I grew up on the east coast (New Jersey) near the beach which, combined with an Italian heritage where seafood was often present, makes it no surprise that I have a yearning for fish from time to time, especially that of the saltwater variety. Kate also grew up near water, but the fresh water of the Great Lakes where the only mussels they know of are the invasive zebra kind. For her the fish of choice is usually a white fish or even a nice lake trout. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love fresh water fish like pickerel and trout, but once you have the brine, you can’t get it out of your mind.
Wednesday marked one of those days where from the moment I thought about what to make for dinner in the afternoon, I was set on some sort of seafood. Originally I had set out with the idea of a fish of some sort, sautéed or grilled over some of our beautiful CSA greens and green garlic. The plan changed however when I walked in and saw the fresh clams they had from the east coast. Well, that and we got a rare hard rain which made grilling less appealing. I absolutely love steamers and can remember sitting down the beach at Pt. Pleasant, NJ at Jenkinsons as a kid eating crabs and clams. It’s a vivid memory for me and I absolutely miss it, probably one of the few things I miss most about the east coast. I digress, so back to the clams. The clams looked great and had come in that morning. While expensive, I decided to just go for it and get two pounds to steam in beer with some aromatics. While searching for some sort of pale beer to use for cooking, we landed instead in the hard cider aisle and then on a Colorado-made cider called Grasshop-ah, made with hops and lemongrass. Kate remembered what I have said before about hops-crusted trout and how good it is, and in a Grasshopper-like moment said we should give it a whirl as the steaming agent. So a little bit of cider, some carre (cured and smoked loin) from our friend Scott, a jalapeno, some mint and some green garlic and we were set on the clams.
As I mentioned earlier, we had some beautiful CSA greens which we used as a base for the clams, gorgeous chard and spinach. We sautéed that up with some nice guanciale from our friend Jason, a little bit of garlic and 1/4 cup of pine nuts. The greens were spectacular.
The meal was great, brought me back to some good thoughts as a kid and introduced Kate to some good ol’ clams. It was a great dish that had that balance of spring vegetables but hearty enough on a rainy day to warm the bones. I highly recommend making the dish even if it isn’t about childhood memories, but just a good ol’ hearty bowl of food.