Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Steamers in Beer (Page 326)

RECIPE #1150

  • Date: Thursday, April 22, 2010 -- 7pm
  • Location: Palo Alto, CA
  • Kitchen: Emilee and Brian's Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Chris
  • Dining Companions: Emilee, Brian, and Sam
  • Recipe Rating: C

I chose this recipe as part of the All Seafood All The Time plan. Well, actually I chose this recipe because the store that sent me the shad roe also had steamers available. I have had trouble finding these on the West Coast, so I figured I might as well have some shipped from Massachusetts along with the shad roe. The woman warned me on the phone that steamers don't ship too well -- their shells are so thin that they will often get crushed during shipping. I accepted this risk, but she was indeed correct. About a third of the steamers arrived crushed and had to be discarded. Chris and I tested the remaining steamers to make sure that they were alive. From this experience I learned that steamer clams can spit at you. After we had discarded any dead clams, we cooked chopped shallots in butter, added some beer and the clams and steamed them until they were open. Chris then strained the steaming liquid, whisked in some more butter, stirred in parsley and salt and served it alongside the clams for dipping. In my mind this dish had two big issues: One, grittiness, and two, the flavor of the broth.

The internet will easy lead you to a half a dozen different recommendations for how to clean steamers: soak them in salt water, soak them in vinegar water, soak them in water mixed with cornstarch, soak them in water mixed with cornmeal, soak them in plain water, etc... The one thing most people seem to agree on is that they do indeed need to be soaked. The theory is that soaking steamers will cause them to spit out the sand and impurities that they have in them. The Book recipe, however, did not call for them to be soaked. So I didn't soak them. The result: very gritty clams. Poor Brian got two very sandy/gritty clams in a row, and then wasn't feeling well later in the evening. Who knows what kind of impurities were in there...

My second issue with this recipe was the flavor of the broth. Although I love butter and I love beer, I didn't find the combination of beer and butter to be at all appealing. The dipping sauce was essentially 2 cups of beer and a stick of melted butter. It just wasn't good. On the upside, the clams were nicely cooked. We were all so turned off by the grit and the flavor, though, that most of these didn't get eaten.

The recipe is here.

My special gentleman's birthday is on Friday. Last year when his birthday came around it was so close to our wedding that I couldn't rally to organize anything special for him. It was his thirtieth birthday, though, and I felt bad for having been so lame. This year, I am going to try harder! To celebrate we are going to Palo Alto to have dinner with friends, and I am planning a very nice meal. I have assembled a selection of items from The Book that sound very tasty, and I have already started cooking! This evening I assembled and froze an hors d'oeuvre -- tiny puff pastry crescents filled with mushrooms and serrano ham -- and I made the quince apple filling for his dessert. Over the next several days I will make a pate, braise beef for pot au feu, make the pastry crust for his dessert and assemble it, etc... The meal is not so complicated that it would have been impossible to do it all on Friday. Indeed if I started cooking early in the day I could easily have everything prepared by dinnertime. But for a special meal I like to draw it out a bit -- working on it in small chunks over several days. For one thing, I have a better attitude about cooking when I am not working on 6 recipes at the same time. But more than that, planning a meal ahead and working on the components feels very celebratory to me!

I hope the meal turns out well. My husband is awesome and he deserves the very best on his birthday (and every day!).


Melissa said...

How sad! I love steamers but yes they do usually need to be soaked. My mother has always chopped up an onion and tossed it with beer. After they're steamed, then we have bowls of butter to dip them. Happy Birthday to your gentleman! I hope it all turns out wonderfully, my birthday is monday so I'll be having birthday festivities this weekend as well!

Teena said...

Yeah it seemed to me that they could have been good, but the soaking was key and we didn't do it!

Happy Birthday to you too!