Monday, May 28, 2012

Yummy Clams and Mussels

It’s  May and the weather keeps going from hot to cold,  so this past weekend I found myself wanting to make a mix of clams and mussels! I love them, but I used to only eat them when dining out because I could never get them cleaned. I learned a few tips that make them so easy to prepare and my guests just go crazy.
For mussels, scrub them with a brush under cold water and scrape off any barnacles with a knife. If the beard is still attached (most cultivated mussels have been trimmed mechanically), remove it by pulling it from tip to hinge or pulling and cutting it off with your knife. Do this just before cooking. Discard any with cracked or open shells. I also have a great tip for getting the sand out of clams.  Rinse them off in cold water to get rid of the gunk. While keeping them submerged in water place a stainless steel spoon over them and stream water continuously for ten minutes. The combination of the water and the stainless creates an electrical current that causes the clams to spit out any sand.
And what about  the grand debate between New England and Manhattan clam chowder? In the San Francisco Bay Area where I grew up you find both done very well, but don’t tell them in Boston!
Grab some crusty bread, a nice glass of wine and enjoy these recipes sure to bring on stimulating conversation and a spectacular evening.
Manhattan Clam Chowder
2 slices bacon ( sub with 2 more tablespoons olive oil)
1 tbsp olive oil
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4-teaspoon celery seed
2 bay leaves
12 ounces of tomato juice, strained tomatoes or crushed tomatoes
1 14-ounce can of clam juice
2 10-ounce cans of baby clams
1 pound waxy potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks
A dozen or so live small clams, such as littlenecks or Manila clams
Salt and pepper to taste
Tabasco or other hot sauce
Render the bacon fat. Slowly cook the bacon with the olive oil until the bacon is crispy. Remove, chop and set aside. Turn the heat to medium-high and sauté the carrots, celery and onion until soft and translucent, about 4-5 minutes. Do not brown the vegetables. Return chopped bacon to the pot. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the herbs, tomato juice, clam broth and the juice from the canned clams, mix well, then add the potatoes. Bring to a simmer, cover and simmer gently until the potatoes are done, about 30-40 minutes.  When the potatoes are tender, add the canned clams and the live clams cover the pot and simmer until the live clams open up, about 5-10 minutes. Add tabasco, salt and black pepper to taste. Place a clam in shell or two in each bowl for serving.
New England Clam Chowder
2 cups clams, chopped
4 cups clam juice
1 large white onion, finely chopped
1 cup celery, finely diced
2 cups potatoes, finely diced
1/2-cup flour
1 quart half and half
Salt and pepper to taste
1 stick butter (1/2 cup)
In a large soup pot bring clams, clam juice onion, celery and potatoes to a boil. Reduce to medium heat and simmer until vegetables are tender. In the meantime, melt butter; add flour, blend and cook one minute or two. Add half & half. Cook and stir until smooth and thick.  After you have made the white sauce and it is the thickness you want, just turn the stove off and wait for about 10-15 minutes before you add the un-drained vegetables and clams. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with oyster crackers!
Mussel Soup
5 pounds fresh mussels, brushed and cleaned from all the sand
1 Tablespoon butter
1 shallot, chopped finely
1 celery branch, diced
3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 bay leaf
1 thyme twig
1/2 cup white wine
Fresh parsley
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
Pinch saffron
Salt and pepper
In a large soup pot, heat butter on medium heat. Cook the shallot and celery without browning for 1 to 2 minutes, then add the garlic with thyme and bay leaf, and continue to cook for 1 minute. Add the mussels and white wine, with a bunch of parsley. Season with salt and pepper and cook on high heat, covered until all the mussels are open about 5 minutes. Discard all mussels that are not open. Remove the mussels from the pot and set aside. Filter the juice. Shell the mussels (keep 1/3 with the shells). In the stockpot, pour the juice again and add the coconut milk, saffron and turmeric and heat to reach a simmer. Add the mussels and keep warm. Serve with fresh parsley in bowls, and accompany with a tasty loaf of rustic bread!
Roasted Clams with Garlic Butter
6 lbs. clams in shell
3/4 lb. butter
8 cloves garlic, sliced
Melt butter and add garlic. Stir and keep warm over low heat. 

