Saveur Magazine Classic Recipe No.19 – New England Clam Chowder

 

I had high hopes for this recipe.  Being one of my favorite chowders and all.  (Ok, my super-duper favorite is Conch Chowder, but conch is hard to come by here.)  Paolo chose this recipe, he was really excited, loving clams, loving New England.  He also had never tried this and was super intrigued.   Alas, I have to say it was a total disaster.

As I mentioned in my first Saveur Magazine post,  I am going to prepare the recipes exactly as it states in the magazine.  I’ve prepared this dish from another recipe of mine and it has been a complete success.  I have eaten this dish a gazillion times too.  The problem that I found with this recipe, is that it was extremely watery.  A little red flag started waving wildly as I read the recipe calling for 6 cups of water to 2 cups cream.  And no thickener.  And, I would highly advise to place the clams in water to rid them of the sand, because I was straining and straining and straining.  But, anyhoo, I proceeded to recreate it in complete trust and experimental nature.

Needless to say, my two co-judges were not pleased at all.  Another recipe bust, another lunch that we ended up eating mainly bread and the sautéed porcini I had made as a side.  But, tastewise it was delicious.

So, without further ado, the rankings:

Overall points:  4.6/10

Difficulty:  Medium, as it has numerous steps and a wee bit time-consuming

Availability of ingredients:  Easy, if you can’t find fresh clams, frozen will do in a cinch.

10 lb clams in the shell, preferably cherrystone, scrubbed

4 oz. thick-cut bacon, finely chopped

2 tbsp unsalted butter

1 tbsp finely chopped thyme leaves

2 medium yellow onions, roughly chopped

2 bay leaves

2 1/2 lb. new potatoes, cut into 1/4″ cubes

2 cups heavy cream

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Oyster crackers and hot sauce for serving

1. Bring 2 cups water to a boil in a 6-qt. saucepan over high heat.  Add clams, and cover pan;  cook until clams are steamed open, about 10 minutes (discard any that do not open).  Remove from heat, and let cool.  Remove clam meat from shells, and roughly chop;  set aside.  Pour cooking liquid from pan though a fine strainer into another bowl (you should have about 6 cups; if not, add enough water to make 6 cups); set aside.

2.  Heat bacon in a 6-qt. saucepan over medium heat, and cook, stirring, until its fat renders and bacon is crisp, about 10 minutes.  Add butter, thyme, onions, and bay leaves, and cook, stirring, until soft, about 8 minutes.  Add reserved cooking liquid and potatoes, and bring to a boil;  reduce heat to medium low, and cook, stirring until potatoes are cooked through, about 20 minutes.  Add chopped clam meat and cream*; cook until warmed through, about 5 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper;  serve with crackers and hot sauce on the side.  Serves 8.

* I suggest you lower the heat to minimum, if not your cream is going to curdle.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

 

Surf & “Turf”

Surf and Turf

 

Normally, when we have friends over for dinner, I spend a few days carefully planning what I am going to make.  I love that process, poring through my cookbooks to get inspirations, reading my recipes over and over, thinking of who is coming and what I think they might like.

Not so yesterday.  Our friends were invited to dinner last-minute, and we went to the market after lunch, which for me means, no inspiration whatsoever.  I mean, I’m stuffed, I’m not thinking of what I want to make for dinner???

This whole dish was inspired by Paolo’s choice of wild mushrooms.  There were some beautiful chanterelles, and he asked me if I could make a dish out of one of his favorites mushrooms.  So, I started wracking my brain, and normally when I think wild mushrooms, I think game meats or beef.  But we had a large chunk of meat for lunch, so that was out of the question.  He suggested seafood, and I thought, ok, my version of surf and turf!

I am quite impressed how well this turned out, none of the flavors masked the other, rather, the briny shrimp paired perfectly with the sautéed chanterelles, over an individual “Pommes Anna” laced with a sultry porcini sauce.  Everyone said that this should be my signature dish, and I agree.

This dish is very simple to prepare.  It just takes a bit of organization.  But totally worth it!

So here’s what you’re going to need:

Serves 4

1 large russet potato

Thyme

400 g fresh chanterelle mushrooms

2 cloves of garlic, chopped

20-25 large shrimp, head on

1/4 cup olive oil

4 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1 porcini stock cube, or pre-soaked dried porcini, reserve them for later, and use the soaking liquid about 1 1/2 cups

1 tbsp butter

1 tbsp instant cornstarch

Salt and Pepper to taste

First, pre-heat the oven to 200 C.

