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Savory Clams, Broiled on a Bed of Sea Salt

 

Ahh...

 

If you love baked clams in restaurants, you’ll adore these! My rendition of this old time favorite, known as “clams oreganata” uses the broiler instead of the conventional bake setting on the oven. The raw clams sit, opened and on their half shell, perched on a bed of coarse sea salt and topped with an insanely savory compound butter and then broiled until golden. If desired, you can raw rice under the clams instead of the salt (although it’s not as dramatic looking). I usually make a double batch of the compound butter and store it, in long thin logs, in the freezer.  Because opening raw clams is quite challenging-and can be dangerous-I just ask my fish monger to do this. I ask that the clams be totally removed from their shells and placed, along with their nectar, into a plastic tub. I also take only half the shells home. It’s important to wash and dry the shells well, before putting things together, which will eliminate any chance of a stray piece of shell getting into the mix. And each clam, because of it’s size variation, will require a slightly different amount of butter. I like to be generous, and enclose the clam fully. When ordering Little Neck clams for this, remember that smaller clams are a bit more tender and are also easier for people to eat in one bite-something to think about if serving them with drinks at the start of the evening.

Ingredients

  • 1½ sticks (12 tablespoons) butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup finely ground savory cracker crumbs such as Ritz or Breton whole wheat crackers)
  • Up to ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (or to taste)
  • 1/2 cup minced herbs (mix chives and flat-leaf Italian parsley)
  • 1 teaspoon aromatic dried oregano, crumbled
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons dry white wine (or use equal amounts of wine and strained fresh lemon juice to make 3 tablespoons)
  • Coarse sea salt or rock salt or Kosher salt, as needed (use raw white rice as a substitute)
  • 2 to 2 1/2 dozen little neck clams, shucked and placed in a plastic container, along with their nectar-Reserve half the shells and discard the rest.
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan cheese, optional
  • Lemon wedges, as garnish

1) To assemble compound butter and chill: Place the softened butter, garlic, crumbs, cayenne, herbs, pepper and wine (and lemon, if using) into a bowl and, using a fork or sturdy rubber spatula, combine well. (If the butter is not very soft, and especially if making a double batch, I usually just use clean hands to squeeze the mixture together, which really distributes the butter more evenly throughout.)  Lay two separate sets of long, tripled,  14-to 16-inch sheets of plastic wrap on your work surface and divide the compound butter on the centers of the plastic. Working with one half at a time, fold one long side of the wrap over the butter mixture and roll it over, totally enclosing the butter in plastic, but not twisting the ends shut. Using your hands, roll gently, helping the mixture to start to resemble a log. Now, lift the log and, while holding one end of the plastic, pull the butter mixture down-going away from you, so that the butter travels down toward the other end. Rotate the log now and pull down on the other end. Keep doing this until you have a long, thin log, no more than 1 inch in diameter. Chill the log until firm. (The compound butter can be frozen for several months. If so, wrap the plastic covered log in foil before placing into the freezer. Thaw in the refrigerator for several hours to thaw.)

2) To set up to assemble the clams: Sprinkle a baking sheet or flat, heat proof, decorative serving tray (mine is a large round cast-iron almost-rimless pan, with handles, by Lodge), with an even layer of coarse sea salt (use the coarsest grind you can find). Rinse and dry the clam shells. Place them on paper towels, opened sides up. Have the prepared baking tray close to the filling and clam shells.  Unwrap the compound butter and slice it into 24 slices (each about 1/2-inch thick). Place each clam (allowing the nectar to cling to the meat) on its half shell (still on the paper towels). Lift one slice of butter and flatten it in your hand to help it be able to cover (and enclose) the clam. Place the flattened butter mixture onto the clam. Do this will all the clams, then place them, side by side, on the salt. If the clam tips forward, use your working hand to help plant the bottom of the shell in the salt. The clams can be assembled 1 day ahead and kept well chilled, covered with plastic wrap.

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3) To cook the clams and serve: Position the oven rack place about 6 to 8 inches from the heat source (in my oven, it’s the second shelf from the heating element) and preheat the broiler. Broil the clams for 5 to 10 minutes (depending on their size and the intensity of your heat source), rotating the pan to cook the clams and brown them evenly. If using parmesan, remove the tray and sprinkle the tops of the clams very lightly with the cheese, for the last 2 minutes of the cooking process. Serve with cocktail forks.