Wash clams thoroughly in running water. Arrange clams on baking sheet and bake at 450° F. for 15 minutes till they open. 

Serve the clams warm with the garlic butter.
Mussels in Curry Broth
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 cup minced shallots
4 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
1 small chili pepper, seeded and minced
1-tablespoon curry powder
4 cups bottled clam juice
1 (2-inch) strip of lime zest
1/2 pounds mussels
3/4-cup coconut milk
Salt to taste. 
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup of fresh cilantro, chopped
Lime wedges, for garnish
In a large, heavy saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallots, ginger, and chili pepper. Cover and cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until the shallots are soft (about 7 minutes). Add the curry powder and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Increase the heat to high, add the clam juice and lime zest, and bring to a boil. Boil until reduced to 2 cups, about 5 minutes. Add the mussels, cover, and cook, shaking the pan frequently, until all the shells have opened, 5 to 7 minutes. Scoop the mussels into large bowls.

Stir the coconut milk and sugar into the broth and adjust the seasoning. Add cilantro. Spoon the broth over the shellfish and garnish with fresh lime wedges. Serve immediately.
Steamed Clams In Beer
24 clams
4 sprigs fresh parsley, chopped
12 oz good dark beer
6 cloves garlic, chopped
1 stick butter
In a small saucepan sauté chopped garlic and fresh parsley with melted butter. Keep warm on low. Place clams in the bottom of a clam steamer or deep boiling pot. Add beer. Beer level should be only 1-2 inches from bottom. Cover and bring beer to a boil and steam until top clams barely open (about 3-5 minutes). Do not over cook, as clams will become tough and rubbery.
Mussels and Clams in White Wine
1 pound mussels
1 pound clams
4 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1shallot, chopped
2 cups dry white wine
Juice and zest from 1 lemon
5 sprigs flat leaf parsley
6 chives, sliced
Clean the mussels, scrubbing to remove the beards. Clean the clams as described above. In a sauté pan, heat the olive oil. Add the chopped garlic and shallots. Sauté until they soften. Add the white wine and lemon juice. Finish with the parsley and chives. 

Add the mussels and clams. Cover the pan and let mussels and clams steam open.
3 cups tomato juice
1 onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, sliced thin
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 sprig rosemary, chopped
1 sprig marjoram, chopped
1 sprig oregano, chopped
½ pound fresh fish (flounder, haddock, perch), boned and cut into 1″ pieces
½ cup red wine
12 clams in the shell
1-pound shrimp, in the shell
4- tablespoon Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
6 parsley sprigs, chopped
8 lemon wedges
Place tomato juice in a pot and bring to a simmer. Add onion, celery, rosemary, marjoram, oregano, garlic, and fish to the pot and simmer, covered, for an hour to thicken broth. Add the wine, shrimp, and clams and heat to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the shrimp just turn pink. Serve in heated bowls, topped with cheese, a wedge of lemon, and parsley.

For The Love Of Chocolate!

Oh chocolate!  My true love! How many nights it has been you and I!  The evening ends with me beating myself up after hours at the gym and then the sun goes down and I just can’t resist you!  Who knew we were doing something so terribly right! Dark chocolate has been shown to reduce LDL levels (the bad cholesterol) by up to 10 percent and it contains phenylethylamine which is the chemical the brain produces when we fall in love. It contains neurotransmitters that act like little messengers running around our brain telling the body what to do. Serotonin, one of the main neurotransmitters in the body, acts as an anti-depressant.
Chocolate has antioxidants. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals, which damage cells, clog arteries, and contribute to chronic illness and aging. It contains more calcium than eight ounces of milk and it is full of flavonoids which are pigments found in plants that help reduce damage to the body. They help relax blood pressure through the production of nitric oxide and are good for the heart. It releases endorphins that are natural feel-good chemicals. It just makes you feel good! So grab a slab and enjoy guilt free these recipes! Once again chocolate is our friend!

