We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
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Sunday, August 4. 2013
A re-post from years ago -
It's the time of year when my family's food interests turn to mollusks and crustaceans. It seems to be in their blood.
Oysters preferably on the half-shell, and cherrystones only on the half-shell. About that red seafood sauce with horseradish, for shrimp and clams and oysters etc - it is vulgar, overpowering stuff, but we love it anyway. It is the American wasabi.
Crabs: up north, we prefer them in their moulting soft-shell form, lightly sauteed in olive oil, butter, parsley, a touch of garlic, and white wine: three per person - it's the frugal way to eat the magnificent east coast Blue Crab because you eat the whole darn thing, shell, feathers and all - a perfect combination of crunch and succulence. I know how you pick at them on the Chesapeake - and that is damn good, but too much work.
Lobsters: We eat them as a gala treat but not too often as it is easy to grow tired of them. Always buy the big ones - one 6 lb. lobster has double the meat of six one-lb. lobsters (which are mostly shell). If they have the big ones, get the biggest and let them steam 'em for you. The story that the big ones are tougher than the babies is pure myth and an evil lie - the only tough lobster is a live one without the rubber bands. Plus the big guys are as dramatic on the table as a Thanksgiving turkey or a crown roast of lamb. Oh, did I mention that you never boil a lobster - you steam them. Boiling them washes half of their favor out of them. Toss the shells in the freezer, afterwards, and use them in your next fish stock.
Clam chowder - you have to have your own family recipe, but red clam chowder is disgusting.
Steamers? The best. Just use a few cups of water, and keep the clams above the water. Don't overcook 'em, or they will get too chewy. And do not dip them in butter - it overpowers their salt-marshy goodness. Best part? That broth. When you drink that hot broth out of a heavy mug you feel like you are reuniting with Mother Ocean - and you are. Left-over broth? To the freezer, for fish stock, along with steamer clam shells, fish heads and bones, lobster shells, etc. Wow.
And a simple oyster stew with heavy cream and paprika is nirvana - you must use large oysters, and never overcook them - just until they warm up and the edges begin to curl. The Oyster Bar (since 1913) makes the best oyster stew in the world in their custom-made, 100 year-old oyster stew steaming machines. Worth a trip to NYC and Grand Central Station just to sample their world-wide oysters - and that simple, heavenly stew. Poor-Boys and fried oysters? They aren't a bad thing at all, but only with those southern, less subtle oysters which come shelled in a container. The kind we use for oyster stuffing for the Thanksgiving turkey.
And what is the finest oyster in the world? That's right, the ethereal Wellfleet Oyster, bathed in the fresh water from the Herring River. But don't try to cook him - it's a crime to do so, or should be. But we have done it - shame on us. Oysters Rockefeller from Wellfleet oysters.
Wines for these splendid delicacies from the sea? Champaigne is my first choice, and a Viognier is my second choice. Third choice - a French Chablis. Chardonnay with shellfish? No, no, no: try it and find out - they do not mix. Red wine with seafood? Certainly, if you feel like it. Who cares? Red surely is good with fish. I, for one, will not eat salt-water fish with white wine, but shellfish - for certain. Champagne with steamers? Very cool; very refined. Many prefer beer, though. (Steamers are the East Coast Buffalo Chicken Wings - only better.)
Image: a favorite Cape Cod salt marsh in Wellfleet, MA, full of steamer clams. You can fill a wire basket in 20 minutes, and come home hcovered with the black gooey happy marsh mud, looking something like this:
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Boy, did that post make me hungry. Definitely stopping at the fish shop on the way home. And the wine shop.
wrong about the wellfleet being the best. I always thought Chincoteagues were the best, until I had Malpeques (sp?), right off the dock. better than any oyster i have ever eaten.
Had 'em. Not bad, but too watery. Never had them on the dock, though.
Like all readers, you made me hungry. The idea of saving the left-over shells, etc. in the freezer for a base is brilliant. But you didn't invent that, did you?
All "stews" should include the adjective "Hobo" regardless of ingredients.
And on the Pacific side:
Oh, and we can't forget:
When I worked in NYC during the 80's I gave myself a special party about once a month. I went to The Oyster Bar and ordered two dozen oysters - two dozen different kinds of oysters. Twenty five years later I can still remember the taste.
I'm not much of a fish fan -- fish is penance for the crucifixion, you know, well, it's not, but the connection with Friday will always be with me -- and if I must have it, want it rolled in cornmeal and fried, but I do like shellfish. Scallops. My favorite.
