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My Recipes-of-the-Week are featured here on my Home page. You can find 2000 of my kitchen-tested recipes using the Recipes tab, watch over 125 Kitchen Encounters/WHVL-TV segments using the TV Videos tab, join the discussion about all of my creations using the Facebook tab, or Email your questions and comments directly to me--none go unanswered. "We are all in this food world together." ~Melanie

08/03/2022

~ Clam Sizing, Buying, Burping and Perfect Steaming ~

6a0120a8551282970b01bb096d0ac9970dSteamed clams are one of my favorite Summertime treats.  It's not unusual for us to pick up a few dozen, meaning three-four dozen.  We mostly enjoy them as a quick pre-dinner snack, but, we've been known to make an entire meal out of them too.  We simply sit around and fork-shuck 'em out their open shells while they're plump and steaming -- as soon as they emerge from the liquid. One-at-a-time, each morsel gets dipped in some melted garlic-tarragon butter before eating. 

Clams come in many sizes, from quite large to quite small:

6a0120a8551282970b01bb096c85d7970dThe enjoyment of clams was an early passion predating America and even the European exploration of North America.  The Algonquin word for clams, “poquauhok”, eventually morphed into “quahog”, a now common term for hard clams.  Clams were so common in the New World that in 1641 the New Netherland Colony (the first Dutch colony to settle in North America) passed an ordinance stating that polished clam shells, strung as beads or belts and used by the surrounding local tribes as wampum (currency/money), would also serve as money in the colony.

Clams are found all along the eastern seaboard from Canada to Florida.  They are all the same species, they just vary in sizes.  There are no official regulations pertaining to how big a clam has to be to be labeled, but, because they are such slow growers (it takes 2-3 years for a clam to reach littleneck size and large chowder clams can be 30-40 years old), there are rules prohibiting harvesting of clams that are too small (less than 1" at the hinge).  Purchase what's available or what suits your purposes best.  My favorites are cherrystone (3"-4") and topneck (2"-3".

To soak & burp clams (to purge them of gritty sand):

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c8c9e845970bSoaking clams in cold water helps them burp out or purge the sand.   All clams, which live on the ocean floor, contain sand.  It's caused by their constant siphoning the sandy ocean water through their shells. One of the least appetizing foodie experiences is to eat a forkful of perfectly-cooked clams and end up with grit in your teeth -- a clear sign that the cook or chef didn't burp or purge the clams.  Its an easy process but requires a couple of hours, so include that in your game plan (or do it the day before). 

Gently tap each uncooked clam whose shell is open against your countertop. It should close immediately upon tapping. If it does not, it's dead and should be discarded.  Rinse the clams under cold running water and use a stiff brush to scrub the shells of dirt or grit.  Place the clams in a large bowl and cover with a mixture of 1 gallon of water + 1/4 cup sea salt per 2 pounds of clams.  Let for about 30-45 minutes, then remove the clams individually and place in a colander. Discard the water in the bowl, replace with a fresh water and salt mixture, then return the clams to soak for another 30-45 minutes. Repeat process another 2-3 times, until water is clear of sand. 

To perfectly-steam the clams -- my easy-peasy method:

6a0120a8551282970b01bb096d0ac9970dThe shells on clams should be closed when you buy them, or, they should close when tapped (as explained above).  A clam that will not close when prodded is a dead clam.  Throw it away.  Fiction:  A clam that doesn't open during the cooking process is a dead clam. Fact:  A clam that doesn't open during the cooking process is a live clam that needs to be cooked longer.  I've got 48 live topneck clams which have been purged as directed above -- that works out to 6a0120a8551282970b01b8d2541d1b970cbe a generous 2-cups of shucked clams -- enough for two to four servings.  Feel free to change the amount to suit your purposes.  

I am giving them a basic steam in plain water today,  until each one opens up wide.  I like to use my electric skillet for this task because it controls the heat perfectly, and, it has a glass lid which acts as a window -- allowing me to remove each clam the moment it opens up, so it doesn't overcook.  I do this in two batches of 24 clams each so as not to overcrowd the skillet.

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d2541cbf970c 6a0120a8551282970b01b8d2541cbf970c 6a0120a8551282970b01b8d2541cbf970c 6a0120a8551282970b01b8d2541cbf970c~Step 1.  Place 1 quart water in bottom of electric skillet and insert the rack.  Close the lid and adjust the heat to high (400° on this skillet).  In the meantime, drain and discard the water from the bowl of clams.  When the water in the skillet is boiling, open the lid and place 24 clams on the rack.  Close the lid and steam clams until each one pops open. Opening and closing the lid on the skillet as you work, use a pair of tongs to remove the steamed clams as they open, transferring them to a plate or a bowl to cool.  Repeat this process with the second 24 clams, adding 1-2 cups more water to the skillet to make up for what evaporated.  When cool enough to handle, pluck the clams from their shells and place in a bowl.  You will have 2+ cups.

Try my ~ Classic Clams (Clams on the Halfshell) Casino ~:

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c8c99756970bAnd my ~ Butter me Up Capellini a la Clams Casino ~:

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c8c9f982970b"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2022)

07/31/2022

~ Pasteurized Crab -- What's in the can for that Cost ~

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d25c0837970cA couple days ago I restocked my supply of pasteurized crabmeat for the upcoming tailgate and holiday season.  I do it every year around this time, and, I was down to my last can, so, I bought three more.  Like most folks, I love to eat crabmeat, and, while fresh crab is indeed a delicacy, for my purposes pasteurized crab is my first choice.  Like fresh crabmeat, it must be stored in the refrigeratory, but unlike fresh crab it has a very long shelf life -- up to 18 months. What's not to love about that.  Because it's pasteurized, it's fully-cooked and ready-to-use as-is in hot or cold dishes.  How convenient is that.  Lastly, while it isn't cheap, it's less expensive than fresh crabmeat.  Prices range from $30 to $50 per one-pound can, and the price depends on what's packed in the can -- to know that, you need to familiarize yourself with the label.

What is Pasteurized Crab MeatColossal-, Jumbo- and Lump- crabmeat all come from the two largest muscles connecting the swimming legs of the crab. Colossal and Jumbo are whole, unbroken pieces with the latter being smaller.  Lump consists of broken pieces of jumbo lump. Backfin crabmeat consists of flakes of white meat from Lump and Special (meat from the body cavity). Claw is pink in color and the meat from the swimming fins and Claw Fingers are the pink meat tips of the pinchers.

In terms of processing, after the crabmeat is extricated from the shells, the meat is carefully sorted into pieces of various sizes and textures:  claws, legs, body meats, swimming fins, etc. This initial  "sorting" is the most important step, since pasteurized canned crab is categorized into grades from colossal, to jumbo, to lump, to claws and flaked meat.  The price varies from category to category, with colossal and jumbo (there are only two lumps per crab) being the most expensive.  It's sold in 8- or 16-ounce cans or plastic tubs.  That said, the pasteurization process is not the same heat process for other canned products, so, even though it has a long shelf life, it must be stored in the refrigerator, and once opened, must be eaten within three days.

Try my ~ Old English Cheese Spread & Crabmeat Canapés ~:

6a0120a8551282970b01bb09bebca1970d-800wiAnd, my ~ Cold & Creamy Crab Rangoon Dip w/Wonton Cups ~:

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d25c649e970cOr, my ~ Crab Rangoon w/More Crab than Cream Cheese ~:

6a0120a8551282970b01bb0971d7c6970dOr, my ~ Slightly-Spicy Creamy Cajun-Creole Hot Crab Dip:

6a0120a8551282970b026bdeeaa3d8200cOr, my ~ Crunchy Crabmeat Crostini w/Secret Seafood Sauce ~:

6a0120a8551282970b022ad364e3ec200cOr, my ~ Holiday Appetizers 101 -- Make Lots of Crab Balls ~:

6a0120a8551282970b01bb09608754970dOr, my ~ Exquisite Crabmeat Stuffed Omelette a la Benedict ~:

6a0120a8551282970b01bb0812ab20970dPlus, my ~ Maryland Crabcake, Tomato & Mayo Sandwich ~:

6a0120a8551282970b022ad38a1bfc200d-800wi"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2022)

07/27/2022

~ Raise Your Hands in Praise for all Pepperoni Pizza ~

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c8e8a675970bPepperoni.  It's easy to assume it's 100% Italian, but it's as American as apple pie.  Food writer and historian John Mariani writes, "like jazz and baseball, pepperoni is purely an Italian-American creation, like chicken parmesan."   While it's exact origin is unknown, long story short, it's our spicy version of their salami (salame), and, no surprise to anyone, thinly-sliced or finely-diced, pepperoni is the most popular pizza topping in every pizzeria across the United States. That said, it's wonderful eaten in and on all sorts of other things too.  It's made from cured pork and beef (in a ratio of approximately 70% lean to 30% fat) and seasoned liberally with paprika (to give it is signature red color), as well as sugar, garlic and other aromatic spices to amp the flavor. 
 
Pepperoni.jpgAfter air-drying and curing, the finished product is medium-grained, slightly-smokey, a bit chewy, and, in terms of dried sausages, relatively soft, with edges that tend to curl up (and even char a bit) in the heat of the pizza oven. Referred to as "cupping", the curled-up crispy edges provide a spot for the salty, tangy, spicy sausage juices to pool up in (rather than spread out across the surface of the cheesy pizza).
 
IMG_5557Whole pepperoni sticks or packaged slices can be purchased in every large grocery store and small mini-markets.  It's also available sliced to suit your needs at all deli-counters, specialty meat shops, butcher shops and delicatessens.  Since it's a cured sausage, technically it doesn't require refrigeration and can be frozen up to six months too.  That said, I do keep mine stored in the deli-drawer of my refrigerator and do not freeze it.  A quick Google search will reveal too many brands to mention by name, but, for my purposes, with respect to what is available to me, my favorite is Boar's Head sliced and stick pepperoni, along with Hormel's packages of sliced mini-pepperoni.
 
6a0120a8551282970b0240a4cb40bb200bThe term "pepperoni" was borrowed from the Italian word "peperoni" (the plural of peperone), which is the Italian word for "a large pepper", referring to a bell pepper.  Read on:
 
Italian immigration into the USA increased dramatically in the early 20th Century and it was these immigrants who began combining their traditions with our American ingredients.  The first reference to pepperoni in print appears in 1919 (around the approximate time when mom-and-pop Italian butcher shops and pizza parlors began popping up in lower Manhattan. Then, during the World War I, the word was being used by Italian-American soldiers as a synonym for sausage -- after the war, it began to appear as a pizza topping in NYC pizzerias.
 
Since the 1960s, there's no looking back -- pepperoni is imbedded in our culture and here it will stay.  You say "pizza topping" and most Americans will answer "pepperoni".  Americans consume over 250 million pounds of this slaty, spicy, tangy sausage on 35% of all pizza nationally.  Sliced or diced, besides pizza it can be used in lots of specialty dishes, as well as in casseroles, on cold- or hot-sandwiches pasta salads, charcuterie boards, and unique bread products.
 
 
 
 
6a0120a8551282970b022ad37710b6200c"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti
 
(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2022)