Tag Archives: mussels

HOG ISLAND OYSTER COMPANY

Hog Island Oyster Company is on Tomales Bay, just a short, beautiful drive north of San Francisco. Once there, you can buy unshucked oysters and other shellfish to take back home with you, or you can have all varieties of raw and cooked oysters, clams, and mussels in a spacious restaurant with great views of the bay.

Don’t worry if you can’t make the time to take the drive. You can still get fresh oysters at the Hog Island Oyster Company at the Ferry Building in San Francisco. The Ferry Building is one of the great destinations for visitors to the city. It has been lovingly renovated and occupies a dominant place on the Embarcadero. On Saturdays it serves as home for a huge farmers market where all of the city’s chefs shop. You are likely to catch a glimpse of someone you have seen on television or in whose restaurant you have eaten.

The Ferry Building is lined with shops filled with hard-to-find food, well-known products like Cowgirl Creamery cheeses, pottery, jewelry, and expensive one-of-a-kind kitchen gadgets.

The building sits right on the water because in times past it served as the terminal for the many ferries that crossed San Francisco Bay. Now the Oakland Ferry has a berth just a few steps away from the restaurant of the Hog Island Oyster Company. The beautiful new Bay Bridge makes a perfect backdrop, so that Hog Island is a popular stop for locals and tourists alike.

The Oakland Ferry and the Bay Bridge in the background

The Oakland Ferry and the Bay Bridge in the background

Expect a crowd on the weekend or when the weather is beautiful. That means you will have to wait, but the line moves quickly. It moves even more quickly if you get a bloody mary from the bar to pass the time.

Waiting in line

Waiting in line

Of course, outdoor seats are at a premium, so you may have to wait a little longer for them. But seats at the counter are often available, and to me they are preferable. You can watch the woman who runs the garde manger station as she whips up salads with blinding speed. Her knife skills are amazing as she cuts fresh basil into a fine chiffonade while she surveys the dining room. You can also watch the three oyster shuckers working non-stop to fill all the orders for oysters on the half shell.

Non-stop oyster shucking

Non-stop oyster shucking

Whenever we visit San Francisco, we almost always make at least one pilgrimage to Hog Island, and we almost always order their biggest tray of raw oysters – 2 dozen, mixed.

This time there were seven different kinds of oysters, so they sent out four each of six kinds. We asked for Kumomotos, our favorite, but they did not include Hog Island’s own Kumomotos. They are beautifully fluted and much smaller than other varieties, but they have a sweetness, brininess, and flavor that are unique. When we complained to the waiter, he promised to bring out some more, and he did. Then we recognized him as a server who had worked at Rich Table when it first opened.

Acme bread

Acme bread

Raw oysters

Raw oysters

You need a glass of wine to wash down the oysters

You need a glass of wine to wash down the oysters

We had a nice visit with Charles and then got down to business: eating all of those oysters with a tasty mignonette along with glasses of refreshing wine. Next came a plate of yellow fin crudo prepared by the garde manger lady and topped with her incredibly fine basil chiffonade.

Yellow fin crudo

Yellow fin crudo

Susan had an oyster roast instead of her usual clam chowder. I finished up with rustic seafood stew. I asked why, if this is San Francisco, it’s not called ciappino. The reply was that it didn’t have the crab required to call it that. It had everything else. Tentacles of the calamari, heads on the shrimp, clams, mussels, chunks of white fish, savory broth, and toasted Acme bread to soak up any leftover broth.  If there would have been.

Rustic seafood stew

Rustic seafood stew

Then home to catch a quick nap before it was time to pick up they boys.

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FISH STEW AND THE REDONDO PIER

During our recent visit to Los Angeles, we stayed just a short walk from the pier at Redondo Beach, so we made a family outing between the various  holidays. Everyone else for miles around decided to do the same thing, because the boardwalk was jammed with multi-generational families. Many of them were visiting with other multi-generational families giving a festive air to the occasion. The Redondo Pier is filled with attractions similar to those in other seaside tourist towns: restaurants, glass-bottomed boat tours, candy shops, and an arcade with an indoor Tilt-A-Whirl.