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Hamantaschen

Great of hamantaschen

Ingredients 

  • 2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour, for the dough, plus more for rolling out the pastry
  • ¾ teaspoon fine table salt
  • ½ cup superfine granulated sugar
  • ½ cup finely minced nuts (walnuts, toasted almonds and/or toasted macadamias)
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, cold and cut into small cubes
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Powdered sugar, as needed, when cutting the pastry dough
  • Fruit fillings: Prune and Apricot (see the end of this recipe)
  • For the egg-wash: 1 egg mixed with 1 teaspoon water and ½ teaspoon vanilla

For the nut topping: ½ cup finely chopped nuts, 1/3 cup granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1) To assemble the pastry dough: Whirl the flour, salt and sugar in food processor, fitted with the steel blade. Add the chopped nuts and process to combine. Add the egg to ¼ cup water in a cup with a spout and stir with a fork to break up the egg. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla and stir. Pulse the cold butter into the dry ingredients until the butter cubes are no larger than the size of small peas. Add enough of the egg/ice water mixture in increments until the dough is moist, but not overly wet and it holds together when pinched between two fingers.

2) To friage the dough: Turn the mixture out of the machine and, using the heal of your working hand, schmear the dough outward—in 1 inch increments, on your work surface (going away from you). Gather the dough using a pastry scraper and do this again. Gather dough, enclose in plastic wrap, flatten into a disk and chill well.

3) To roll and cut the pastry:  Roll dough between sheets of floured wax paper. When the dough is 1/4 inch thick, remove the top sheet of paper and brush any excess flour off from both sides of the dough. Using a 2 ½ to 3-inch cookie cutter (fluted) –cut out circles of dough. Dip the cutter into powdered sugar to keep it from sticking. For larger pastries, use a. 4 to 6 inch cutter). Line a large baking sheet with wax paper. Place the cut circles of dough onto the sheet (layer between sheets of wax paper  Cover with plastic and chill until the dough firms up, 10 to 30 minutes.

4) To fill the pastries: Place a spoonful of fruit filling in the center of each pastry round. Pull up the edges and pinch, creating triangles. Cover the sheet with plastic wrap and chill 1 hour (or overnight).  Fill each circle, square off and pinch edges. Place on tray, cover and chill.

 

5) To set up to bake: Preheat the oven to 375F. Line cushioned cookie sheets with parchment. Make the egg wash by mixing the egg with the water and vanilla. Strain this into another bowl.  Brush chilled pastries with egg wash (surrounding the fruit filling) and sprinkle the top pastry generously with the nut allowing the filling to be exposed. Bake for 15 minutes (or until golden). Bake 20 minutes for larger pastries. Cool on wire racks.

 

Prune and Apricot Butter (for Rugelach and Hamantaschen)

Dried fruit butters are thick and rich and not only make a perfect filling for some of the pastries that you’ll find in the dessert chapter but they also taste great, simply spread on toast or biscuits, lavished over a layer of cream cheese

 

Prune Butter

Yield:  about 2 1/4 cups

  •  
  • 3 cups (packed) best quality dried pitted prunes
  • Water to cover
  • 1 tablespoon strained fresh lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts

 

To assemble the prune butter, place the prunes in a 2 1/2-quart heavy-bottomed saucepan with enough cold water to cover them and bring the water to a brisk bubble. Turn the heat down to low and simmer the prunes gently (uncovered) until soft, about 10 minutes (timing will depend largely on their original suppleness). Drain the prunes, reserving 1 tablespoon of the poaching liquid and place the fruit with the lemon juice, poaching liquid and sugar into the bowl of your food processor fitted with the steel blade. Process until smooth, then use a rubber spatula to transfer the puree to a bowl and stir in the ground walnuts. Let the prune butter cool before storing in the refrigerator, in a well-sealed tub, for up to 3 weeks before using.

 

Apricot Butter

Yield: about 1 1/2 to 2 cups

  • 2 cups best quality dried whole pitted apricots
  • Water to cover
  • 1/4 cup (firmly packed) light brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Amaretto (almond flavored liquor), or use lemon juice as a substitute
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped toasted blanched (skinned) almonds

 

To assemble the apricot butter, place the apricots in a 2 1/2-quart heavy-bottomed saucepan with enough cold water to cover them and bring the water to a brisk bubble. Reduce the heat to low and simmer apricots gently (uncovered) until soft, 10 to 15 minutes (timing will depend largely on their original suppleness). Drain the apricots and place them into the bowl of the food processor, fitted with the steel blade. Add the brown sugar and the amaretto or lemon juice and process until smooth. Use a rubber spatula to transfer the puree to a bowl and stir in the ground toasted almonds. Let the apricot butter cool before storing in the refrigerator, in a well-sealed tub, for up to 3 weeks before using.