In a bowl, add the shrimp with a couple of sprigs of thyme, the olive oil and Worcestershire sauce.  Mix well and refrigerate and marinate them for at least 30 minutes, up to two hours.

Oil a baking sheet, set aside.  Slice the potato really thinly with a mandoline (if you have one).  Soak the potatoes in salted water while you are slicing so they won’t turn brown.  Rinse and pat dry, and make individual round “cakes”, layering the potatoes in a circle on top of each other, overlapping.  Place on the oiled baking sheet and put a pat of butter, salt and pepper on each.  Lower the heat to 190 C, and place in the oven and cook until golden and crispy, about 15 minutes.

In a stockpot, place 1 1/2 cups of water and the porcini stockcube. (If you don’t have it, add the drained soaking liquid from the dry porcinis.)  Heat to high, and add the butter.  When it is boiling, reduce the heat and add the cornstarch.  Cook, stirring until it thickens.  Keep warm.

In the meantime, add half a tablespoon of oil to a large sauté pan over high heat,  Add the garlic cloves and the chanterelle mushrooms and cook for about 7-8 minutes, until the mushrooms are fully cooked.  Add a little salt and pepper, and place in a heat proof bowl and put them in the oven.

Drain the shrimp,and discard the thyme sprigs, leaving only about 1 tbsp of oil and sauce.  Add that to the same sauté pan, and over high heat.  When it is almost smoking, add the shrimp and sauté, tossing, for about 5 minutes until the shrimp start to curl and are fully cooked.

To assemble the dish, place the potato round on the plate.  Top with some of the sautéed chanterelle mushrooms, then 5 shrimp arranged over the chanterelle.  Spoon some of the porcini sauce over the shrimp, mushrooms and potatoes.

You are going to love it!

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

Cherry Tomato, Blue Cheese and Caramelized Onion Tart

Cherry Tomato, Roquefort, and Caramelized Onion Tart

 

Last night we had a small gathering at a friend’s house, and since she offered up her wonderful roof top terrace, I wanted to chip in not only by bringing some wine, but making something to take to the party.   But, I also didn’t want to spend too much time cooking, since that is what I do everyday, for my family, and for work.  I do love what I do, but sometimes I just don’t feel like doing anything.

Well, this recipe is perfect for those situations, and it works just as well for dinner, or lunch in a pinch.  The prep time is absolutely minimal if you buy some store-bought pizza dough or Pate Brisee.  This leaves you plenty of time to enjoy your friends or family, and all you have to do is serve a salad to go with it, and you have an exquisite, easy meal.  Isn’t that the best?

So here’s what you’re going to need:

1 store-bought Pizza or Pate Brisee dough

1 box cherry tomatoes, halved

1 onion, sliced

1 small package blue cheese

2 tbsp brown sugar

1 sprig of thyme

3 tbsp olive oil

Salt and Pepper to taste

In a small saucepan, add the oil, sugar, thyme leaves, and the sliced onion.  Cook over medium heat for 10-15 minutes, until the onion is softened and turning golden.  Strain the onions, set aside.

Roll out the dough, and heat the oven according to package directions.  Place the sliced cherry tomatoes randomly over the dough, leaving a 2 inch border on all sides.  Top with the caramelized onions and the blue cheese.  Place on a baking tray in the middle rack of the oven.  Bake for about 20-25 minutes, or until your dough is crisp.  Remove from the oven.  It’s best when eaten warm, not boiling.  And it tastes marvelous cold, too!

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

Miniature Apple Pies with Thyme

Miniature Apple Pies

Ahhh, Autumn is fast arriving here in Barcelona, and for me it is one of the most special times of year.  As the days get shorter and the heat of Summer fades away, my mind wanders to longer, warmer food.  There certainly is nothing better than the smells of apples and spices emanating from your kitchen.

I have never been a big apple lover, but for some reason, apples that are baked are truly scrumptious.  A flaky crust, moist and tender, filled to the brim with those soft and delicious apples.  Served warm with some vanilla ice cream, it’s a decadent treat that will please everyone!!

