I have come across ‘Surf Clam’ on many Japanese restaurant menus but, on the few times I have tried to order it in the past, it always seemed to be out of season, or otherwise unavailable. In any event, back this past December, I tried it, not once but twice, in two different restaurants in Ottawa. All I could think was that it was a shame I had not managed to try them before as they were probably the nicest clam type I have ever had…
I really cannot tell you exactly what species constitutes ‘surf clam’ for culinary purposes as the information I was able to find was quite confusing. It may well be that there are more than one species, including one that is fished offshore from Bedford, Nova Scotia. The inset in the above picture shows one such species (Spisula sachalinensis) and I have included it to give you an idea of the part of the clam that is used.
The sashimi and sushi you see pictured above was served to me at Wasabi, where they identified on the menu as ‘Orange Clam’ and ‘Hokegai’, the latter apparently and in-house spelling of the more common ‘Hokkigai’. Surf Clam seems to be the most common English name, but one also encounters ‘Red Clam’, and ‘Sea Clam’.
What I like about the Wasabi version, was the presentation. As you can see, the edible portion of the clam (apparently called either the ‘foot’ or the ‘tongue’) is ‘butterflied’. It is simple pressed almost flat on the plate for the sashimi version, but is made into a pretty little conical ‘hat’ for the sushi. His is quite unique and different from the way it was cut at my next port-of-call… Continue reading “Notable Nosh: The Surf Clam”
Dried Abalone is one of those special ingredients, such as Shark fin, to use another example, that are highly prized, especially in Chinese cuisine. These sorts of delicacies typically just served for special occasions, not only because of the sheer expense, but also, because of the time-consuming preparation required.
For those unfamiliar, the Abalone is an open-shelled marine snail that is cultivated and harvested in many places around the world. The fresh meat is considered a delicacy in many cuisines, and one can also buy it canned, but the dried variety is most particularly associated with Chinese cookery. I have yet to try the fresh article myself, and so cannot compare it to the dried , but my experience is that dried abalone, while very tasty (and with a pleasant texture), owes much of its cachet, like, say, rare wines, or long-aged single malt scotches, to the expense rather than any special quality. That being said, though, it is definitely worth trying at least once… Continue reading “Foodstuff: Dried Abalone”
You can do lots of wonderful things with lobster but sometimes the simplest things are best and one of my favorite meals is a plain boiled east-coast lobster. As a child, I mostly ate these cold, often with little more than a roll and butter, but most people, my wife included, prefer the lobsters served piping hot with drawn butter and that is how we most commonly have them these days. We don’t often get the live creatures up here in Iqaluit very often (and they are monstrously expensive when they do get flown in) but every time we see them we have to buy…. Continue reading “Boiled Lobster (A How to…)”
There really is nothing like fresh Mussels. Sadly, we can usually only by them frozen in these parts so when our local stores do have a supply of the fresh article on hand, my signature Steamed Mussels always follows.
I never follow a precise recipe when I steam mussels… each version is just slightly different than the one before… but, essentially, I steam them whole in butter, garlic, onion, white wine and parsley. I also occasionally add lemon zest, or even chopped tomato to the blend. Basically, my dish is pretty much a version of the famous ‘Moules Mariniere ’, and goes great with crusty bread to sop up the delicious broth that is created by the steaming process… Continue reading “Steamed Mussels”
This is the first use of the Qikiqtarjuaq Clams my wife bought while I was away on Court circuit. For this recipe, I am going to deep fry the whole clam rather than just the muscular ‘strip’ so it will be, as they say in New England and the Maritimes, ‘Fried Clam with Belly’. I have always loved fried clams but I try to avoid too many deep-fried foods (and these can be very rich) so I am just doing three each for me and the wife as a little appetizer… Continue reading “Deep-Fried Clam Appetizer”
A couple of days ago, I mentioned that my wife had purchased some clams that were harvested offshore from the tiny community of Qikiqtarjuaq. She bought two bags, totaling about 50 clams or so, and you can see one bag, and a few of the clams, in the above picture.
Most people are not aware of it, but the term clam is not a precise zoological name for a particular species but is rather a very broad general term for a whole range of similar, but not necessarily closely related, type of shellfish. I have no idea what particular species is harvested up in Qikiqtarjuaq. The variety has a very pronounced (and rather phallic looking) extension that is sometimes called the ‘neck’ but which is, in fact, a siphon by which the clam ingests seawater and extracts the plankton which makes up its diet. In this feature, it is very similar to the Geoduck (pronounced ‘gooey duck’) and the Horse Clam (or ‘Gaper’), but both these species are native to the Pacific Coast as far as I know and so that would seem to rule them out. I rather thought, after doing a little research, that these clams may be a northern variety of Quahog know as Arctica islandica, but they have the same sort of thin very fragile shell that is called a ‘soft-shell’ (in contrast to the hard shell quahogs), so I really am at a loss. In any event, these clams are sufficiently representative of the whole broad class that we can make some pretty good observations about clams in general… Continue reading “Clams from Qikiqtarjuaq”
I probably wouldn’t normally feature something so plain and simple in a ‘Notable Nosh’ posting, but this method of serving mussels was so delicious it left me smacking my forehead for never having thought of serving them this way myself.
When I saw ‘Mussel Sashimi’ on the menu at Ken’s Japanese Restaurant in Ottawa, I assumed that I would be getting raw shellfish. However, although sashimi does generally involve uncooked fish, a few items (notably octopus, for one) are first cooked before being served cold. Mussels could easily be enjoyed raw, of course, but serving them this way, as a cooked, cold appetizer was a bit of a revelation to me.
I am not sure how Ken’s prepared these but my first guess would be that they were very quickly steamed. Whatever seasoning was included in the steaming liquid was very light and about all I can suggest was that there may have been a dash of rice wine added to help infuse the delicate meat with just a touch of additional sweetness. Surprisingly, there was no ‘liquor’ on the shells beneath the flesh, but the mussels were delightfully plump and extremely succulent. I am not sure, but it is also possible that the mussels may even have been poached in a subtly flavored liquid and then left to marinate in the same for a time before serving.
In any event, although I love mussels and steam them regularly, I have yet to serve them cold and this little appetizer I tried has inspired me to play around with the basic theme. I may be stuck with using cooked, frozen mussels at first as the fresh article only shows up here a few times a year, but that will be interesting too. The main challenge will be to avoid getting too heavy-handed with seasonings as subtlety is definitely the key here, but I am already thinking of some Asian and Mediterranean twists on the idea. Posts will be forthcoming…
Since I will be making a Cioppino for tomorrow’s dinner and need some nice stock to make a base for the soup, I thought I’d do a separate post to illustrate the process for you as it is a good culinary technique to develop.
If you eat a fair amount of shellfish, you should really get into the habit of saving the shells rather than throwing them away, as they contain a lot of flavor that would otherwise be wasted. Whenever I peel shrimp, or have lobster or crab as part of a meal, I put the shells into a container in the freezer and let them accumulate until I have enough for a stock. In plenty of recipes you will see things like bottled clam juice used as an ingredient, but a nice stock made from leftover shells, and also the melt water and liquor thrown off by different shellfish, will add a richer and more complex depth to your finished dish… Continue reading “Simple Shellfish Stock”