rice you’re not supposed to stir so it can develop a nice crust.  That isn’t the case with the pasta version, but it’s a challenge to keep from stirring it when you’ve got an impetuous stirrer in residence.

A basic paella requires a good pan which is not so thick, heat that will be distributed evenly across the pan, a short-grained rice that will absorb liquid without making the rice gummy, and liquid.  The finished product should be moist, but unlike risotto, contain separate pieces of tender rice.  Since I was foregoing rice for the recipe I chose, and because the original recipe was relatively easy, I decided to make my own fish stock — because.

Picture me at the Asian market in front of the fish case scanning several varieties of fish heads.  Large fish heads.  Inexpensive fish heads —  all under $4/lb.  A perky young man behind the counter asks whether he can help me and I tell him while pointing to a white fish, “I’m making fish stock,” to which he responds pointing to the salmon, “It better for you.”  I know this, but also know it’s very oily.  Should I mention that no matter how good salmon is for me, I am not one of its biggest fans?  He continues, “You want me clean it up for you?”  And I say that I’m happy to do it myself, but he grins and says, “I do it better for you.  You too busy.”

I am so not busy and loving every second of it.  Any busyness in my life now is self-generated.

But he certainly was correct about doing it better than I could, because after I removed the brown paper wrapping at home, I had to admire an extremely clean,  perfectly sectioned salmon head.  What had I been thinking before?  Had I insisted on taking care of it myself, I would have had to wrestle with it without the correct type of knife, then smell like the village fish monger for my trouble.  A not very busy fish monger, but still.

I was still concerned about making broth with salmon so had to do some research before choosing a recipe.  Evidently, it’s a matter of opinion.

Have you ever made any kind of fish stock before?

If you aren’t in the mood to tackle that, there are other options, but if you’re a paella lover, try this version of Fideua for a change.  Or, if you’ve always wondered about paella but haven’t tried it, start with this.

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Clams with Linguica and Beer

 

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It’s Friday, and for us that means that dinner is never a serious issue. Good thing, too, since no one has any energy, right?  It means no fuss or muss, but flavor isn’t something to sacrifice.  Take out doesn’t count on that front, ever, since the whole point of take out for us is flavor with zero fuss or muss.

But clams and take out don’t exactly mix– at least not around here.  And ironically, even though we have the Chesapeake Fish Co. harvesting and processing excellent sea food here in San Diego, the retail clams I purchase most often are shipped from the East Coast.  So much for being a locovore.  The tag on the bag I brought home stated that the clams were harvested one day, shipped the next, and they ended up in my kitchen a day and a half later.

Our passion for clams started with this recipe which I saw in the May 2002 issue of Bon Appetit.  It was featured in an article on Capri and the lemons that grow in that region of Italy, and I had to try it.  Since then, not only have I altered that recipe again and again, but I’ve tried a number of others like this Spanish version which may be our favorite.

Recently, I decided to experiment with a different recipe — one that included linguica —  a type of Portuguese sausage which is firm, and more similar to Spanish chorizo than regular sausage.  In the case of this latest recipe, the liguica came first, and not the recipe.  That’s how it usually works.  I see an ingredient while I’m shopping and put it in my basket knowing I’ll come up with something, so it’s been sitting patiently in my fridge, waiting for me to figure it out — tempting me each time I open the cheese drawer and making me think, “Jeez! I forgot I had that!  What’s the expiration date????”

My latest clam “something” began with an Italian idea influenced by a Spanish recipe, and was supposed to have a New England spin, but the English beer and Portuguese sausage sort of changed everything.

I’ll leave it as “Clams with Linguica and Beer.”  There’s nothing fancy about this one, but it’s perfect for a Friday night at home.  Don’t forget the crusty bread.  You’ll need it to soak up the broth.  Mmmm…

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Tapas, anyone? Valencian-Style Clams & Tomato Garlic Bread

 

For Valentine’s Day, the hubster surprised me with two days and a night at the Ritz-Carlton in Laguna Niguel.  Yes, I’m lucky, and no, I won’t trade.

On the drive home, we both felt a bit sluggish (that’s what relaxing does to you…) and I suggested that we do a week of light dinners.  At this point in the winter, even though we thankfully aren’t dealing with ice and snow, we are still more sedentary than we’d like to be and begin to think about moving our carcasses around a bit.  Well, the idea of it is good anyway, right?  A commitment to light eating is a much more palatable way to approach spring which isn’t that far off.