For my last dinner party, I made these miniature versions.  I don’t have a beautiful pie tin, so I opted for giving everyone a mini pie.  It’s a perfect little serving.  And so easy to bake, it bakes in a cupcake tin, and they pop right out when you’re done!

Miniature Apple PiesI had lots of fun creating different tops, so feel free to let your imagination run wild.  I created a lattice top, and then I have the lovely Williams Sonoma Leaf cut outs, which I used on another, and lastly, I used a large frosting tip to create small holes.

Miniature Apple Pies

 

So have fun with them, no matter how you decided to decorate the tops, they are guaranteed to be delicious!

So here’s what you’re going to need:

Serves 12

For the Short Crust Pastry:

250g All purpose Flour

150g unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small cubes

1 tsp salt

1 egg

1 tbsp milk

In a large bowl, measure out your flour.  Add the butter and crumble with the tips of your fingers, until your flour looks like wet sand, and all the butter has been incorporated.   Add the egg, salt and milk, with your hands, mix and knead until a firm dough forms.  Roll into a ball, cover with plastic wrap, flatten into a disc and refrigerate for at least one hour.

For the filling:

5 mixed apples, such as Golden Delicious or Gala, cut into 1 inch cubes

125g butter

1/4 cup brown sugar

2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

1/2 tsp ground cloves

1/2 tsp ground allspice

1/4 tsp salt

Black pepper to taste

1 sprig of Thyme, leaves detached

3 tbsp water

1 egg, beaten

In a large pot, add all your ingredients except for the egg, and cook, about 20 minutes, until the apples are tender and the filling has thickened.  Let cool.

To assemble the pies:

Pre-heat oven to 190C.  Cut the dough in half, on a lightly floured work surface roll out the dough until 1/4 inch thick.  If the dough gets too sticky, then just refrigerate it for another 15 minutes until it is easy to work with again.

Break out your cupcake tin, and get a biscuit cutter or glass that is slightly bigger than the circumference of the circles on your tin.  Cut out the base of the pastry and place in the cupcake tins.  Then grab a bowl or something similar (look at the picture above) that is slightly larger than what you used to cut the base, and cut out the tops.  Now, decided what shapes you want to cut out, holes, lattice, etc.

Add the filling to the base, and brush the rims with a bit of the beaten egg, and then add the top of the crust and press to seal tightly.  Brush the tops of the pies with the egg wash, and add a little sugar to the tops if you want.

Bake in the oven in the middle rack for about 30-35 minutes. Remove from the tin and let cool on a wire rack.  Serve warm with some vanilla ice cream.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

 

 

 

“Spanish” Onion Soup

The first time I ever had French Onion Soup was in 10th grade.  Our French teacher took us on a cultural field trip to a French restaurant, and one of my friends ordered it.   I would not have been so adventurous.  She told me to try it, and as an obliging teenager who only trusts her friends, I did, and it was a taste revelation!  I just couldn’t get enough of the gooey cheese, the crusty bread, and then hidden underneath it, that dark, caramel broth filled to the brim with soft, caramelized onions.  Heaven.

Cut to last night.  I have wanted to make this soup for ages.  But I had to wait until I got some earthenware that I could use in the oven to melt that amazing cheese.  So a couple of months ago I purchased two Le Creuset soup bowls, not only are they functional, they are pretty gorgeous too.  (I love Le Creuset by the way, but this isn’t a post about them.)

Also, as I have mentioned before, I have a gazillion cookbooks, and hardly ever get to use them.  So I adapted the French Onion Soup recipe from my Williams Sonoma Comfort Food cookbook.  But I didn’t want just a French Onion Soup.  I wanted the depth of Spanish ingredients.  First of all, I took the time to make my own stock, but instead of making a plain beef one, I did a Chorizo Stock.  This gave the stock a more golden reddish hue.  And as I caramelized the onions, I added a heaping tablespoon of pimenton, Spanish Paprika, to give it a smokiness that is missing from the delicate French version.  And lastly, I used Jerez, or sherry, instead of the wine.  In the end, I think it was a total success, the new version had levels of flavour, from the warmth of the chorizo and pimenton, and then a unique nuttiness imparted by the Jerez.  I hope you’ll be adventurous and trust me on this and try it at home!

