Posts Tagged ‘Littleneck Clams’

Paella | Relishing It

I’ve been wanting to share this amazing recipe with you for awhile now, and since Valentine’s Day is approaching I figure it’s finally time.  I’m not sure why, but to me this is a romantic dish.  Maybe it’s the beautiful color, the seafood, the scent of saffron, or even the wine.  In any case, for me this is an ideal Valentine’s Day dinner.

Paella | Relishing It

Yes, the dish looks impressive, but it’s not difficult to make.  It comes together quickly and the cooking time is relatively short.  The most labor intensive task is actually vegetable chopping.  And the flavors– my oh my, they’re unbelievable.  First, there’s the saffron.  Along with providing the beautiful red/orange hue, it adds a wonderful flavor.  Saffron is an impressive spice, but keep in mind it’s also the most expensive one out there.  With that in mind, I’ve given you the option of using between  1/2 – 1 teaspoon for this dish.  I’ve made it both ways, and it’s turned out great each time.  Just don’t skip the saffron entirely, because it makes a difference here.

Saffron for Paella | Relishing It

Spanish Chorizo for Paella | Relishing It

The other main star of the dish is the Spanish chorizo.  This is an aged chorizo with a delicious smokey flavor.  It can be difficult to find, but again, it’s worth the search.  I get mine at the St. Paul Cheese Shop, for those of you who live nearby.  The rice in this dish is supposed to be separated– not creamy like a risotto.  Look for a spanish rice, such as Bomba (also called Valencia) or Calasparra as they will absorb the liquid properly.  Another option is the more readily-available short-grain rice, Arborio.  For my version of paella, I use shimp, mussels, and clams.  I know chicken is often a component, but I stick with the seafood.  You can use whichever you like– you know my theory on making the dish your own.  The seafood paired with the clam juice and wine create a wonderfully intense flavor with a hint of brininess.

Paella | Relishing It

Paella | Relishing It

Seafood Paella | Relishing It

There are many different methods to cook paella.  I settled on heating the oven really hot (to 500°F) and placing a pizza stone in it.  I use a 14-inch stainless-steel skillet, so it’s nice in that it heats evenly in the oven as opposed to sitting on a small burner.  The pizza stone adds additional heat to the bottom of the pan in hopes that it will create a tasty, caramelized crust on the bottom called socarrat.  If you have a smaller 12-inch pan– feel free to cook it on the stove top.  Just be sure to move the pan around a bit for an even heat, while being diligent about not stirring it. If you do use a 12-inch pan rather than a 14-inch, you won’t be able to fit as much meat/seafood into the dish.  Use your judgment, and it’ll turn out just fine.  And of course, if you’re lucky enough to be able to cook it over an open flame outdoors, kudos to you!

Paella | Relishing It

Paella | Relishing It

The Recipe: Seafood Paella

(serves 4)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 red bell pepper, finely chopped

1 green bell pepper, finely chopped,

1 white onion, finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 tomato (preferably from a local greenhouse), finely chopped

2 teaspoons concentrated tomato paste

1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika

1 cup bottled clam juice

1 cup dry white wine, more if necessary

2 1/2 cups chicken stock (preferably homemade)

1/2- 1 teaspoon saffron (crushed using a mortar and pestle)

2 cups short grain rice–Bomba (Valencia), Calasparra, or Arborio

8 ounces (1/2 pound) spanish chorizo, cut into 1/4-inch slices

1/2 pound littleneck clams

1/2 pound mussels

1/2- 1 pound shrimp (peeled and deveined)

Lemon wedges, fresh parsley, and red pepper flakes  for garnish

Place a pizza stone into an oven and heat to 500°F for about a half hour.  Combine the chicken stock, clam juice, white wine, and saffron into a large sauce pan and bring to a high simmer.

Meanwhile, using a 14-inch skillet or a paella pan (12-inch will work, too) heat the olive oil and cook the chorizo over medium heat until some of the fat has rendered.  Remove the chorizo from the pan and add the red and green peppers, garlic, and the onions.  Sauté for a few minutes until tender.  Then add the tomato paste, spanish paprika, and the rice.  Sauté for about 1 minute.  Add the hot liquid and the chorizo to the skillet and place pan onto the pizza stone in the oven.  Do not stir after this point.  After 10 minutes, add the chopped tomatoes, mussels, and clams to the pan– crack side up.  Then, after 5 more minutes, push the shrimp into the rice and cook for about 5 more minutes.  If at any point the rice seems to be drying out too quickly, add more broth, water, or wine (go for the wine!) to the pan.  If the rice seems to be done cooking (it will only take about 20 minutes total) before the shrimp is done or the clams and mussels have opened up– just place tin foil over the entire dish to trap some of the steam.  I tend to do this when I place the shrimp into the dish. Discard any mussels and clams that ultimately never open up.  Serve with lemon wedges and fresh parsley.  Enjoy!

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You would think I made this meal for a special occassion, wouldn’t you?  Actually, it was a Wednesday.  And ‘no’ I most certainly do not spend hours preparing weeknight meals.  Believe it or not, this halibut and clam dish is just about as easy as it gets.  We love seafood, but live in land-locked Minnesota.  We’re about as far from the ocean as one can get in this country.  Fortunately, we have a good seafood import market near our house.  I picked up the halibut and clams, and spent a total time in the kitchen of about 30 minutes.  We lit a candle in the center of our table– our ritual that makes the meal feel special– and sat down to this beautiful weeknight dinner.

Halibut is one of my favorite fish.  It’s so silky, and works wonderfully in this flavorful dish.  The clams (which Aanen loved!) add a nice briny flavor, while the mushrooms and leeks lend a deep earthiness.  And don’t forget the butter.  It flavors the broth and gives a creamy texture to the whole meal.  I actually cut back on the butter a bit when I made this dish, but feel free to add a few more tablespoons if you like.  This is a great meal to pair with a white wine for a romantic weekend dinner, but it’s also so easy to prepare that you can make it anytime– even a Wednesday night.

The Recipe: Braised Halibut with Leeks, Mushrooms, and Clams

(serves 3-4)

3 tablespoons butter

1 large leek, white and light green parts thinly sliced

1 clove garlic, minced

2 cups chicken broth

1 pound fresh Halibut, skin removed  (preferably wild)

1 pound Littleneck or Manila clams, scrubbed

about 2 cups crimini mushrooms, quartered  (oyster or hen-of-the- woods are good substitutes)

lemon zest

1 tablespoon freshly chopped parsley

sea salt and cracked black pepper

Melt the butter over medium heat in a large 12-inch straight-sided sauté skillet with a lid.  Add the mushrooms, garlic clove, and leeks; season lightly with salt and pepper.  Cook until softened, but not browned, 6-8 minutes.  Add the broth, raise the heat to medium high, and bring to a boil.

Season the halibut with salt and pepper.  Nestle the fish and the clams in the skillet.  Bring the broth back to a boil, cover tightly, and reduce heat to low.  Cook gently until the fish is just cooked through and the clams have opened, about 7 minutes.  If all of the clams are not open, remove the fish and the opened clams and continue cooking until the remaining clams open, another 2-3 minutes.  Discard any clams that have not opened by this time.  Stir in the lemon zest and sprinkle with the parsley.

Serve the fish and clams in a shallow bowl topped with the delicious broth and vegetables.  Enjoy with a piece of crusty bread and glass of a nice  white wine.

Adapted from Fine Cooking Soups & Stews Magazine, 2010

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