One attraction, though, stands out. The Quality Seafood Fish Market, “Largest and Finest Selection of Seafood on the Coast”. It stretches for much of the length of one side of the boardwalk, complete with its own  very popular seafood restaurant around the corner. The best part, though, is the seafood market where you can buy fresh fish and shell fish, some of them live. The place advertises albacore, anchovies, barracuda,  blue runner, bonito, bream, catfish, etc., etc., in alphabetical order. This is Dungeness crab season on the West Coast, and there were Dungeness crabs aplenty. But there were at least four other varieties of local crabs, wiggling in their watery holding tanks. There were also oysters from a number of places along with mussels, several kinds of clams, and even some geoduck – pronounced “gooey-duck”. (Which my daughter declared she would not eat. Not too surprising since she avoids  “objectionable” foods including all allia – onions, red onions, scallions, shallots, leeks – like the proverbial plague.)

Carol bought some live crabs, shrimp with their heads still on, clams, mussels and a couple of varieties of fish, planning to make a fish stew from one of her favorite cookbooks. New Classic Family Dinners, John Wiley and Sons, Hoboken, NJ, 2009, is written by Mark Peel, owner/chef of the Campanile, widely regarded as one of the best restaurants in Los Angeles but now closed while Peel gets involved in his next venture.

Recipes in the book are patterned after simpler meals Peel served in the Campanile on Monday nights (Family Night) and are supposed to be easy enough that the home cook can prepare them.

Carol did all the cooking, but as I peeked into the kitchen from time to time, it did not look that easy. Regardless, the end result was delicious, and there was plenty for 6 adults and 4 kids.  Note that Carol’s recipe has substituted crab for lobster and contains no onion or its relatives except for a bulb of garlic. Also, the recipe is considerably simplified from Mark Peel’s original. For my part, forgive the images. I only had my iPhone on our excursion.

RECIPE

Rich Fish Stew with Crab, Shrimp, Clams, and Sea Bass

Ingredients

BROTH

  • 3 medium Dungeness crabs
  • 1 quart boiling water
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • ½ small fennel bulb, diced
  • salt
  • 1 14½ ounce can tomatoes with juice
  • 1 garlic head, cut in half crosswise
  • shells and heads from 2 pounds fresh shrimp
  • 1 cup dry white wine (Sauvignon blanc is a good choice)
  • bouquet garni of bay leaves, parsley, tarragon, and thyme
  • ½ teaspoon cracked peppercorns
  • 2 quarts of liquid: crab boiling liquid+water
  • 3 slices country bread, toasted

STEW

  • Crabs from above
  • ¾ pound Yukon gold potatoes,  boiled until tender and cut into chunks
  • 1 pound white-fleshed fish (sea bass, halibut, snapper), cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 dozen clams
  • 2 dozen mussels, de-bearded if necessary
  • 2 pounds shrimp, heads removed, shelled, and deveined
  • 3 tablespoons Italian parsley, chopped coarsely

Method

BROTH

  1. ALERT: DO NOT ASK YOUNG CHILDREN TO HELP WITH THIS STEP. In a large pot lined with a steamer basket, bring the water to a boil. With tongs, lower the crabs into the pot. (Be careful – they will fight back.) Cover tightly, and cook for 12 minutes. Remove the crabs from the pot being careful to save the liquid. Chill the crabs in ice water. Drain and set aside. Measure the cooking water and add more water if needed to make 2 quarts.
  2. Heat the canola oil in a large pot. Add the carrots, celery, and fennel, stirring for a few minutes until lightly browned. Then add the remaining broth ingredients. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, covered, for about 30 minutes
  3. Strain through a chinois or other strainer, pressing the solids to remove any additional liquid.
  4. Return the strained broth to the cooking pot.
  5. Add the potatoes to the broth; return to the simmer.
  6. Add the fish and simmer for an additional 5 minutes. Then add the clams, mussels, and shrimp and simmer until the clams and mussels have opened and the shrimp is pink, about 5 minutes.
  7. Add the crabs, breaking off the legs and claws. Adjust the seasoning and garnish with chopped parsley. Serve immediately with slices of toasted baguette seasoned with garlic and olive oil. Be sure to have some tools to break open the crabs along with a bowl for shells and plenty of napkins.