So here’s what you’re going to need:

Adapted from Williams Sonoma Comfort Food

Ingredients for French Onion Soup


2 tbsp Unsalted Butter

2 1/2 lbs. Onions, yellow, white, red….go crazy!

1 tbsp pimenton or smoky paprika

1 tbsp All purpose flour

1 cup Jerez (Sherry) or dry white wine

Chorizo Stock (recipe follows)

2 tsp minced Fresh thyme

1 Bay leaf

Salt and Pepper, to taste

1 Crusty baguette

2 2/3cups shredded Gruyère Cheese

For the stock:

3 tbsp olive oil

1 lb marrow and beef bones

1 spanish chorizo sausage

2 celery ribs, including leaves, chopped

1 carrot, peeled and chopped

1 leek, sliced

1 swede or rutabaga, chopped

2 tsp salt

1 bay leaf

1 large sprig of thyme

Water

In a large stockpot, add the beef marrow bones and the chorizo and cook over med-high heat, for about ten minutes or the chorizo starts to lose some fat and color the oil.  Add all the veggies, salt, bay leaf and thyme.  Stir to coat and cook about 5 more minutes.  Add the water, and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and let simmer vigorously for 30 minutes.  Switch off the heat, cover and let steep for a good 2 hours.

 

To make the soup, in a large heavy bottomed stock pot, melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the onions, stir well, cover, and cook for 5  minutes.  Uncover, add the paprika, and reduce the heat to medium low, and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender and deep golden brown, about 30 minutes.

Onions

caramelized onionsSprinkle the flour over the onions and stir until combined.  Gradually stir in the wine, then the stock, and finally the thyme and bay leaf.  Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to medium low, and simmer, uncovered, until slightly reduced, about 30 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.  Discard bay leaf.

Spanish onion soup

 

Meanwhile, preheat the broiler.  Have ready eight 1 1/2 cup broilerproof soup crocks.  Cut the baguette into 16 slices, sizing them so that 2 slices will fit inside each crock.  Arrange the bread slices on a baking sheet and broil, turning once, until lightly toasted on both sides, about 1 minute total.  Set the slices aside.  Position the oven rack about 12 inches from the heat source, and leave the broiler on.

Ladle the hot soup into the crocks.  Place 2 toasted bread slices, overlapping if necessary, on top of the soup and sprinkle each crock evenly with about 1/3 cup of the Gruyère.  Broil until the cheese is bubbling, about 2 minutes.  Serve at once.

 

Coca de Escalivada at Cal Marquet : Catalan flat bread in the Mountains

This weekend was a friend of mine’s 40th birthday.  As per tradition, he celebrates it in his brother’s Macia (farm house) in Manresa, 60km outside of Barcelona. His brother raises and breeds pheasants, but he also has a zoo licence due to all the animals he keeps there.  I love going there, because it is very close to the city, but you feel as if you are in the middle of nowhere.  It’s an hours drive and one treacherous 2km dirt road up the mountain to reach Cal Marquet, but truly worth it, just for the views alone.  The actual building is almost 300 years old.  The family have kept the structure intact, but modernized all the rooms.  There’s an infinity pool, a sauna and a jacuzzi too.  So, coming up here is a real treat!

The view from the front terrace, where we had our dinner.

This year he asked me to cater Friday nights dinner, and I immediately thought we should do it family style because it was 25 of us, and I didn’t feel like being in the kitchen the whole night and missing the party.  I decided to make the Coca de Escalivada, because it is a very Catalan dish, and most of the guests were Catalan.  There are many types of Coca, from savoury to sweet.  Each city or region has its own version.  I decided on this one because it is easy to make, since I was also doing Beef empanadas, cheese borek (turkish style patties), spring rolls, jerk chicken wings and blue cheese and caramelized onion sliders.

Coca is actually very easy to make, with very little proofing.  The most laborious part really, is grilling the vegetables and peeling them.  But honestly, I will definitely make this recipe again, maybe using different toppings, but it was delicious and so easy.