Chocolate Dipped Strawberries
8 ounces 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate chips
1 pound strawberries with stem, washed and dried completely
3 ounces white chocolate (to garnish half)
Place chocolate in heatproof pan. Fill a medium saucepan with a couple inches of water and bring to a boil over medium heat. Turn off the heat; set the bowl of chocolate over the water to melt. Stir until smooth.
Once the chocolates are melted and smooth, remove from the heat. Line a sheet pan with parchment or waxed paper. Holding the strawberry by the stem, dip the fruit into the dark chocolate, lift and twist slightly, letting any excess chocolate fall back into the bowl. Set strawberries on the parchment paper. Repeat with the rest of the strawberries. Melt the white chocolate the same way and with a fork drizzle over half of the strawberries for a lovely presentation.
Chocolate Risotto
3 tablespoons Butter
1-tablespoon olive oil
Small red onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup Arborio Rice
1-cup mushrooms, sliced
¼ to ½ cup white wine
3 to 5 cups hot chicken or vegetable stock
3 teaspoons Dutch processed cocoa
Dash of smoked paprika
1-cup parsley, chopped
Parmesan Cheese to serve
Mix butter and olive oil in a stockpot over low heat until butter is melted. Add onion and a pinch of salt. Stir until onion is translucent. Add garlic and stir for about a minute. Add rice and stir a few minutes. Add mushrooms and stir for about 5 minutes until they soften.
Add wine and stir until absorbed. Add hot stock about ½ a cup at a time. Keep the heat hot enough so the rice keeps gently simmering and absorbing each addition of stock. When the rice is plump and cooked when tasted you have added enough stock. Stir in 1-tablespoon cocoa and dash of paprika. Taste and check seasoning.  Stir through some parsley and Parmesan.
Chocolate Pancakes with Chocolate Sauce
For pancakes:
1/2 cup Dutch-process unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1-cup sugar
1/2-teaspoon baking soda
1/8-teaspoon salt
2 whole large eggs
1 large egg yolk
3/4-cup well-shaken buttermilk
1/4-cup vegetable oil
1-teaspoon vanilla
Unsalted butter for greasing griddle
Sift together cocoa, flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl, then whisk in eggs, yolk, buttermilk, oil, and vanilla until combined well.
Heat a griddle or nonstick skillet over moderately low heat and lightly coat with butter.
Working in batches of 2 or 3, pour 1/4 cup batter per cake onto hot griddle and cook until bubbles appear on surface, 1 to 2 minutes. Flip cakes with a large spatula and cook until tops spring back when pressed gently, about 1 minute more. Transfer to a plate and loosely cover with foil to keep warm. Add 1/2-teaspoon butter to griddle between batches.
Serve cakes in stacks, topped with chocolate sauce.
For the sauce:
1 cup heavy cream
7 ounces 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Baking Chips
Bring cream to a boil in a 1-quart saucepan, then pour hot cream over chocolate in a bowl, gently whisking until smooth. Keep warm or at room temperature.
Chocolate Truffles
12 ounces semi- sweet chocolate (chips or a bar broken into small pieces)
1 stick butter
1/2-cup ground chocolate
In a double broiler, melt the chocolate over simmering water, stirring constantly. (If you don’t have a double broiler you can use a smaller pan for the chocolate and a larger one to simmer the water. Just be careful especially with the kids, as it is slightly awkward.) Remove from heat. Add butter stirring until melted. Chill until firm enough to form into small round pieces. Roll in ground chocolate. Chill overnight in refrigerator. Makes about 40.
Green Tea and Chocolate Truffles
Around mid-day I usually have a cup of green tea. It was one time when I was eating a piece of chocolate that I thought how amazing the two would be together. The subtle essence and healing power of green tea make these really special.
2/3-cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces and softened
2 teaspoons loose Green Tea leaves
8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup cocoa powder
In a medium saucepan bring cream and butter to a boil and stir in tealeaves. Remove from heat and let steep 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, finely grind chocolate in a food processor and transfer to a bowl. Pour cream through a fine-mesh sieve onto chocolate, pressing on and discarding tealeaves, then whisk until smooth. Chill mixture covered, until firm, overnight. Drop mixture by rounded teaspoons onto prepared baking sheet. . Refrigerate until firm, about three hours.
Place cocoa powder in a bowl. Roll truffles in mixture. Cover with plastic; chill until ready to serve.
Chocolate Fondue
Combine in a medium, heavy saucepan:
1-cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons butter