 

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PAELLA AND CHAMOMILE/LIME FLAN

The other evening we had some friends over for dinner. I had tasted a bottle of Spanish granacha, Cruz de Piedra, at our neighborhood wine tasting the week before, so of course I thought of making paella in our back yard over our open fire pit. It turned out to be Spanish night with manchego, membrillo, white anchovies, paella, and chamomile/lime flan with home-made cajeta. I was pretty proud of the result, and then I discovered that our friends’ daughter, who runs the first food truck in our town, serves paella on a regular basis. Not only that, she writes a food blog where she has done a very complete and scholarly description of the history and traditions of paella. You can read all about it on her blog, http://www.foodtruckclick.com/

Paella on the fire pit

We still had a good time at our gathering, and cooking the paella over an open fire was the hit of the evening.

We enjoyed some of the Cruz de Piedra, along with some vinho verde in deference to the Portuguese and a warm evening. Our friends brought a tasty green salad dressed with a simple vinaigrette along with a crusty batard of farm bread.

Dessert was a classic flan except that it was flavored with chamomile and lime. I served it with the traditional caramel topping but along with cajeta made with fresh goat’s milk.

As evening came, we just relaxed on the patio and watched the sun go down.

Paella is one of those things where you can just do whatever you please except for the required rice and saffron. The recipe that follows is the version I chose for the evening.

Ready to eat

RECIPES

Paella

Ingredients

  • ½ cup olive oil, divided
  • 4 chicken thighs
  • 3 ounces pancetta, chopped
  • 2 chorizo sausages, one diced and one sliced crosswise
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 large tomato, peeled, seeded, and chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into ¼ x 1½ inch strips
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 2½ cups Arborio rice
  • 2½ cups fish stock
  • 2½ cups chicken stock
  • 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon Spanish saffron (no other)
  • 8 clams
  • 8 mussels
  • 8 large shrimp, shelled except for the tail and deveined
  • ½ cup fresh or thoroughly thawed frozen green peas
  • 4 medium squid tubes, each cut into 4 pieces

Method

  • On the stove, heat half of the olive oil over a medium high flame. When it is just shimmering, add the chicken thighs, skin-side down. Brown the chicken until the skin is crisp and brown, turning frequently so the chicken cooks through completely. Drain the chicken on paper towels and set aside. You may want to refrigerate if dinner is a long way away.
  • Add the sliced chorizo to the hot oil and chicken fat. Turn frequently until lightly browned. Drain the cooked chorizo on paper towels and set aside.
  • Add the pancetta and diced chorizo to the still hot pan. Stir frequently until the pancetta is just slightly browned but not crispy. Then add the onion, tomato, pepper, and garlic. Cook until the vegetables are well wilted, liquid has boiled  off, and the mixture is a thick sauce. This is the sofrito. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
  • About an hour before you plan to start the paella, build a fire in the fire pit. Although a wood fire is traditional, charcoal briquettes are perfect.
  • Back in the kitchen, pour out the oil and chicken fat from the pan. Add the remaining olive oil and heat until it shimmers. Then add the rice, stirring frequently until it is well coated.
  • In the meantime, combine the fish and chicken stock in a large pot and bring to the boil.
  • When the rice is evenly coated stir in the sofrito, salt, and saffron. Then pour in the boiling stock, and bring it back to the boil.
  • It is now time to take the pan out to the fire pit. Be careful not to spill.
  • When the pan is firmly set on the grate, make sure it is bubbling gently. From now on, don’t stir.
  • Now it is time to add the other ingredients. First arrange the chicken thighs around the outside of the pan. Then put in the sliced chorizo. After a few minutes, place the clams, hinge side down, deep into the rice. Next add the mussels, and then the shrimp.
  • Sprinkle the peas over the top. Then check to see how everything is going. Add more water if needed. Stir only if the bottom seems to be burning.
  • Cooking should take around 20-30  minutes, depending upon the heat of your fire.
  • Just 3 or 4 minutes before you think things are done, bury the pieces of squid in the rice. They will get tough if you cook them too long.
  • Serve immediately.

Chamomile/Lime Flan

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup white sugar
  • ¼ cup water
  • 2 cups whipping cream
  • 2 bags pure chamomile tea (some have mint or other herbs)
  • rinds of 2 limes
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 quarts boiling water

Method

  • Preheat oven to 300° and set out 4  6-ounce ramekins
  • In a small sauce pan, combine the sugar and water. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Do not stir but continue to boil until the mixture is a light amber color.
  • Working quickly, pour some of the caramelized sugar into each of the ramekins, turning them so the caramel coats the bottoms and sides. Set aside.
  • In a heavy-bottomed saucepan,  heat the cream to a simmer along with the added tea bags and lime rinds. Heat for about 10 minutes. Then stir in the sugar, and remove from the heat.
  • Let steep off the heat for another 10 minutes. Then strain into a bowl.
  • In the meantime, combine the eggs and egg yolks in another bowl, using a whisk. Make sure that they are very well mixed.
  • Whipping constantly, Pour a small stream of the heated cream into the egg mixture/ Not too much so that the eggs don’t scramble. Add a little more of the heated cream to temper the eggs, and then pour that mixture into the cream, whipping to combine completely.
  • Pour the egg and cream mixture into the prepared ramekins.
  • Arrange the ramekins in an oven-proof pan which will hold them comfortably.
  • Pour the boiling water into the pan ust to the level of the tops of the flans, being careful not to get water in the ramekins.
  • Transfer to the middle of the preheated oven and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven. The centers of the custards will still be soft.
  • Place the pan on a cooling rack and allow the flans to cool completely in the water bath. They will finish their cooking as they cool.
  • Cover the cooled ramekins with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour and even over night.
  • To serve, run a thin spatula around the edge of each flan. Invert over the serving plate. The flan should slide out easily. If it does not, twist gently and it should come free.

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BOUILLABAISSE

Live lobster

Fish soup or chowder in one of the true delights of an early winter evening this time of year. There are so many delicious soups that it is hard to list them: clam chowder – both New England and Manhattan – cioppino, fish stew, seafood gumbo, and on and on. Probably the most elegant of all, though, is bouillabaisse.

Cooked lobster

Lobster ready to go in the soup

In Volume I of “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”, Julia Child reminded us that bouillabaisse started out as a simple fish soup made from the catch of the day or from leftovers of the fish monger. These days, though, the soup has morphed into something special served at the best restaurants.  There are hundreds of variations of this French classic, and each is claimed to be more authentic than the next.

Fresh vegetables for the soup

Prepared vegetables

Whenever we visit our daughters, they always try to make something special and yet also play on one of our favorites. This year, we visited our daughter in Los Angeles during the Thanksgiving week. This is her version of bouillabaisse, based upon a recipe by Alfred Portale in his classic cookbook, “Gotham Bar and Grill Cookbook”, Doubleday, 1997. It is filled with lobster, clams, mussels, shrimp, and crabs. You can add any other fish you like, and squid is also a good addition.

Stirring the pot

Ready to be served to the hungry crowd

The recipe is lengthy, to say the least, but worth the effort and expense.