So here’s what you’re going to need:

300g bread flour

1 packet instant yeast

2 tsp salt

1 tsp sugar

50g shortening (not vegetable, lard, basically)

3 tbsp olive oil

120ml warm water

1 large red bell pepper

1 small eggplant

1 onion (I didn’t use it due to the birthday boy’s aversion to them)

1 can oil packed tuna, drained

6 large anchovy fillets

1 clove garlic

1 small sprig of thyme

1 tbsp parsley, chopped

pinch of salt

3 table spoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp pimenton (smoky paprika)

In the bowl of a stand up mixer, combine the flour, yeast, salt and sugar.  Add the shortening, olive oil and water and mix with the paddle attachment on low-speed, until the dough just comes together.  Now, switch to the dough hook, and mix on medium speed for 10 minutes.  (If you don’t have a mixer, then place the dough on a floured work surface and knead for 15 minutes.)  The dough should be smooth and pliable but spring back when it touched.  Place in a large, well oiled bowl and cover with a tea towel.  Put it in a warm oven (50 C) and let rest for at least an hour, or until doubled in size.

In the meantime, grill your vegetables.  I put my eggplant directly over the burner, because it gives it an amazing smoky flavour.

Do this until the veggies are completely charred on the outside.  Then place them in a plastic bag and let them sweat for about 10 minutes.  When they are cool to the touch, peel them, and slice into 1 inch long slices.  Set aside.

In a mortar, place the garlic clove, thyme, parsley and the pinch of salt, and mash to form a paste.  Add the olive oil and paprika and mix well.  Set aside.

When the hour is up, take the dough out of the oven, and raise the heat to 220 C.  On a well floured work surface, roll out the dough to a rectangle, the same size as your baking pan.  Lightly oil the baking pan, and place the dough on top, cover it tightly with plastic wrap and let rest another 30 minutes.

Unwrap the dough, and place the red pepper and eggplant slices on top, in an alternating pattern.

This actually resembles the Catalan flag.  Now, brush the top with the garlic paprika oil.  Wait a few seconds and give it a second coat, using up almost all the oil, making sure the garlic and herbs are evenly distributed.  Leave just a bit to brush after it’s out of the oven.

Place in the 220 C oven, and bake for 15 minutes.  Remove from the oven, and place the tuna and anchovies on top in alternating rows, and then brush with the remaining oil.  Serve hot, warm or cold.  It’s super versatile!

And now, here are some pics of the farm animals!

Catalan Donkey…..forgot his name but he’s soooo cute.

The cockatoo that says “Roberto”

Peacock strutting his stuff for his harem of hens

And he had all his ducks and geese, lined up in a row…..sort of.

Carmela de Espana, the Tibetan Goat.

Miss Piggy. Yes, that is her actual name.

Pegasus, the (non) flying horse.

View of Montserrat on the drive back home.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

Chilled Tomato Soup with Yogurt

I adore tomato soup.  Especially in summer, when tomatoes are the ripest and juiciest, and the weather is warm, warm, warm.  This weekend was a holiday, and we had some friends in town from Germany, so it became this long and drawn out Bacchanal of food and wine.  Last night, I needed something light, not too filling and delicious.

I decided to make my tomato soup as always, but instead of adding fresh cream at the end, I decided to add low-fat greek yogurt.  The end result was incredible.  I don’t think I ever want to have tomato soup with cream again, EVER!!!!

The soup was smooth and luscious, but the yogurt gave it this wonderful tang, almost as if you had added sour cream, but without the fat!  And with only 2 tbsp of olive oil, you know you are giving yourself a heart-healthy and delicious treat!

So, here’s what you’re going to need:

For 3 people

4 large tomatoes, grated

1 large onion, chopped

1 clove of garlic, minced

2 tbsp olive oil

8 sundried tomatoes, chopped

1 tsp of fresh thyme

1/2 tsp cinnamon

400ml of vegetable stock

200g low-fat greek yogurt

salt and black pepper to taste

In a large stock pot heat the olive oil over med-high heat, add your onion and garlic and cook for about 5 minutes, or translucent.  Add your tomatoes and cook another 5 minutes.

Add your sundried tomatoes, thyme, cinnamon and vegetable stock.  Bring to a boil, and lower the heat to medium.  Cook for about 10-15 minutes.  Take off the heat, let it cool and blend your soup.  Strain the soup with a chinois, and add the yogurt and whisk until incorporated.  Add your salt and pepper to taste, serve immediately or let cool in the fridge for 2-3 hours to have a silky smooth gazpacho-like soup.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla