Saturday, June 17, 2017

Clams Casino

Clams casino is a clam on the half shell with breadcrumbs and bacon. The dish is popular with Italian-Americans, and when I was growing up it appeared regularly on the menus of every trattoria near and far.

Julian's Clams Casino ready for garnishing.
According to Good Housekeeping Great American Classics, the recipe for clams casino was originally developed in 1917 at the Little Casino in Narragansett, Rhode Island, by maître d'hôtel Julius Keller for Mrs. Paran Stevens who requested something special for her guests.  During this period in American history if a restaurant wanted to be noted, it came up with a dish that involved the baking of shellfish, and many did. However clams casino and oysters Rockefeller are among the few surviving dishes from this trend.

I've got my small clams on an escargot plate to hold them steady.
Preparing the Clams:  Before you try making this dish, watch a few of the online videos and read this step-by-step instruction on how to properly clean and shuck your clams. I do mine from the back the same as the guy in the video link I provided, but both methods work. It takes a little practice. Also consider how you will bake and serve the clams. As the bottoms of the shells are rounded, they don't sit easily and you don't want them to tip. Above I'm using an escargot plate. Anything with an indention will do, even a bed of salt (for cooking and serving) or seaweed (for serving only).

Clams Casino

The recipe makes 12 clam servings. If you are using them as an appetizer, than two-three per person is likely sufficient. 

Ingredients
Clams ready for fillings with clam juice preserved. 

4 slices bacon
12 large clams

1/4 cup minced shallot or onion
1/4 cup finely chopped green bell pepper
1/2 cup dried bread crumbs
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons dried parsley
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

4 cloves garlic, minced
4 tablespoons butter

1/4 teaspoon paprika
Chopped parsley for garnish

In a small skillet, cook bacon until crisp over medium heat. Crumble, and set aside. Reserve bacon drippings in the skillet.

Wash and open the clams (as noted above) being sure to cut them loose from the shell after you have it open, but leaving each in the bottom half of the shell. Take care to preserve as much of the liquid inside the clam shells as you open them. Discard the top shell.

Preheat oven to 450F degrees.

Warm the reserved bacon drippings in the skillet, and place pan over medium heat. Add onion and pepper and saute until tender, 3-4 minutes. Add the bread crumbs and stir until golden brown, another 2-3 minutes. Remove to a separate dish. Stir in the oregano, parsley and cheese. Toss in the crumble bacon and combine. Set aside.

Wipe out the skillet. Melt the butter over medium heat. Add the minced garlic and saute 1 minute.

Spoon the butter/garlic mixture into the clams. Spoon the bread crumb mixture on top of each buttered clam. Sprinkle with paprika.

Place the clams on a cookie sheet or in any type of oven save dish that will hold them steady making sure they will not rock and spill the ingredients. Bake for 7 minutes. Garnish with chopped parsley. Serve.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Fresh Blueberry Lemon Cake

With fresh blueberries now in abundance and knowing they always pair well with lemon, I set off to find a cake that utilized both summer-fresh ingredients.

Julian's Blueberry Lemon Cake
The original recipe came from the NatashasKitchen.com website which is heavily filled with advertising which makes pages hard to load and read. In any case, the recipe turned out well, although I added the two sauces. (Recipes at the bottom of this page.)

Her recipe calls for a 9-inch spring form pan and as I only have a 10-inch version, I used that. The 9-inch pan would give you a better result. My baking time was also reduced to 40 from the 50 minutes she reported.

Ingredients
2 large eggs
1 cup (210 grams) granulated sugar
1 cup (8 oz) sour cream
1/2 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups (260 grams) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 medium lemon (zest and juice), separated
1/2 tablespoon corn starch
16 ounces (450g) fresh blueberries
Powdered sugar to dust the top, optional

Instructions
Lightly butter or spray with food release a 9-inch spring form pan and line the bottom with parchment. Preheat Oven to 375F degrees.