Serve it with a light salad. My daughter chose a salad of roasted golden beets, sugared pecans, and warm goat cheese on a bed of mesclun. She also served a crusty French bread for dipping after the shellfish and lobsters are all eaten.

Roasted beet salad with candied pecans and warm goat cheese

RECIPES

Ingredients

Bouillabaisse

2 live lobsters

1/2 Cup olive oil

4 Cups fish stock

1 medium onion, chopped

1/2 Cup chopped fresh fennel

1/2 Cup chopped leeks, whites only

1 head garlic, cut in half

2 teaspoons ground fennel seed

2 teaspoons ground white pepper

10 sprigs fresh thyme

2 sprigs fresh tarragon

1 star anise

1/2 teaspoon saffron threads

1/4 teaspoon sweet paprika

1/8 teaspoon red pepper

1 bay leaf

4 Tablespoons tomato paste

1 Cup canned tomatoes with juice

1 Cup dry white wine

2 Cups chicken stock

1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced

1 medium yellow bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced

1/8 teaspoon saffron threads

24 large, unshelled shrimp

24 Manila clams

20 mussels

8 ounces lump crab meat

2 Tablespoons Pernod

Bouilli Butter

3 three-inch strips of orange zest

8 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1 large garlic clove mashed to a paste with salt

1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh tarragon

Kosher salt to taste

1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika

1/4 teaspoon ground star anise

1/4 teaspoon ground fennel seed

1/4 teaspoon saffron

1/4 teaspoon cayenne

1/4 teaspoon white pepper

  1. Bring at 3 gallons (12 quarts) of salted water to a rolling boil in a large pot. Plunge the lobsters in the boiling water, cover, and cook for about 4 minutes.
  2. Remove the lobsters to a cutting board, twist off the large claws and return them to the pot for an additional 4 minutes.
  3. Separate the lobster heads from the tails. Cut the tails in half lengthwise and combine them with the cooked claws in a large bowl. Cover and refrigerate.
  4. In a large stockpot over medium heat, heat the oil and then add the lobster heads. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until the lobster heads are bright red. Then add the fish stock, onions, fennel, leeks, and garlic. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook for about 5 minutes.
  5. Add the fennel seed, white pepper, thyme, tarragon, star anise, saffron, paprika, red pepper, and bay leaf. Cook for 5 minutes. Then add the tomato paste, tomatoes, and wine. Raise the heat to high and cook until reduced to about half.
  6. Add the chicken stock and enough water, if needed, to cover the ingredients. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for 45 minutes.  Remove from the heat for 20 minutes. Then strain into a large container, pressing the solids to extract the flavor.
  7. Cook the fingerlings in  a large pot of salted boiling water until tender, about 15 minutes. Set aside in the cooking water.
  8. In a large stockpot, heat the remaining oil over low heat. Add the onion and fennel, cooking until tender. Add the red and yellow peppers, cooking for another 15 minutes
  9. Add the strained stock. Bring to a boil over high heat. Drain the potatoes and add them to the boiling stock. Add the shrimp. clams, and mussels. Cover and cook for 3 minutes. Then add the cooked lobster with its juices and the crab.  Cook until all the shellfish open, about 3 minutes.
  10. In the meantime, prepare the bouilli butter. Blanch the orange zest in boiling water for 1 minute, drain, chop finely, and combine with paprika, star anise, fennel, saffron, cayenne, and white pepper. Add to the softened butter and combine throughly. Place the mixture on a plastic wrap, shape into a log, and chill for one hour in the refrigerator.
  11. Strain through a large colander into a large bowl. Transfer the shellfish and vegetables to a large serving bowl. Pour the strained liquid back into the stockpot and bring to the boil. Add Pernod and 4 tablespoons of the prepared bouilli butter. Then pour the soup into the serving bowl.
  12. Serve in large, deep soup bowls with plenty of good French bread for dipping.

Serves 6 to 8

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