Thursday, August 11, 2016

Clams and Mussels in Garlic Wine Sauce

This is a simple preparation that in only infrequently cooked in homes. Demonstrating just how easy it is to achieve restaurant quality at home with minimal effort will encourage others to try it. I let my “student” do all the steps. This is more memorable than if you do it.

3 Pounds live clams (or 50-50 Clams and Mussels), washed & cleaned
3 Tablespoons sweet butter and 2 Tablespoons good olive oil
1 Cup white wine (Pinot Gris or Sauvignon Blanc)
3 Garlic cloves, minced
¾ Cup minced shallots
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 Cup Italian parsley, finely chopped

Start by rinsing the clams in water. If you also using mussels, clean these and remove any beards with a sharp pairing knife. Discard those that are open (dead) or broken shells. Then let clams stand covered in a bowl water for two hours to which you add a tablespoon of corn meal. Do not touch the bowl or the clams will “clam up”. You want them to open and drop any excess sand they might have, and additionally, they may be full of salt water which otherwise will make the dish too salty. Do not skip this step. After two hours, rinse with cold water twice.

Preheat the oven to 170 F and put your serving platter in it.

Heat a large heavy-bottomed pot with plenty of surface area2.  Add and heat the oil, when smoking add the clams and half the parsley. Season generously with pepper (Use some red pepper too, if it pleases you.) Flip,  then cover, and cook until all the shells steam open. (Discard any that stay closed.) Remove the clams with a slotted spoon to a heated serving platter. Stick in warm oven to stay warm. Filter the broth through a very fine strainer (need to be able to filter sand) and pour the strained liquid back into the pot. Add the wine, garlic, shallots and reduce liquid on high to concentrate the flavor. Remove from heat, add remaining parsley, the shellfish and swirl in the butter. Taste and correct seasoning.

If serving a pasta (spaghetti or linguini), cook a pound of it "al dente" then toss the clams and pasta in a serving bowl.

1.     Farmed mussels and clams generally do not contain sand but it does not hurt to soak in cold water. Additionally, since these are raised in salt water, their opening will rid some of the undesirable salt.
2.     I use a 14-inch cast-iron skillet with three-inch lip. Its thickness allows a lot of heat to be stored in a preheated pan allowing the chef to flash cook a large bunch of cold clams/mussels quickly so they remain tender.
3.     The smaller the mussels and clams, the sweeter and the tenderer these will be. So if you have the chance to pick these out of the pile, cull the small ones.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Manila Clams with Black Bean Sauce

Manila clams are the sweetest and probably the smallest hard-shell clams you will find in the market, making them the favorite of many professional chefs. Manila clams need only about 3-5 minutes to steam open.
Manila clams are widely farmed in the Pacific Northwest, mostly in Washington State and British Columbia. Unlike some kinds of fish farming, clam farming poses little threat to the environment because these tasty bivalves are hatched in pens and then live their lives in the wild.
From a cooking standpoint, most Manila clams are steamed. You can certainly eat them on the half shell, but few people do for no real reason: They taste every bit as sweet as the Eastern quahogs we eat on the half shell, although Manila clams will be less salty.

Manilas are classically used in pasta and soups. If you want to mix them with other seafood, they go well with crab.

Any clams that do not open their shells while cooking  are suspect and should be tossed.

This recipe is Cantonese and is wonderful served with steamed jasmine rice on Chinese New Year.
The province of Canton, now officially known as Guangdong, is renowned for its super-fresh, subtly prepared food.

"It's the finest cuisine in China," says New Jersey-based Eileen Yin-Fei Lo, a Chinese cooking authority and author who has been dubbed the Cantonese Julia Child.

2 pounds manila clams, soaked with a tablespoon corn meal, the rinsed twice, scrubbed and rinsed again
2 Tablespoons fermented black beans, soaked in water, drained, mashed
2 Large cloves garlic, crushed, minced
1 Tablespoon peeled, minced ginger
2 Teaspoons black soy sauce
¼ Cup Shaohsing wine
1 Cup Bar Harbor or another good clam juice
3 shallots, chopped finely
1 Teaspoons seasoned rice vinegar
2 Tablespoon oyster sauce
2 Tablespoon corn starch
1 Teaspoon sugar
1 Tablespoon crushed red pepper
2 scallion greens, cut diagonally as garnish
Peanut oil

Soak clams in cold water to which has been added a bit of corn meal. The corn meal will cause the clams to open thereby shedding the salt water. Allow to rest un-disturbed so clams open, about ¾ hour. Under cold running water, scrub the outside of the clams with a stiff brush, then rinse twice.

Dissolve cornstarch in  1 tablespoon cold water and retain. Add oil to hot wok or large pre-heated hot cast-iron pan. Add drained clams, and toss with a spoon/chun. Add ginger, and shallots. Toss until clams open. 

Add black beans, Shaohsing wine, soy sauce, oyster suace, red pepper, sugar, garlic, rice vinegar. Stir fry a minute or two. Add clam juice, and  disolved constarch mixture. Stir and heat until the suace thickens. Taste and then correct seasonings, adding white pepper if needed. Garnish with scallions greens then plate.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Tender Tagliatelle, Edamame, Sorrel, Mint, with Buttery Aged Havarti

Nuttiness of aged havarti cheese pairs perfectly with crunchy edamame, lemony sorrel, mint topping freshly made wide hand-cut Italian noodles. Thin slices of red apple give a pleasant under tone of sweetness and visual appeal.


Tagliatelle hand-cut noodles made with Durham hard-winter-wheat

Shelled Edamame

Fresh Sorrel leaves

Fresh Mint leaves

Aged Havarti cheese, coarsely graded

Sweet European butter

Sea salt

Thinly Sliced red apple

Pinch of sugar

Red wine vinegar

Pine nuts

White pepper


Acidulate a cup of water, add a little salt and sugar to taste. Core and thinly slice apples lengthwise, store in the sweet acidulated water. Shelled Edamame and blanch in boiling water for one minute. Plunge in ice water to stop cooking, drain and pat dry. Chop mint and sorrel in a chiffonade. Boil a pound of fresh Tagliatelle noodles in salted water. Cook 2+ minutes until al dente. Drain most of the water, tossing pasta with ¼ pound of cold butter cut into patties for three minutes. Add white pepper and sea salt to correct seasoning. Add chiffonade, Edamame, Havarti cheese, pine nuts. Drain apple slices well. Toss noodles and serve.


Optional Items

Grated Romano or parmesan cheese for additional flavor

Italian Capers

Flecks of soaked softened sun dried tomatoes


Friday, April 1, 2016

Miso Mayonnaise - sushi/sashimi sauce

There are many versions of Miso but they generally fall into red, white, and Hatcho Miso ("emperor's miso" Aged 24-30 Months) with less water and salt content and made near Okazaki castle in Japan.
Red (Aka) miso is aged over a year the color of this miso changes gradually from white to red or even black.
White (Shiro) miso is the most popular miso and is made with rice, barley, and a small quantity of soybeans and has abbreviated fermentation. The taste is sweeter than red miso but has less umami.
Miso, when fresh, has a shelf life and will be found in the refrigerated section of the Asian market. This is not to say that it is not available dried or unrefrigerated.
Miso is showing up practically everywhere thanks in large part to the Asian-pacific rim cuisine but because it is so flavorful, marinades, sauces, pasta and soups of all sorts have leveraged it versatility. “The key to fine miso cookery is not to overpower dishes with a strong miso taste, but to integrate the more subtle aspects of miso color and flavor in a gentle balance with other ingredients.”

Create a savory Mayonnaise sushi/sashimi sauce combine to taste these simple ingredients.

1 1/2 cups of Best Foods Mayonnaise
1/4 cup of Awase miso (or 50-50 white and red miso)
2 Tablespoon of hon mirin (true mirin) (sake)
1 Teaspoon fish sauce
1 Teaspoon Seasoned rice wine vinegar

  1. A good source for miso is the  Gold Mine Natural Foods (
  2. Hon mirin (true mirin) not to be confused with Aji-Marin is a lot more expensive and has true umami flavor. Takara Marin is an example as is  12% alchol. All true Marin will have a similar alchol content.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Steve's Oxtail Stew in Scotch Broth or Elephant Stew in the Jungle

Some where over the course of raising my children, this dish took on the name elephant stew. I had submitted several recipes in the Laneview School Favorites Cookbook published to raise money for school field trips in the 1970’s. One of the recipes was for Elephant Stew which went like this:

1 Elephant, Chopped
72 gallons prepared Gravy
2 rabbits (optional.)

Cut elephant into bite size chucks. Cover with gravy and slowly simmer two weeks. Serves 4600. If expecting more people, add the rabbits. A word of caution, however, since some are rather put off to find an unexpected hare in their stew.

Now I cannot remember where the actual Elephant Stew recipe came from. I am sure I read it somewhere. My daughter, who was only 4 at the time, overheard her brother say “his teacher especially liked the recipe for Elephant Stew.” Since one of her favorites was this oxtail stew, she made the leap that this must be the one. Here it is for your pleasure: Elephant Stew in the Jungle. As your guests query “but where is the elephant?” of course you answer in the Jungle.

3-5 Pounds of oxtails (Have these quartered in the butcher's saw.)
1 Large diced yellow onion
3 Cloves garlic
Beef bullion granules as required (see text)
2 Finely diced small carrots
1 Stalk of celery, finely diced
3 Tablespoons olive oil
Crushed red pepper flakes
1 Small can of tomato paste
White pepper
Black pepper
6 Bay leaves
1 1/2 cups of water
1 Cup of white wine
1/2 cup of brandy
1 Cup scotch
1 Tablespoon sugar
Ground coriander
Fresh thyme
Fresh sage
A few sprigs of Italian parsley
Greens from 2 scallions
1 Tablespoon of minced fresh orange zest

Broil oxtails on high until nicely brown, turn and repeat for the other side.
In large stock pot, add onions, chopped celery, chopped carrots and sauté until the onions begin to clear. Add browned oxtails. Add all other ingredients except scallions and parsley is set aside for the garnish. The stew will be cook until tender about 3 1/2  hours. Cook with a lid for the first hour. The remove the lid. It is desirable to reduce the liquid to enhance the gravy. Caution needs to be exercised as a low liquid level could mean burning. The stew should be monitored closely as the liquid evaporates and stirred. If the bottom of the pot is thin walled, the risk of burning is higher; hence, you will need to stir more often. When the liquid has reduced sufficiently, add back the lid and place the pot in the oven at 350 F to finish cooking. The meat is done when it can be easily forked off the bone. Correct the seasoning. Salt will be added last in the form of granules of beef bouillon. Thicken the remaining liquid with flour shaken through a sieve (or use gravy flour) and stirred in. The gravy will not attain its thickest until it begins to boil so add the flour in stages and bring to a boil each time. I optionally add 1 tablespoon of minced fresh orange zest. Serve over wide noodles.

Garnish with chopped Italian parsley and chopped scallion greens sections cut diagonally into diamonds.
1.      For those familiar with Roman food, this recipe is remarkably like Coda alla Vaccinara the way the Romans prepare it. Undoubtedly when living in Rome, I had it on the menu as it was very popular. My mother prepared oxtails in my youth and back then, few Americans ate things like tail. Somewhere along the while, I discovered that Scotch and Brandy made a much richer flavor. In fact replacing all the water in this recipe with a good homemade beef stock makes it more “over-the-top-good”.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Potato Pancakes with Smoked Salmon Crème Fraîche Sauce

Latkes are potato pancakes, commonly associated with the Jewish cultural traditions. They can be and are served any time, but traditionally form part of the menu during the celebration of Chanukah. Latkes have a beaten egg binder and flour Often served with applesauce or cream cheese.

2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 Tablespoons tarragon vinegar
1 Teaspoon finely minced shallots
2 Tablespoons peanut oil
1 Tablespoon capers, finely minced
1 Tablespoon finely minced dill
Ground black pepper
1/2 Cup Spanish onion, grated
1 Pound Yukon Gold potatoes, grated
Sea Salt
Use ¼ pound of sweet butter to extract 5 tablespoons Ghee (Clarified butter)
6 Ounces smoked salmon
1/4 Cup crème fraîche
2 Tablespoons Best Food Mayonnaise
3 Tablespoons goat-cheese
2 Teaspoons lemon juice
1 Tablespoon minced chives
Dill fronds as garnish

Preheat oven to 375 F.
In a small mixing bowl, combine the mustard, vinegar and shallots and emulsify with oil to form a dressing. Mix in the capers and dill. Season with freshly ground pepper.

Grate the onion into a bowl. Peel then grate potatoes. Combine onion with potatoes and wring in a wet cotton towel to remove excess moisture. Season with salt and pepper.

Set an 8-inch nonstick sauté pan over medium adding Ghee (Clarified Butter). Pack the potatoes into the pan in a 1/2-inch thick layer. Season with salt and pepper. Sauté the potatoes until the bottom just starts to brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Flip to brown the other side. Place pan in the oven and cook until done another 10 to 15 minutes. Drain the potato pancake on a paper towel and cut into wedges.

Whip crème fraîche, chives, mayonnaise, lemon juice, and goat cheese together until smooth. Taste the sauce and correct the seasoning.

Roll the smoked salmon into rosettes. Top the potato pancake wedges with the smoked salmon rosettes, a few dollops of crème fraîche mixture and garnish with dill fronds. Drizzle with the caper tarragon vinaigrette before serving.

Clarified Butter
Add ¼ pound of sweet butter in a Pyrex measuring cup in the microwave on medium until it has melted. Let it stand until completely separated. Using a bulb baster, extract and retain just the top layer of butter. Purposely, we melted more butter than is actually needed for the recipe.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Pad Thai with notes

Pad Thai is the signature dish of Thai cuisine.  My friends at the Thai Gardens in Milpitas California taught me how to cook this. This recipe is chili, tamarind, rice stick noodles with chicken, shrimp and fried tofu, Thai style.
Nimman Thai Cuisine - California
When my friends of the Thai Gardens first started out, they had a postage sized shop on the corner in a large shopping center. Mom and dad took turns cooking. My friend, Rory Babb introduced me to Thai. He had lived in country for four years while serving in the Air Force. He ordered for us in Thai and we always got exceptional friendly service. When he ordered for me he would say “Pad Thai pet pet mac, mac” and the dish would arrive fragrant and incredible spicy. It was hotter, in fact, than anything I had ever eaten but was so delicious that I finished every bite. Fifteen minutes later, the heat has dissipated completely. They did not speak English and when they saw me show up alone, they would say “pet pet mac, mac” smile and ask me where Rory was. Achieving the American dream, their success lead to the launch of a full scale restaurant, then two restaurants. By now, I was welcome in the kitchen, where their Americanized son would translate ingredients into English. I find now, when I need to make this for guests, the easiest place to get the ingredients is from the restaurant directly. The one exception is tamarind paste which I always have on hand in 4 inch bricks cakes. The Thai Gardens original recipe used a Thai tamarind drink concentrate.

If this is the first time you make Pad Thai, read the whole recipe first. There is nothing hard about it but there are many steps and quite a significant amount of preparation work. To use the French term, all should be “Mise en place”. You need to organize and arranging the ingredients and equipment that is required ahead of time. If not using fresh noodles, then start the noodles right away. Put the mung bean sprouts on ice water.  Make the Ajad Thai Cucumber Garnish ahead of time. Prepare garnish plates.

Garnish (Per Person)
(I prepare all the plates ½ hour ahead, cover with wrap, and place in cool spot in kitchen.)

1/2 cup mung bean sprouts per person, soak in ice water, pat dry
1/2 cup finely julienne Napa Cabbage per person (I use the white stalk portions only)
2-4 Slices of cucumber, per person
2-3 tablespoons finely chopped unsalted roasted peanuts3 
2 Wedges of lime
1 Orange slice
Ajad Thai Cucumbers and Thai Chilies Garnish (See recipe below)


Banh pho1 - Thai Rice Noodles

If using dried “Rice stick noodles” soak noodles in a pot of warm water until are just firm, about 30-40 minutes. To hasten the process, pour in boiling water to raise the temperature to about the temperature of a hot bath (100 F). Taste the noodles periodically and remove to a strainer when they are still al dente, completely limp but not mushy. Use Chantaboon Rice Stick Noodle1, Size: M, 14 ounce pack   (3~4 persons) or the equivalent. These are also available fresh from the Asian Markets.


1/4 cup bean sprouts
Topping 2 green onions, julienned
3-4 ounces of diced Chicken Thigh meat per person (some chopped fine, some course)
6~8 peeled tiger prawns per person
1 clove crushed garlic per person
1/3- 1/2 cup firm tofu diced (cut in 1/8 by 1/8 thick pieces) 
1 tablespoons rice wine or Marin4
1 Teaspoon of fish sauce (Golden Boy or Tiparos)
1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons sweet Paprika
1 level tablespoons MSG
1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons Tamarind Sauce (see notes)
Crushed red pepper flakes to taste. (Use 1 teaspoon to start. I use 2 tablespoons in mine.)
Chopped cilantro
1 tablespoons of sugar (some places use orange honey)
Peanut Oil 
Salt - as required

Advanced Preparation:
Take a large brick of extra firm fried tofu. Cut away exterior surfaces and discard. Cut it into 1/8 layers and cut into stripes 1/4 wide and cross cut 1/4 inch long. Preheat frying pan with three tablespoons of peanut or canola oil. Bring oil to high heat, fry tofu until firm and it has taken on some color. (7-12 minutes) Set to drain on paper towels. Prepare medium wide (1/16th~3/32nds inch) rice noodles - May be done hours ahead and refrigerated. (The noodles will take on the flavor of whatever they are cook with the hence rice noodle is superior for this purpose). There are so many ingredients, it may be a good idea to load up cups or small dishes with the: sugar, garlic, rice wine, tamarind sauce, red pepper, salt, fish sauce, paprika, MSG. Prepare the peanuts. (Take inventory against the recipe.) I have found that I inadvertently have left one or more ingredients out until I started doing this in a more methodical way.

In a very hot wok, add peanut oil, and when it smokes, quickly cook the chicken. Repeat the process until all meat is cooked. Set aside. This step may be done ahead

Individual Preparation of Each Batch of Noodles

Individually prepare each portion. In a very hot wok, add peanut oil, and, when it smokes, quickly cook the shrimp, garlic, and add in the chicken. Then add paprika, msg, tamarind sauce, crushed red pepper, sugar or some honey for sweetness. Add fried tofu. Add garlic, rice wine and a few handfuls of noodles. Add in green onions and bean sprouts. Quickly heat. Add chopped cilantro toss and turn out on a plate, top noodles with a pile of chopped peanuts, accompanied noodles with bean sprouts, very fine julienned Napa cabbage, and sliced cucumbers garnish. Serve with lime wedges and a few slices of orange.

The bright red coloring of this dish derives from the ample amount of paprika. The choice of this sweet paprika is one without a lot of flavor of its own less it over power the plate due to the quantity in which it is used.


1.        Tamarind Sauce- is a critical ingredient in many Thai foods, and will be found in many steak sauces including mine. If using a package of tamarind paste, combine with hot orange juice and blend with a spoon. Sieve the sauce to remove any hard or stringy bits.  When fully ripe, the shells are brittle and easily broken. The pulp dehydrates to a sticky paste enclosed by a few coarse stands of fiber. The pods may contain from 1 to 12 large, flat, glossy brown seeds embedded in the brown edible pulp. If using fresh pods, shell pods like a peanut, pull off fiber stems along fruited seed pods and place in orange juice over a slow simmer to soften. When softened, cool, then rub paste off seeds, Discard seeds. Sieve and blend until smooth. Alternatively, you can scrape seeds with fingernail to remove raisin colored paste. Combine with orange juice, If making a large batch, and storing is desired, use lime juice and orange juice. Sieve the sauce to remove and hard parts. Store the sauce in refrigerator until ready to use.

  1. Import foods, on line, shows a picture of the Bahn Pho package in case you get lost in the sea of noodles your oriental market shelves. See
  2. Fish sauce is the single, most important flavoring ingredient in Thai cooking and is available in premium and standard editions - see for premium varieties. The common brand for this is the Tiparos brand. All of these contain a bit of sugar and salt and are made from anchovies.
  3. Unless you chopped the roasted peanut by hand with a knife, you may get them too fine. I use both 1/3rd salted and 2/3rds unsalted peanuts, place them in a plastic zip lock bag and roll over them slowly with a wooden rolling pin. I then sieve the results. The fine powder falls through the sieve so it may be discarded.
  4. Marin is Japanese sweet cooking wine. Since it is effective in masking the smell of fish, Mirin is often used for cooking seafood. The highest quality Mirin, referred to as 'Ajino-haha' in Japan is made from rice. Well-known Japanese brands for Mirin are Takara and Mitsukan, and the Aji-Mirin is also marketed by Kikkoman and is found on most supermarket shelves.

Notes on Noodles:

You can buy noodles fresh or dry, gluten flour, rice, or even buckwheat in large diameters, flat, vermicelli or round. The noodle isle at the Asian market I go to is 40 yards long - all noodles at that just the dry ones! If going “dry” not fresh, adjust cooking time according to package directions or cook ahead of time in water then drain and rinse in cold water when the noodles are “al dente” or a little under done. The next reheating will soften them some so keep that in mind. Fresh is much easier and less work.

Banh pho – Rice Sticks - Pad Thai Flat Shape Noodles

Ajad Thai Cucumber Garnish

Ajad Thai cucumber garnish is often served with Pad Thai and each guest should have their own serving.

1/3 cup cold water
1/3 cup white vinegar
¼ cup sugar
Salt to taste
1 peeled English cucumber, raked lengthwise with a fork, cored, then sliced thinly
4 shallots or red onion sliced
3-4 Thai Green and Red chili peppers, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon fish sauce
Combine the water, vinegar, sugar and salt to taste. The water should be sweet, a little sour, and just salty enough to balance the sweet sour. Soak cucumber and onions in a small bowl and refrigerate overnight. When ready to serve, in a small soy-sauce bowl, add fish sauce and a little water. Add sliced Thai Green and Red chili peppers per person. Place bowl on a slightly larger plate garnished with sweet and sour onions and cucumber slices drained.