In a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat 2 eggs and 1 cup sugar on high speed 5 minutes, or until light in color and thick. Add sour cream, oil,  vanilla, salt and mix on low speed until well combined.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour with baking powder. Add 1/3 of the batter to the egg/sugar mixture and on low speed, mix until combined. Add the remaining flour 1/3 at a time, mixing to incorporate with each addition. Finally, add 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice and all of the lemon zest and mix on low until combined.

Rinse blueberries and drain well. In a medium bowl, toss blueberries with the corn starch and 1 teaspoon of lemon juice. Toss to combine until there is no dry white cornstarch showing on the berries.

Pour half of batter into prepared pan and spread evenly. Top with half of the blueberries. Spread with remaining batter then sprinkle the rest of the blueberries evenly over the top, pushing them slightly into the batter (about halfway).

Bake at 375˚F for 40 to 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Check at 40 minutes and test regularly. Do not over-bake.

Let cake rest in the pan 15-20 minutes then remove ring and cool until room temp or just warm. Carefully lift the cake off the pan base and peel off the parchment. Place the cake on your serving plate.  When ready to serve, dust with powdered sugar. Do not dust in advance.

Optional Sauces

LEMON CURD
4 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
Finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Put egg yolks into a medium heatproof bowl; set aside.  Whisk together lemon zest, sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a medium saucepan. Add 1 1/2 cups water and the lemon juice; whisk until sugar and cornstarch have dissolved. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, whisking constantly. Cook 2 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low; gradually whisk one-third of the lemon mixture into the reserved egg yolks. Pour mixture into pan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, 2 1/2 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla. Pour into a bowl; place plastic wrap directly on surface. Keep at room temperature if using the same day to maintain the sauce consistency. Refrigerate for longer storage. Thin with some additional warm water if needed before serving.

BLUEBERRY SAUCE
1 pound fresh blueberries, wash and stemmed
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon corn starch
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Place the berries into a sauce pan.  Add the sugar, lemon juice and corn starch. Stir to combine. Cook over  medium-low heat until the berries soften, stirring regularly until they make a sauce. Let cook down to desired consistency. The longer you cook, the thicker they will become.  Keep at room temperature if using the same day to maintain the sauce consistency. Refrigerate for longer storage. Thin with some additional warm water if needed before serving.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Beef Brisket - Slow Cooker Method

Most people only enjoy beef brisket when it is served as corned beef around St. Patrick's day, but this meat has a nice flavor on its own and can easily be prepared in a slow cooker. In fact, a slow long cooking is required to make the meat tender and to bring out its very beefy flavor.

Julian's Trimmed Beef Brisket
I got my brisket at Costco and like all things there you get a large piece. To fit it into the Crockpot I cut it in half. The recipe also calls for chili sauce and here any variety you prefer will do. I've used the classic Heinz Chili Sauce (not very hot) to the quite spicy Sriracha. I would say I prefer the less spicy in this recipe.
SrirachaIngredients
1 (3-4 pound) beef brisket, trimmed of fat
salt and pepper
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
 1 can beer (12 ounces more or less)
 1 bottle tomato-based chili sauce
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
Instructions
Preheat the slow cooker on the high setting. Trim excess fat from the brisket and cut it in half if necessary so it fits in your slow cooker. In a hot skillet with a little vegetable oil, brown on both sides.

Season the brisket on both sides with salt and pepper, and place in the slow cooker. Cover with a layer of sliced onions. In a medium bowl, mix together the beer, chili sauce, and brown sugar. Pour over the beef making sure both layers get coated. Close the lid.

Cook for 3-4 hours until tender. Remove the crockpot lid and let cook another 30=45 minutes to reduce the liquid. Remove to a cutting board and tent with foil. Let the brisket rest and cool slightly before slicing.

You may return the sliced meat to the slow cooker to coat in the sauce or plate the meat and spoon the sauce over.