Monday, September 5, 2011

A Weekend in Halibut Cove

There are a few places in the world where I feel like I become the best version of myself. In front of the fireplace with my family at my childhood home in Fairbanks. On my Dad's boat in the middle of Prince William Sound. When my nieces are on my lap. On the north shore of Kauai. Anywhere when my sister is with me. And at a cozy cabin on a perch in Halibut Cove, Alaska.

I love this cabin, and the friend who inhabits it. The story of our introduction is one of my favorites (I even told it at her wedding!) About seven years ago when I first moved to Anchorage from Fairbanks, I went to a Halloween party. Dressed as Rosie the Riveter (my costume for four years running- I lack creativity in this department), I barely knew anyone at the party. But my roommate introduced me to one of her coworkers, Mera. Easily the most striking woman at the party, what struck me most about Mera was her costume. She was wearing...a hamburger. It was a giant, foam hamburger costume held up by suspenders that she and her mom had made when she was in elementary school. It. Was. Awesome. Of course, being the vegetarian that she was, she quickly corrected me and let me know that the patty was actually TVP (textured vegetable protein). I kinda knew after that, this girl needed to be my friend. And we've been friends ever since.

My clamming partners, Mera and Milo
Mera, along with her husband Chester, are easily some of my biggest fans in the kitchen. I love cooking for them, because they love to eat and love good food. About a month ago, Mera and I spent a weekend at her Halibut Cove cabin where we engaged in one of my favorite pastimes: digging for butter clams.

Now, if you talk to Mera, she will tell you that I have an obsession with digging for clams as well as eating record-breaking quantities of them. NOT TRUE. I simply like clams an awful lot. Ok, perhaps to an unhealthy degree. But like I tell my Dad when ever he looks in my closet and his jaw drops at the number of shoes I've acquired in my lifetime: isn't it a healthier obsession than, say, drug addiction? I mean, who can argue with that, right?

A beautiful bucket of Halibut Cove steamers!
First, you start with a bucket of fresh clams. Best if dug up that day, but also delicious from the local grocery store. If you harvested them from your local beach like we did, fill the bucket with sea water, sprinkle in some cornmeal, and let the clams filter.

Next, if freshly dug- you have to scrub the hell out of them. I've rubbed my fingers raw on more than one occasion scrubbing clams at the cabin. Mera really takes one for the team on this effort, as her usual portion is exactly ONE clam. (Another reason why we're friends- I don't have to share.)

Oops, don't forget the garlic!
Assemble your ingredients- butter, several cloves of garlic, lemon, dry white wine, heavy cream, and parsley.

First, pour yourself a glass of the white wine and have a little fun in the kitchen.  Second, melt one or two tablespoons in a large sauté pan or dutch oven over medium heat. As soon as that's mostly melted, add the chopped garlic and let it cook for about 30 seconds or so- don't let it brown! Add a cup of white wine the juice of half a lemon and bring it to a simmer- this is your flavorful steaming liquid. I usually don't add salt at this point, because often times the clams are pretty salty. I usually wait until the end to season the broth (which will be used for dipping bread, of course!)

Once simmering, add the clams one at a time (I don't dump them in, because often there's residual sand at the bottom of the bowl). If the addition of the clams drops the temperature of the steaming liquid, turn the dial up a smidge to medium-high heat. Cover, preferably with a glass lid so you can peek on them. Clams open up fast, so as soon as you see one open, take it out and remove it to your serving bowl. Nothing tastes worse than an overcooked clam!

Once all of the clams are open and removed to the serving bowl, add the heavy cream and parsley to the pan and taste for seasoning. Add salt if needed, then remove from the heat and pour the liquid over the clams.

Make sure you have a loaf of crusty bread on hand to mop up all that delicious clammy liquid.  Pour yourself another glass of wine.  And then, eat up. Eat those clams like ITS YOUR JOB. At least, that's what I do!

Halibut Cove Steamers

30-35 small butter clams, scrubbed well
1-2 T butter
4-5 cloves garlic, chopped
3/4 c. dry white wine
juice from half a lemon
1/4 c. heavy cream
1/4 c. parsley

Our beautiful dinner spread!
1. Add butter to a large sauté pan or dutch oven over medium heat. Once melted, add the chopped garlic and cook for about 30 seconds. Don't brown it! Add wine and lemon juice and bring to a simmer.

2. Add clams to the pot, cover and let simmer. As the clams open, remove to serving bowl.

3. Once all clams are cooked, add heavy cream and parsley to liquid in pot. Check for seasoning, and add salt if necessary. Pour liquid over clams and serve with a large piece of crusty bread to mop up all the yummy clammy juices.

Enjoy! xo H

1 comment:

knottynatty said...

Heidi, I recently enjoyed a lovely dish your father cooked which included lobster, shrimp, scallops & well...I thought your dad said clams but no sooner had he sat at the table, your mom and I noticed a bowl next to your dad of clam remains (empty shells)...I am certain I know from where your clam appetite was inherited. I thoroughly enjoy your blog!