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Mocha Cookies with Butter-Toasted Almonds and Chocolate Chips

Mocha cookies resized

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter for toasting the almonds, plus 2 sticks, softened, for the cookie batter
  • 1 slightly rounded cup sliced blanched almonds
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • 2 ¼ cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon fine table salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 slightly rounded teaspoons instant espresso, crushed on wax paper to a powder
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened natural cocoa powder
  • 2 large eggs, made tepid by steeping in a bowl of hot water for 10 minutes
  • 1 ½ cups (firmly packed) light brown sugar
  • 1 generous tablespoon Lyle’s Golden Syrup
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 12 ounces chocolate chunks or chips (dark, semi-sweet or bittersweet)

To toast the almonds: Line a plate with doubled paper towels and sit next to the stove. Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a 10-inch skillet, over medium heat. Add the almonds and continue to cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the nuts are golden and very fragrant, taking care not to allow them to burn. Pour the almonds, along with any surrounding butter onto the prepared paper towels and sprinkle the top with some salt and set aside to cool.

To make the cookie batter: Whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, powdered espresso and cocoa powder and then sift into another bowl. Using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a bowl and a wooden spoon), cream 2 sticks softened butter with the brown sugar and the syrup until homogenous. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla and, once incorporated, turn off the machine. With the machine turned off, add the dry mixture and then mix on low until almost combined. Lift the paper towels holding the nuts and pour them into the mixing bowl along with the chocolate chips and mix well. Stop the machine and, using a large, sturdy rubber spatula, scrape down the sides and around the bottom of the bowl to incorporate any residual film the butter and sugar mixture. At this point you can go directly into baking or divide the cookie batter between long, doubled sheets of plastic wrap and form cylinders that can then be wrapped in foil, labeled and frozen for 2 months. If frozen, thaw in the refrigerator overnight before proceeding.

To set up to bake: Preheat the oven to 350F. Line 2 or 3 cushioned cookie sheets with parchment paper. Place a couple of wire racks on your counter.

To bake: If using a room temperature cookie batter, use a cookie scoop to place uniform rounds on the parchment lined baking sheets, allowing 2 inches between each mound. If using a log of chilled cookie batter, allow the log to sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes, just to soften a bit. Cut the log into 1 ½ inch chunks (I use a ruler) and place on the parchment. Bake in the preheated oven for 9 to 12 minutes, taking care not to over-bake the cookies. (Baking time will depend largely on the temperature of the batter and also the size of your mounds.) When done, the edges will seem firm and the very center will be soft. Cool the cookies on their baking sheets and then transfer them to a platter or a cookie jar. Store at room temperature, in an airtight container.

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Onion Bialys (and English Muffin Variation)

Onion Bialys

 compressed platter of bialys yom kippur 2011

 

Special Equipment

  • 6- or 8-quart bowl, for rising dough
  • Wooden surface, for kneading
  • Pastry scraper
  • Set of quarry tiles or large pizza stone
  • Dark shallow baking sheet, only if not using quarry tiles or a pizza stone
  • Cast iron pan or heavy baking sheet
  • Baker’s peel or flat cookie sheet, only if using quarry tiles or a pizza stone

Ingredients:

  • 2 to 4 tablespoons melted butter, for greasing rising bowl
  • 1/3 cup minced yellow onion
  • 2 rounded tablespoons solid shortening, melted
  • 2 cups warm water
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, optional
  • 2 teaspoons barley malt extract or sugar
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • Pinch of sugar
  • Up to 6 cups high gluten bread flour, including flour for dusting
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • Medium ground cornmeal, for dusting

Topping:

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil and 2 teaspoons poppy seeds
  • 1 cup minced onions

1) To assemble sponge: Saute 1/3 cup minced onions in melted shortening until fragrant and softened, about 3 minutes. In the bowl to your electric mixer (fitted with paddle attachment), combine 2 cups warm water, sauteed onions (with any shortening), optional pepper and barley malt or sugar.  Dissolve yeast in 1/4 cup warm water with a pinch of sugar and add, when creamy, add to mixing bowl.  With the mixer on low, add 3 cups bread flour. When the flour absorbed, turn machine up to moderate and beat for 3 minutes, then scrape down sides of the bowl. If you do not have a mixer, use a wooden spoon. (Beat vigorously in one direction with the bowl of the spoon never leaving the bottom of the mixing bowl.) Cover bowl with plastic and allow sponge to rise for one hour and fifteen minutes.

2) To set up for completed dough: Brush a 6 quart mixing bowl with some melted butter and set aside.

