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January 2015

The Party’s Over (Sort of): Happy Red Clam Sauce & Linguine

The Party’s Over (Sort of): Happy Red Clam Sauce & Linguine.

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The Party’s Over (Sort of): Happy Red Clam Sauce & Linguine

The party’s over. Your tree may (or may not) be down and all signs of the holidays away, but most of us still need to recover from the rush of family, friends, and food. You still need to eat well.

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.”
Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

It’s time for the final fantastically fast food recipe: Happy Red Clam Sauce & Linguine

I found the original recipe, “Chet’s Red Clam Sauce,” years ago in a Bon Appétite, in that section reserved for home cooks with good stuff to share that wouldn’t necessarily merit its own article. Chet, bless his heart, won me over with his down and dirty quick sauce.

With a little adaptation, our family had a classic. We’ve served this version of Chet’s for about twenty-five years. It’s a winner every time and, as long as you have the pantry ingredients, it’s on the table in under a half hour.

BTW: Little kids will eat it because they have no idea what a clam might be and they don’t care, either. You may find adults are the same. Just make sure your guests aren’t allergic to shell fish.

Also, it doubles easily. If you’ve got an army of people to feed, carry on. Just get more pasta.

That’s right. Happy new year to you.

Happy Red Clam Sauce & Linguine
Serves 6

6-8 cloves fresh garlic, minced
4 T butter
2 T olive oil
28 oz can tomato sauce (don’t use salt-free – the seafood needs it)
1 T rosemary
2 T basil
2 T oregano
3 T Worcestershire sauce
1 T sugar
3 – 4 cans drained minced clams
1 lb linguine

Put your pasta water on to boil. Saute butter, oil and garlic until clam sauce 1garlic starts to turn golden.  Add tomato sauce and herbs to garlic mixture and simmer for 5 minutes. (Your pasta water should start boiling at some point in this process….) Add clams to tomato sauce mixture. Cook 10-12 minutes (or as long as it takes to cook your linguine).

Suggestion: serve with a nice garlic bread and simple salad. Pictured is a spinach clam sauce 2and hard-boiled egg salad with an olive oil dressing. If you have a nice Parmesan, get it out, but you’ll be fine without it. A nice, hearty red wine would not go amiss.

Some may notice that the serving pieces look quite a bit like Christmas dishes. You’re right. The party’s not quite over here.

Escalloped Potatoes 101

As with most fantastically fast food, escalloped potatoes come from a basic recipe, this one from an old Fannie Farmer cookbook.

Fanny Farmer is dear to my heart, as growing up in Ohio, we had many candy stores (oh, the mint chocolate candy bar!) and a candy factory right up the road. But the candy has no relation to the woman, who published The Boston Cooking-School Cookbook in 1896.

Fannie Merritt Farmer became the Boston Cooking School principal in 1892. As an advocate for the science of cooking, she helped to standardize measurements in recipes, rather than the “pinch of” and “handful of,” imprecise instructions common in that era.

And, by way of clarification, there is no cheese in this type of baked potato casserole. If you’ve got cheese, you’ve got au gratin.

Anyway, it still comes down to your basic recipe and quality ingredients.

Fantastically Fast Food: Escalloped Potatoes*
Serves 6-8 

6-8 Russet potatoes (buy local, if you can)
1/2 c butter
1/2 c  flour
1 c milk (2%, at least) and 1/2 c  half & half
secret ingredient: 1/2 tsp fresh nutmeg

Prepare a shallow casserole dish with olive oil or butter. Slice russets (one at a time, until the dish is full) thinly. IMG_0397I left the skins on for color and a rustic contrast. The key is to slice uniformly, so that the casserole cooks evenly.

Line dish with one layer of sliced potato. Sprinkle lightly with flour. Dot with butter – about a tablespoon or so for each layer should do – and lightly salt and pepper between each.IMG_0396

When dish is full, prepare milk for topping: I used a cup of 2% local dairy milk (which has a higher fat content then a nationally produced chain dairy) and about 1/2 cup of half & half. (This is not the time to count calories to the nth degree – – if you’re going to do that, bake a potato and have done with it.) Warm in a sauce pan, taking care not to bring it to a boil or to scald it. You’re just taking the chill off.

Pour over casserole. Finally, and this is the fun part, if you have a little nutmeg, sprinkle it over the top with your last layer of flour, salt, and pepper. If you can, find fresh nutmeg and use a microplane. The smell and hint of spice is amazing.IMG_0401

Bake one hour at 350° until potatoes are fork-tender. Let sit for 5-10 minutes to allow the sauce to settle.

Amazing. You’ll thank me later….it takes minutes to prepare, but with pure/local ingredients, its a gift from the food gods.

“Back Then” Note*: My mom used to make escalloped potatoes with 1/2″ bone-in pork chops on the top and a thin layer of apple as the very topmost layer. Thinly sliced pork enables you to bake this in about the same amount of time. If you’re a “one dish meal” person, give it a go. All you need is a salad or relish on the side.

And a little etymology: 

I prefer the phrase ‘escalloped,’ not scalloped, but the http://www.freedictionary.com has a fun history for either:

“Middle English scalop, from Old French escalope, shell, perhaps of Germanic origin (akin to Dutch schelp, seashell), or from Old Frenchescale, scale; see scale1 + Old French (envel)ope, enveloping cover (from enveloper, to envelop; see envelop).]”

Fantastically Fast Food

Who doesn’t wish for more time?

At this point, you are time rich. You have an entire year ahead of you –  365 days of time. Yours to spend or waste, as you will.

You may have made a resolution to do more, or do less, or to do it more effectively.  Great. Let’s have at it.

Over the holidays, we made three fantastically fast recipes. Keep them for the days ahead, when you need more time or don’t want to spend it cooking when you could be playing…or sitting still.

Enjoy your entertaining and leave the complicated recipes to themselves.

There’s not a minute to waste.

First Recipe: Prosciutto-Wrapped Asparagus Appetizer

8 oz prosciutto, sliced thinly
1 lb (16 spears, appx) asparagus
olive oil
sea salt
freshly cracked black pepper
IMG_0375

Rinse and dry asparagus,  slicing off woody ends. Wrap prosciutto diagonally around asparagus spear. (I thought I would need a toothpick to hold it, but the natural oil in the prosciutto helped adhere the meat to the vegetable.)

Heat 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil in non-stick pan on medium high. Place spears in pan, grilling on all sides so that prosciutto caramelizes. This takes about 5 minutes or so, but will depend on your temperature – don’t burn!

Crack pepper directly into pan and sprinkle lightly (!) with sea salt. Serve warm.
IMG_0373

This was a New Years Eve hit. Cheers.

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