Razor Clams, Shrimp, and Cod with Curry and Lemongrass

Clam Shrimp and Fish CurryWith clam season upon us here in the Pacific Northwest, there is more than a little pressure to get rid of the clams that I hoarded through the summer.  When frozen properly in water, these suckers can take up a considerable amount of room in the freezer.  As summer wears on and freezer space becomes more of a commodity, there comes a dawning realization that you really need to start cooking some clam-involved dishes.  Clam chowder is the standby, but one can not live on clams chowder alone…and if you did, you would either be the size of a walrus or simply dead.  It isn’t exactly low calorie or low fat.  When preparing such dishes, I have hear whispers in the dark recesses of my brain reminding that heart disease is still the number one killer the United States.

This seafood curry is my attempt to incorporate clams into a tasty, yet reasonably heart-healthy main dish.  Heck, there isn’t even any coconut milk in it.  The formulation is somewhat Thai is style but probably pulls in more variety in fish than would be considered common.  The yellow curry is slightly more mild and a bit sweeter than its green or red cousins and lines up well with the clams, which are also quite sweet.  Fragrant notes are provided by the lemon grass and kaffir lime leaves.  Turmeric and a bit of garlic provide some additional depth…. 

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Herbed Cod and Shrimp Baked in Phyllo

DSC_0107Up until yesterday, I had never cooked a fish tart…but I knew deep down inside that I needed to.  The base idea for this one came from Savory Baking by Mary Cech.  As I write this post, this book is listed for some ridiculously low price on Amazon.  Not sure what the deal is, but it a great book for those that like baking things that are not necessarily sweet.  Oh well, sometimes even good books get discontinued.

Anyway, with some adjustment of ingredients and spicing scheme, I ended up with something that was truly memorable.  The tarragon and dill really shine against the curry, and, surprising, the crushed black pepper is pronounced without being overwhelming.  The roast red pepper provides a little bit of interest and the lemon zest provides a great balance to cut through the staggering amount of butter that is used to assemble the phyllo.  Definitely a huge win for a first effort and not one that a would change too much…. 

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House Clam Chowder

House Clam Chowder

Clam chowder is sort of tough.  Sure, anyone can make potato soup with some clam scraps….just add enough bacon and it will be fine, right?  I have to say that this sort of clam chowder is, well, offensive.  It has no individuality, no style and no identity.  You could likely pour a better version out of a can.

There is  quite a challenge to be had in trying to make a dish like clam chowder unique.  The main issue is that you really need to work within the parameters of the dish.  You need to make something that, at the end of the day can be easily identified as clam chowder yet have something tangible that is your own.  When you are dealing with a cream-based clam soup with potatoes, there is simply not much room to work.  You need to keep the clams, the potatoes, enough of the cream to keep the soup rich, and get it thick without allowing it to get starchy, or worse, breaking the soup.  This is a pretty tight box to work in…and a challenge worth taking on.  Although the chowder at road-side stands along the coast is wonderful (and it really is), there is everything right about creating something that reflects a bit of yourself…. 

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Tagine of Clams with Olives and Chilies

Tagine of clams, olives, and chiliesSteamer clams, like the ones pictured above, are a nostalgic food for me and I typically associate them with summer.  You see, summer was the time that my family often spent time camping on the west side of Puget Sound on a body of water called Hood Canal.  Gathering and eating various forms of seafood was always a part of the experience and I spent many happy hours sifting through the beach gravels in search of various types of clams.  We would then take them back to camp, clean them up, and have them steamed with garlic butter, or toss them in the cioppino pot simmering on the fire.

Although a lot can be said for the merits of eating succulent, sweet clams like Manillas or littlenecks with nothing more than a well-seasoned butter sauce, there are simply other things to do with clams.  In this dish, the clams are bathed in a rich and very slightly spicy tomato-based sauce.  Cumin and garlic are accented by the fresh flavors of the red bell pepper and the lightly simmered poblano chili.  … 

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Shrimp with Lemongrass and Chili

Shrimp with Lemongrass and ChiliIf you are looking for an easy main dish, the sort of thing that you would serve for a light lunch, you can’t go astray with this one.  In our case, we served this with Cream of Jalapeno Soup, Mushroom and Burdock Rice, and Smoked Citrus-Peanut Chicken Wings.  Sounds complicated, but hell, my Dad dropped by and we felt like cooking something a little nicer than usual.  In reality, this dish will stand alone with either rice or noodles; although if I was going to serve it with noodles, I would dress the noodles with Hot Chile Oil first to balance them a bit.

There is not much to say in the way of guidance regarding this dish.  The main thing you need to make sure you do is properly devein your shrimps.  Shrimp are filthy animals. They spend their day grubbing around on the sea bottom and they are not picky eaters.  … 

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