Archive for the ‘Starters’ Category
Ok, so I have to admit that this post is unavoidably related to my recent Valentine’s Day post on caviar. I had leftover blini, and I picked up a whole smoked trout from Fairway, and as such I couldn’t resist making a quick appetizer using the other ingredients that I had on hand for the caviar appetizer. So you, my dear readers, get to hear about a slightly different, and just as delicious, appetizer using those ingredients.
First off, I have to say that one of my favorite smoked fish products is smoked trout. It may actually trump smoked salmon in my “smoked fish hierarchy”. Smoked oysters might be in third place, but it depends upon the mood. If any of you have had a “Low Tide” martini, garnished with a smoked baby clam, perhaps you will understand my love for all things salty, briny, seafoody, and smoked.
Trout, being a freshwater fish, lacks the oily, fishy flavors that sometimes characterize a larger, saltwater fish. It takes to smoking very nicely, and has an amazingly clean, smoky flavor.
In keeping with the theme of exotic foods for Valentine’s day, the second course was escargots with garlic butter. Cooking escargot is very easy, but you will have to buy snail shells and canned snails in order to do it properly. My grocery store carries Roland brand escargot, but unfortunately didn’t carry the empty shells you need to complete the presentation. Instead they carried frozen escargots, in the shell, already stuffed with the butter sauce, so I had to “shell out” (pun intended) for pre-made escargots in order to get the shells to stuff with escargot going forward. Once you have the shells you can keep them and reuse them in the future, making escargot an easy appetizer that you don’t need to save for a special occasion. If you can’t find the shells in your local grocery store, you can buy them online here.
Last night, for Valentine’s Day, I put together a 4-course tasting menu of delicacies to enjoy with some champagne. Course number one was simple: Two types of caviar with blinis, creme fraiche, and chives.
Quesadillas are one of my favorite snack foods, because I almost always have the ingredients around to throw one together. Flour tortillas keep forever in the fridge, and if you have cheese, some vegetables, leftover chicken or beef of any kind, salsa, hot sauce, sour cream, or any combination thereof, you probably have enough things to whip up a great quesadilla.
Yesterday while wandering the flats at the Cape, we ended up heading toward Orleans. Out in the distance we saw people crouching over clusters of what looked like sea grass from afar, but what actually turned out to be an oyster farming operation. After chatting with the owners for a while about the business, we were offered oysters to take home. How could we say no? We saved a few to eat raw, but put 8 of them towards a quick Oysters Rockefeller.
Yesterday I went for a walk on the beach and came back with a dozen fresh razor clams. Razor clams are an often overlooked member of the mollusk family, and are not usually available in most fish markets. They are relatively difficult to catch, and are not commercially fished like other clams. At low tide on the bay at the Cape you can find as many as you want, as long as you know where to look, and I’ve been eating them since I was little. They work well in chowder or in baked stuffed clams, but they are also delicious on their own. They may look a little intimidating, but if you ever have the opportunity to eat them, you won’t regret it.
Welfleet, just north of Eastham where my family has their house, is famous for its oysters. For a buck apiece you can get fresh whole oysters from any fish market in town. They’re $2 each shucked at the Beachcomber, Welfleet’s famous beachfront concert bar where just last weekend I saw Peter Tosh’s son perform. Shucking oysters is a bit of a chore, but once you get the hang of it they’re not all that bad. You’ll need a clam knife to open your oysters, and I recommend wearing a glove or using a towel to protect the hand holding the oyster while you do it. Slide the clam knife into the seam on the front of the shell, run it around the edges of the oyster, and open it up. Detach the muscle that holds the oyster to the shell, and serve on the half shell with horseradish, cocktail sauce, and lemon.
This is a recipe that I grew up making after finding a recipe card for “Dicky’s Clams Casino” in my Grandmother’s recipe box. I asked my Dad to show me how to do it, and I’ve added a few touches of my own. Over the years my version of the recipe has been refined and solidified, and I make it the same way each summer. It’s very close to my Dad’s recipe, but I’ve modified a few things. I think they’re the best baked stuffed clams I’ve ever eaten. You can try making them and be the judge. The stuffing proportions are approximations, since I just eyeball it every time, but I think they should be pretty close.
You can’t come to Cape Cod and leave without having some fried clams. You can get fried clam strips, or you can go for the whole-belly clams, which are fried steamers. They have much more flavor than clam strips, so I always go for whole-belly. This past weekend I went out and dug 2 dozen steamers, and figured I’d put together a beer batter and fry them up.
Those of you who know me well knew that this post was going to happen at some point. It’s June on Cape Cod, which means one thing: june bugs. Big, noisy, and attracted to light at night, these guys congregate on our porch screens by the dozens. It’s a snack that comes straight to you! A quick saute in olive oil with a sprinkling of salt and chili powder, and they are ready to eat. Once you get over the fact that you’re eating a bug, you will notice that they have a nice, smooth, nutty flavor and a great crunch.