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Clam Juice and Tomato Cocktail

Monday, September 8, 2014

This recipe was inspired by eating clams and thinking about how we can use them in a recipe (we did a dairy-free clam chowder last year), but also by a recipe we discovered in a cookbook found digging around in a thrift store.

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The cookbook is a 1936 edition of the Boston Cooking School Cook Book. The recipe is simple: it proposes mixing 2 parts clam juice and 1 part tomato juice. Nothing more. Alcohol is discretionary.

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Intrigued and inspired, I started digging around. The closest thing I found to a modern-day clam cocktail is Clamato, which is a cocktail mix that is apparently quite big in Canada, Mexico, and on cruise ships. It is mixed with typical things like vodka, and not so typical things, like beer. After trying something I found somewhere that strangely suggested mixing half part the mix and half part beer, I can report to you that I am not among those gourmands that enjoy this peculiar beverage during cruise ship happy hours (it tastes just how it sounds).

Dissatisfied, we decided to make our own version. We mixed and measured and sampled until the combination of ingredients seemed just right.

For the clam-squeamish, don't be. If you like Bloody Marys, you will like this one. It is closest to that, except with a clammy twist of je ne sais quoi. For more seafood mixed with alcohol recipes, you can try our Bloody Mary shrimp cocktail.

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Clam Juice and Tomato Cocktail
Serving size: 1

You will need:
4 oz tomato juice
2 oz clam juice
1/4 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp hot sauce such as Tabasco
1/4 tsp horseradish
Celery salt to taste
Juice of 1/2 lime

Directions:
1. In a shaker, with ice combine the above ingredients. Shake well. In a highball glass, add 1 oz to 1 1/2 oz vodka (to taste), 4 ice cubes, and fill with the mix from the shaker. Garnish with lime or lemon wedge. Enjoy!

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Jersey Summer - LBI

Monday, September 1, 2014

In late summer, heading south on the Garden State, a one hour and forty minute drive can stretch to four hours. Simply due to congestion.

Everyone heads to the shore.

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To get to Long Beach Island, you wait an hour just to get off the exit, because there is only one road to the island. But oh, once you get to it, you forget everything else.

This is a place I want to come back to, no matter the traffic. This is the place where I want to live, year round. This is my shore.

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It's full of one mile wide towns with names like Ship Bottom, Surf City, and Love Ladies, of seafood and of warm lapping waters, and of sun bleached cottage houses painted in pastel colors.

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If you drive through the length of the entire island (it's called long for a reason), at the very bottom you can see the skyline of Atlantic City. From the northern tip, on the breakwater, you can see the Barnegat Peninsula across the inlet.

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Barnegat Lighthouse is a fun place to be in the evenings. In the summer, it offers night climbs for some spectacular views.

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(Tony took these lighthouse photos.)

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We saw some divers in the area (this man wobbled his way across the wet rocks only to come within two feet of the diver, hold up his camera, take his picture, and wobble his way back).

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It is the best part of the island to watch the sunset, before heading back to your cottage for some grilling and beer on the patio, or, for us, hitting the road (but not before securing a bucket of fried clams for the ride back).

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Jersey Summer - Highlands Clam Fest

I'm not a native New Jerseyan, but it has been my home for the last three and a half years. Before moving here it used to be what it is still to my coworkers who live in the city: something far away, less cool, where "other" people live. Some hazy image of trees and suburbs and perhaps landfills and pollution that's as inaccessible as Kansas because they never get off the island (hey, maybe that's why you're so angry all the time).

I've lived in the city for over ten years. I don't miss it, mostly because I'm still there five days a week. I take what I need from it (mostly money, also food sometimes), and go back to the hot sweaty summers in Jersey, full of hikes, cicadas, katydids, the cries of blue jays, ripe and juicy Jersey tomatoes, farmers' markets, and the shore.

I heard of the "shore" way before it was made infamous by MTV. That shore exists. I've been there. The Boardwalk is lined with kiosks that sell burgers, fries, pizza, margaritas and beer. It is full of places offering philly cheese steaks, except when you're on the shore, you order the "Jersey Shore" - a philly cheese steak sandwich stuffed with cheese balls. In the words of one tween we were ahead in line of "when you're at the shore you can't eat healthy." The boardwalk is is full of carnival attractions, with a small amusement park, similar to and just as crowded as Brooklyn's Coney Island.

But there is a different shore. There is the North Shore, which most wouldn't consider "the shore" at all.

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At the North Shore, there is Sandy Hook, which used to be an army base but is now a national park, with sandy beaches, a jitney to NYC, and some nudists on one of the beaches named after a military officer John W. Gunnison. A former gun battery, it is still a home to its ghosts. At the very tip of it, there still stand officers' quarters, abandoned and boarded up, but the area is open for biking and exploring.