Stirring constantly bring to a rolling boil. Remove the pan from the heat and immediately add:
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
Let stand for one minute, then whisk until smooth. Whisk in:
2 teaspoons vanilla, or a splash of brandy or orange liqueur.
Pour into a fondue pot and serve with shortbread, pound cake and any fruit you like.
Very Chocolate Ice Cream
2-cup heavy cream
6 heaping tablespoons Valhrona cocoa
6 1/2 6 ounces 60%cacao bittersweet chocolate
1-cup milk
5 egg yolks
1/2-cup sugar
1/4-teaspoon salt
1-teaspoon vanilla
In a medium pot heat 1 cup of heavy cream with cocoa; whisk well to ensure the cocoa dissolves properly. When cream is bubbling at the edges, remove from heat and add dark chocolate. Wait 30 seconds then give it a good stir until it’s all incorporated. Add remaining cup of cream to pot, stir to combine, then pour the contents into a medium sized non-metal bowl, scraping out the pot as well as you can, and place a strainer over the bowl. Place the pot back on the stove, and add the cup of milk, 1/2 cup of sugar and the salt. Heat the milk and sugar gently on the stove while you get your egg yolks ready. Whisk the egg yolks together and then grab the pot from the stove. SLOWLY drizzle warm milk into the egg yolks, whisking the entire time until everything’s all combined. Then dump the liquid back into the pot. Stir constantly with a wooden or other heat-safe spoon or spatula over medium heat until the eggs thicken a bit, into custard. You’ll know it’s done when you can hold up the spoon and run your finger through the egg-milk mixture and the line you drew with your finger stays there. Pour custard through the strainer into the bowl. Add vanilla and stir to combine the chocolaty goodness. Place a piece of plastic wrap over the bowl, literally touching the entire surface of the ice cream base. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours then prepare according to your ice cream maker’s instructions. Once you’ve got it into your final container, freeze again for at least 6 hours – Remove from the freezer 10-15 minutes before eating so it has time to soften a bit before serving.
Chocolate Basil Cake with Chocolate Cream Frosting
1-cup sugar
1 cup packed fresh basil leaves (plus addition leaves for garnish)
8 tablespoons butter
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 large eggs
1/2-teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4-teaspoon salt
3/4-cup all-purpose flour
1/2-cup hot water
1 cup 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Baking Chips
1 recipe chocolate cream, frosting (below)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a 9-inch round cake pan with Bakers Joy. Place the sugar and basil in a food processor. Process until basil is chopped fine and uniformly green in color (it will look slightly wet). In a large bowl whisk the melted butter, cocoa powder and basil sugar until well blended. Whisk in the eggs, 1 at a time, until blended and smooth. Stir in the baking soda, vanilla, and salt.
Gradually add flour to bowl, stirring just until blended (do not over stir). Add hot water to mixture, stirring just until blended. Add chips. Pour batter into prepared pan.
Bake 22-25 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes on a wire rack. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Cut into squares. Cool completely, Prepare sour cream frosting. Spread over cake and garnish with basil leaves.
Chocolate Cream
1 and 1/2 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
6 tablespoons butter, softened
½ cup 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Baking Chips
1-teaspoon vanilla
In a medium bowl whisk the powdered sugar and cocoa powder; set aside. In a separate medium bowl beat the butter and melted chocolate with an electric mixer on low speed until blended. Gradually add sugar mixture to the butter mixture, beating at low speed until well blended. Add vanilla and beat well for 1 minute until very smooth and creamy.

Happy Memorial Day!

Memorial Day marks the first official BBQ of the 2012 summer! It is traditional to fly the flag of the United States at half mast from dawn until noon. Many people visit cemeteries and memorials, particularly to honor those who have died in military service. Volunteers place an American flag on each grave in national cemeteries.
This grown up version of a classic warm weather treat will bring a smile to the faces of your guests. Enjoy the beautiful long weekend! Cheers!
Memorial Day Banana Split
2 frozen bananas, chopped
1 cup heavy cream
1/4-1/3 cup Patron XO Cafe Dark Cocoa
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons sugar
1/3 cup whipped cream plus 1 tablespoon for garnish
Place bananas, cream, Patron, vanilla and 1/3 cup whipped cream in a blender. Blend on low until smooth and thick. Garnish with extra tablespoon of whipped cream, coffee grounds or chocolate chips and enjoy!