Perfect Summer Lunch

June 19, 2015

IMG_5823

Steamed Ipswich Clams

I think I have just definitively solved the question of how to purge the sand from these delicious little morsels.  

There's nothing more annoying than sitting down to a big bowl of steamers and finding yourself with a mouthful of grit.  You want to get them really clean.

I've always used salt water and cornmeal.  No more.  From now on it's strictly salt water for me.

A friend arrived with a bucket of steamers a couple of days ago.  "They're just-dug," he said, "and really sandy.  So you'll have to clean them well."

"Did you bring me some seawater?" I asked.  Seawater is their natural medium, and it makes them very happy.  He'd neglected to do that, so I stirred 2 tablespoons of sea salt into 4 cups of water, gently lowered my clams into their new home and stuck the bowl in the refrigerator.  I decided to leave them overnight; by morning, if the water wasn't filled with grit, I'd feed them some cornmeal. 

In the morning I found the entire bottom of the bowl filled with sand.  I cleaned out the bowl, added more salt water, and left the clams to rest for another day. Every time I opened the refrigerator it gave me a little thrill to see them sitting there, their feeder tubes extended to a full 4 inches.

I cooked them by steaming them in an inch or so of water for about 5 minutes, until all the shells were open. There was not a single grain of sand in the entire bowl.  A perfect little lunch. 

Next time I get some steamers, I think I'll fry them.  If there's one thing that's better than a bowl of steamed clams, it's a plate of  freshly fried Ipswichs. 

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Perfect Summer Lunch

June 19, 2015

IMG_5823

Steamed Ipswich Clams

I think I have just definitively solved the question of how to purge the sand from these delicious little morsels.  

There's nothing more annoying than sitting down to a big bowl of steamers and finding yourself with a mouthful of grit.  You want to get them really clean.

I've always used salt water and cornmeal.  No more.  From now on it's strictly salt water for me.

A friend arrived with a bucket of steamers a couple of days ago.  "They're just-dug," he said, "and really sandy.  So you'll have to clean them well."

"Did you bring me some seawater?" I asked.  Seawater is their natural medium, and it makes them very happy.  He'd neglected to do that, so I stirred 2 tablespoons of sea salt into 4 cups of water, gently lowered my clams into their new home and stuck the bowl in the refrigerator.  I decided to leave them overnight; by morning, if the water wasn't filled with grit, I'd feed them some cornmeal. 

In the morning I found the entire bottom of the bowl filled with sand.  I cleaned out the bowl, added more salt water, and left the clams to rest for another day. Every time I opened the refrigerator it gave me a little thrill to see them sitting there, their feeder tubes extended to a full 4 inches.

I cooked them by steaming them in an inch or so of water for about 5 minutes, until all the shells were open. There was not a single grain of sand in the entire bowl.  A perfect little lunch. 

Next time I get some steamers, I think I'll fry them.  If there's one thing that's better than a bowl of steamed clams, it's a plate of  freshly fried Ipswichs. 

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Old Menus: Cafe Chambord

June 17, 2015

  Scan 5

 Why do I even have these menus?  No idea.  I suspect that a reader sent them to me, as a special treat, when I was at the Los AngelesTimes.  Otherwise I have no explanation for the presence of a menu belonging to a restaurant that closed about the time that I was born.

But I do remember my parents talking about Cafe Chambord, which opened in 1936; Mom said it reminded her of the bistros she went to in Paris when she was at the Sorbonne. It was, she said, small and rather rustic. At least in the beginning.  Then, in 1942, owner Roger Chauveron got his hands on a great wine cellar at a bargain price.  He'd worked at all of New York's one-named big-deal hotels – The Ritz, The Plaza, The Astor, The Commodore – and now he raised the level of the food to match his swell new wine list. Before long it had become a favorite haunt of the French emigres flooding to New York to escape the war. They were soon joined by prominent New Yorkers (the Rockefellers), and movie stars (Greta Garbo was a fan).  

Chauveron sold the restaurant in 1950 and went back to France.  He didn't stay long; in 1955 he was back to open Cafe Chauveron.  I never went there either, but here's Gael Greene's paean to that restaurant. 

Scan 6

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Kick Out the……

June 15, 2015

Jams3

Another menu offering from the box in the coat closet, this time from Jonathan Waxman’s seminal Manhattan restaurant, Jam's.  Jonathan had been the chef at Michael's in Santa Monica, and when he arrived in New York he brought California cuisine with him.  Free range chicken? Check. Laura Chenel’s goat cheese, FedExed from the West Coast every week? Check. You get the idea. (Jonathan's West Side restaurant, Bud's, was the home of Paul Prudhomme's pop-up Cajun restaurant, which explains that grilled swordfish with spicy pineapple salsa.)

But Jams brought more than the simplicity of an ingredient-driven menu to New York.  The restaurant became a clubhouse for New York’s gonzo 1980s chefs. There was famous art on the walls, the servers wore sharp white shoes, and expensive champagne was freely poured, starting at breakfast.  

One mouthful of that air – thick with fun, exuberance and excess – and you found it hard to leave. But the fun finally ran out; Jams closed in 1990. 

Without further ado, here’s the menu from Tuesday August 20, 1985. The prices kind of amaze me; I had lunch at Jonathan's current restaurant, Barbuto the other day, and the chicken cost exactly one dollar more. Thirty years have passed since then, and you might want to recall that in 1985 the  minimum wage was $3.35 an hour.

Lest you think the place teemed only with the young and the hip, note the message at the bottom of the menu. When was the last time you saw somebody smoking a pipe?

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Jams2

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Wonderful Weed

June 14, 2015

Lambs quarters

Lamb's Quarters

A friend who was weeding her garden yesterday gave me an entire bag of lamb's quarters, and I practically danced for joy.  It's my favorite forage – a gentle, easy to cook green that is not called "wild spinach" for nothing.

Unlike so many other foraged finds, it's easy to clean.  Simply dump it into a sinkful of water and pull it out; these leaves do not cling tenaciously to dirt, and the gritty pollen washes right away. Pull off the longest stems – you'll know which – but don't be fussy about it.  The stems pretty much vanish as they cook. 

You don't need to do much.  I melted some butter, threw in the lamb's quarters for a couple of minutes, watched them wilt, added a bit of salt (the leaves are naturally high in sodium), and a splash of lemon (which neutralizes the oxalic acid). Then I sat down to a totally delicious plate of greens.

If somebody offers you lambs quarter's, do not turn them down. They're extremely delicious – and their vitamin and mineral content make these among the most nutritious of wild plants. 

 

 

 

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