A mighty tasty blogpost.
In our salad days we used to sail out from Winthrop Yacht Club just north of Boston to the Outer Harbor islands, drop the hook and row ashore to pluck mussels from the shallows. Back on the mother ship we steamed 'em over the little alcohol stove. A treat for all the senses.
Alas, most shellfish is off my plate these days due to a bad plate of steamed mussels that triggered an allergic reaction. Funny thing is, I can eat fried clams, oysters, and scallops, squid, shrimp and lobsters, but raw clams, mussels, and oysters would send me to the emergency room (add steamed crawfish to that. Found that out recently).
Ahh, my best memory is a plate of cherrystone clams at a Marriott in Cleveland Ohio served with lemon wedges and a beer with light jazz in the background. (long before the allergy appeared, and shortly before I was sentenced to Cleveland for two years. At least, that is how long it took me to get out of there...but that's another story.)
So thanks (I think) for triggering the nostalgia for that which is no longer possible for me. Still a good post though.
Congrats on another timely post! It was a wake up call to start enjoying the season and if I were to move out of New England how I would miss all of that seafood like crazy.
I love everything on this post except mussels- those you have to suffer in the UK or on the Continent because that's the best they can do but here in the Colonies its gotta be steamers, the genuine article, accept no substitues!
I think the test for me is that seafood must be fresh, fresh delish with only the simplest of preparation, i.e., raw, as in oysters, little necks, etc. and steamed, baked, or broiled for everything else. Ice cold Bluepoints with an ice cold, x-dry, Stoli Mart straight up with a twist of fresh lemon at the Oyster Bar in Grand Central Terminal, then boarding the 5:55 to Harrison NY is perhaps my fondest memory of oyster indulgence.
Maggie's Farm has become a daily habit as it is such a great website, I am still amazed by the match to my broad range of interests. Congrats and thanks to Bird Dog and the other loyal and regular contributors for a wonderful website, day in, day out.
I drank about one sip of a rioja with lobster once. Bad, bad idea. Truly awful. Loved the wine until the lobster landed on my plate, loved the lobster once I left the wine alone -- but the two together... *Shiver*...
I've walked that 'wooden brick road' in the pic...I'm also, now, hungry like the rest of you!!
Probably shouldn't mention this, because some of you will be jealous, but since we live on the Gulf of Mexico, or near it, we have all sorts of fish and shellfish available. There's a fishmonger a block or two away from us who boils up fresh shrimp every day, shells them, cleans them and sells them in neat plastic bags for a modest sum. Best fast food in the world. I make shrimp salad at least once a week in summer with them, Shrimp de Jonge or Shrimp Scampi in winter. Lovely light meals, all of them.
But I wish, I really wish, we could get lobster. They get pretty tired when then try to swim all the way down here.
Lobster is ok. I prefer crayfish. I often wondered what would have happened if the Cajuns had stopped in Maine rather than going all the way to Louisiana (of course they went that far since it was a French colony!). Anyway, I wondered what lobster boiled as though it were a crayfish would be like. Well, a friend told me he was in Maine and had the same thought so he boiled some lobster in Old Bay crab boil. Unfortunately, he said they weren't very good. Kind of makes me glad they went all the way down to Louisiana!
Have to respectfully disagree with Dr. Bliss. As a young coastal Floridian, shucking oysters for the social get-togethers was one of the required duties.
The world's best oysters are Apalachicolas. Big and succulent, the flavor is the best part. Imagine my delight when, as a young man, I first experienced the delights of oral sex upon a healthy, young, fertile woman, freshly bathed, and recognized her similarities with my favorite seafood.
There's that poor child all covered with mud and slime again. Won't some nice alpha male reader volunteer to hose her down until, as my brother-in-law says, she's clean enough to kiss anywhere?
The things you learn, h/t Skook, remember fondly the oyster bed i shared with two other houses on the Hood Canal, Wa., never crossed my mind that they were imported. It's good to appreciate the successful introductions (honey bees/apple trees/tomato/potato) because there are so many bad ones.
I couldn't look like that if I tried, but I'm willing to believe you would, Dr. Joy.
Great article......but its Champagne.....not Champaigne....
"There's that poor child all covered with mud and slime again. Won't some nice alpha male reader volunteer to hose her down until, as my brother-in-law says, she's clean enough to kiss anywhere?"
Good Lord, this is why I always loved Marianne.
Bearded clams in the mud. God, Bliss...seriously, you crack me up.