Almejas Valencianas or Valencian-Style Clams was a perfect choice.  Well, until I decided to add the Pan con Tomate y Anchoa, or Garlic, Olive oil, and Fresh Tomato on Toasted Bread.  To our credit, we only ate half the bread, and the clams were amazing, so our appetites were quite satisfied.  The recipe was originally made with mussels and is quite famous in Valencia, Spain where it’s made at the popular Bar Pilar.

Both recipes are great for tapas if you want something quick on a night with friends.

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Pasta with Clams in a Lemon Wine Broth


I grew up eating very simple meals that were repeated often in the course of a month. It was good food, but never complicated, and very little seafood was prepared — that is except for the flounder my mother purchased in somewhat thin, brick-like frozen packages.  The flounder was thawed, the fillets pulled apart, then floured and fried.  It wasn’t an unpleasant meal, it just wasn’t anything special and I rarely looked forward to those meals.  It must have made an impression on me, because I don’t believe I’ve ever fried flounder for my family.  Not that I have anything against flounder; I’m just aware of so many more possibilities with respect to seafood.  I also believe the choices are more abundant for the home cook which makes cooking and eating far more pleasurable than ever before.

My boys have grown up trying just about everything imaginable — especially my youngest, now 15.  That is most likely because I’m not afraid to try new types of cuisine, new flavors, and trust that if a recipe has been published, it has at least a fighting chance of being “good.”

Many summers ago, my husband, youngest son and I traveled up the California coast to Monterey, one of our favorite places.  Along the trip, we stopped in Santa Barbara for the day, and had lunch at a pleasant Italian restaurant.  Surprisingly, my son, who must have been only eight at the time ordered mussels.  I do remember that they sounded delicious with garlic, white wine, and basil being a few of the ingredients, but I’d never made mussels before.  And to my knowledge, we’d not ordered them in a restaurant with my son along.  So, order we did!  He truly enjoyed them, and we enjoyed watching him eat them.  No sooner than we’d arrived in Monterey, he ordered more, and to our continued surprise, made comments about liking the mussels he’d ordered in Santa Barbara more.

To some extent, I’d like to take some credit for this.  Only one of us has serious food allergies, so meal time at our house has always been an adventure, and clearly my boys (and husband) have grown from the experience.

After returning home from our vacation, I began to look around for recipes to emulate the dishes my son had tried.  There was just something about cooking my own shell fish I wasn’t too comfortable about.  Maybe admonishment from experts on freshness, and concerns about resulting illness could have been a factor.  Possibly, but not nearly as much as walking past the local chain grocer’s “fish” counter and smelling the pungent odor of ammonia mixed with fish clearly anything but fresh was more of a deterrent.  And the selection?  Pathetic if at all existent, and not something I’d consider.  Ever.  Completely disgusting.  Truly fresh fish rarely smells fishy.

That was about the time I discovered Whole Foods and sea food that was refreshingly sans the fishy odor.  I then found a recipe that is probably the one I’ve made more than any other recipe (remember I have that problem of rarely making a recipe more than once — ever):  Spaghetti with Fresh Clams, Parsley, and Lemon.  I found it in an issue of Bon Appetit I still have and cherish — one of the issues that focuses on a particular region’s food, and in the case of this recipe, the citrus from the isle of Capri off the coast of Italy.  And wouldn’t I absolutely love to travel there some day…*sigh*  I have served it in enormous platters at parties to the oohs and ahs of guests, as a main dish with pasta, as the original recipe calls for, and as a starter to a nice dinner.  I’ve used mussels — black and green lip, which are completely gorgeous, by the way — a variety of clams, and a mixture of both.  I’ve used basil instead of parsley, added chopped tomatoes, and dolloped goat’s cheese to sharpen the broth.  Any way this recipe has been made has delivered very pleasing results.  If given a choice, my husband prefers clams, and my son, mussels.  I don’t care, because both are excellent as long as I have a thick chunk of bread to soak up the broth remaining in my bowl.
So the days of avoiding fish at the chain market and denying ourselves a meal of delicious seafood are over.  Not too far from our house, El Pescador sells fresh seafood.  It’s a small store packed with mouth-watering possibilities. It’s also a restaurant, and from the looks of the menu, one that serves quite tasty fare. I’ve not been there often, but have discovered that if I purchase my clams there, I won’t fill my basket with the other lovely items that find their way onto my shopping bill at Whole Foods.  So I’ve added another trip, but it’s worth it, because El Pescador sells lovely, fresh seafood.  Perfect for summertime.

The original recipe  for this Pasta with Clams in a Lemon Wine Broth is linked above.  I’ve included my revisions in the recipe below.

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