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After a day of exploring this place, a good place to go for dinner is Highlands, NJ. Highlands used to be a popular resort town in the beginning of 20th century and has a rich history (including being a popular destination during the prohibition era). Severely hit and damaged by Sandy, the place is home to some of its own ghosts.

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But most of it has bounced back. And it remains a good place to get some seafood. There is Moby's (a shack-type restaurant that serves everything you would want from a shore-front seafood place, in its freshest form - pick up your order at a kiosk and sit on a patio facing the water cracking a lobster or eating clam strips) and its neighbor Bahrs Landing (a sit-down, waitered version with boat access).

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This is also a place where the local annual clam fest is held. We were there last year, and again this year. This is one of the best times to get some good seafood, raw clams, oysters, lobsters, lobster rolls, gator sausages, crab cakes, and some of the world's best clam chowder (from Bahrs).

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This is a good time to get your fill of summer seafood, have some beer, listen to some good music.

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Strangers strike up conversations and people are there just to have a good time, no questions asked. The atmosphere has been what Jersey is to me: unassuming, matter of fact, welcoming, frank.  "Is that a lobster roll?" A woman asked us when we sat down to share one, busy with her own plate of clam strips. Upon our assent, she shouted "Hey! Glen! Get me a lobster roll! I'll split it with ya."

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Glen was nowhere to be seen, so she went and got one herself.

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Beef Fricassée with Root Vegetables

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Although in retrospect this dish is perhaps more suitable for fall, a bout of cooler, less-humid weather plus our preference lately for large-batch cooking (which has been a life saver during weeknights) resulted in this beef stew.

A fricassée is a meat-based stew that is served in white sauce. The meat itself is usually lightly fried, then simmered (the word fricassée is allegedly a combination of two French words - frire and casser, which mean to fry and to break, respectively). In this recipe I've omitted the frying step in the interest of simplicity, so this is not a "true" fricassée. But I'm hoping you'll forgive me because this dish is nonetheless delicious.

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Don't be afraid if the meat goes slightly longer than the time in the recipe; this is one of the instances where the meat will forgive and actually benefit from being cooked longer. Use any cheap, bony cut you'll find. I used beef neck bones. Beef knuckles or ox tail would also work. You can also use lamb.

For this recipe, one should heed Julia Child's sound advice: always use a bigger pot than the one you think you'll need. I sometimes forget this, and my pot ended up almost overflowing once I've added all the vegetables.

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I'm usually not big on sauces, mostly because I don't have the luxury of time to prepare one in addition to the main dish and I find a lot of dairy-based sauces heavy. But I've learned to appreciate them when we were living in Norway - they are extremely comforting during cooler weather.

And Norwegians know their sauces. Almost every meat dish I've tried there had a sauce of some kind accompanying it. One trick I learned about adding flour or other thickener to stock to avoid lumps, is to premix the flour with a little bit of water, so you get a kind of slush which mixes evenly when you add it to the sauce.

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The sauce in this recipe is light (I used greek yogurt), easy to make, tangy (from lemon juice) and delicious. You can use sour cream instead of yogurt. And of course, dill just makes everything better.


Beef Fricassée with Root Vegetables
Adapted from NRK Mat

Serves about 6

You will need
2 lb beef bone meat (neck bones, ox tail works well)
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
2 medium parsnips, peeled and chopped
1 medium celery root, peeled and chopped
1 small yellow onion, peeled and chopped
2 leeks, chopped and cleaned
salt and pepper to taste
3 tbsp flour
3 tbsp greek yogurt
Juice of 1/2 lemon
3 tbsp fresh dill

Directions
1. Fill a large pot with about eight cups of water and bring to a boil. Cut the meat into chunks and add to the pot along with a pinch of salt. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer the meat, skimming the surface occasionally, about 45 minutes to an hour. Ladle approximately 1 to 1 1/2 cups of the stock into a small saucepan and set aside.

2. After the meat has simmered for about 45 minutes to an hour, add carrots, parsnips, celery root, onion and leeks. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir to combine and simmer 10 to 15 minutes more, until the vegetables are soft.

3. While the vegetables are cooking, prepare the sauce. Bring the saucepan with the stock you've set aside to a simmer. In a small bowl, mix together the flour and a little bit of water, fully dissolving the flour. Start rapidly whisking the stock as you gradually pour the flour mixture into the stock. Once the sauce begins to thicken, lower the heat. Whisk the greek yogurt and lemon juice into the sauce until the mixture is uniform. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in the dill. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary.

4. Drain the meat and the vegetables (discard the stock or use for something else); return meat and vegetables to the pot. Pour the sauce over them. Mix everything together. Serve over rice, boiled potatoes or as is, sprinkled with a little fresh dill.
 

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