3) To complete dough and rise twice: While sponge ferments, saute 1 cup minced onions in vegetable oil with poppy seeds for 3 to 5 minutes or until the onions are softened and fragrant. Allow to cool to warm.  When fermentation is completed, replace bowl with risen sponge onto your electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Beat in salt and 2 cups bread flour at low speed. When well combined, raise speed to moderate and continue to beat for 3 minutes to develop. Use a rubber spatula to help turn shaggy mass out onto a lightly floured wooden surface. Knead until smooth and very elastic. Add additional flour only if necessary, and always use your pastry scraper to keep dough from sticking to your hands or work surface. When sufficient texture is achieved, place dough into greased bowl. Brush surface of dough with more melted butter and cover bowl with buttered plastic wrap. Lay a clean kitchen towel over bowl and allow dough to rise for 1 to 2 hours. (Do what’s most convenient.)

4) To assemble topping, set up for shaping and baking bialys: Heat a 10 inch skillet over medium heat and, when hot, add vegetable oil. When oil is hot, add onions and poppy seeds. Saute onions until softened and fragrant, about 2 minutes. Grind in some fresh pepper and set aside to cool. Position oven rack in the center of the oven . Place a cast iron pan or a heavy sheet pan on the rack below.  Place sheet of quarry tiles or a large pizza stone on rack above the skillet. (If you own a double oven, do the same to the remaining oven.). Sprinkle your baker’s peel with cornmeal. (Alternatively, if not using quarry tiles, brush the interior of 2 shallow dark steel baking sheets with vegetable oil and sprinkle with cornmeal.) Sprinkle two clean kitchen towels with cornmeal.

5) To shape bialys: Preheat oven to 500 F. Although this recipe yields twelve bialys, I suggest baking only six at one time to allow each one enough room to bake properly. If you have one oven, turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead briefly. Divide dough in half and replace one half to bowl and refrigerate. If working with a double oven,  dough in half then divide each half in half. Cut each quarter into three equal pieces for a total of 12 pieces.  Cover all the pieces while working with one at a time.  Shape each piece of dough into a flat round by rolling patting the dough out with your hand. Create a 1-inch rim by turning the rim round in towards the center to form a one inch raised border. Using your fingertips, pinch to seal. Using the tines of a fork, dock the center. As each bialy is shaped, carefully place onto prepared towels. Cover each shaped bialy with a kitchen towel.

6) To bake: After the last bialy is shaped,  begin with the first bialy shaped and dock (prick) the center.  Slightly flatten each risen bialy while gently widening the interior of the circle. (The flat middle portion should be quite visible.) Lift each bialy and place on prepared peel (6 bialys per peel or baking sheet). Spoon some of the onion-poppy seed filling into the center and continue until all are filled. (Make sure the onions are nicely coated with vegetable oil to help keep them from burning during baking.) Place 4 ice cubes into a 1-cup liquid measure and add enough water to meet the  1/4 cup mark. Place this next to the oven. Just before baking, pour the ice water into the preheated pan and shut the door. Lift the peel holding bialys and place it deep into the oven and, with one swift jerk, pull out peel, leaving the bialys on the hot tiles. (If not using tiles or a stone, simply place baking sheet(s) into the oven. Quickly shut the door to help trap steam. (If you have a double oven, repeat immediately with the remaining six bialys.)

8) Baking time: Bake bialys for 10 minutes. If planning to eat bialys right after cooling (without toasting), turn the oven off and leave bialys in a turned off oven for 5 minutes. If planning to cool, store and eventually toast bialys, remove from the oven after the initial, 10 minutes of baking (they might seem light and slightly underdone). Remove bialys to wire racks to cool thoroughly before storing.

Note: If planning to toast bialys (which is most traditional), the tops will become overly brittle in the toaster if the initial baking time is too long.

9) To serve and store: Before serving, use a serrated knife to slice each bialy and toast until golden and crisp. Top lavishly as desired and enjoy hot.

To turn your bialy dough into delicious English Muffins!

Assemble the dough as directed and, after completing its rise, deflate the dough. Rub an even layer of flour mixed with cornmeal onto your work surface and turn the dough out onto one end of that surface.  Rub some flour into your rolling pin and roll the dough out to an even thickness of 1 inch.

Using a floured 3-inch round cutter with a plain edge (not fluted), cut out as many rounds as possible and transfer each round to the other side of your prepared work surface (if the round ever sticks, run the blade of a pastry scraper underneath it). Cover the rounds as you continue to dip the cutter into flour and cut the remaining rounds. Gently knead your scraps, trying to make them cohesive, then roll them out the same way as before and cut out more rounds. You should be able to get eleven three-inch, 1-inch thick rounds. Cover the rounds with a clean kitchen towel and let rise 30 minutes.

(Alternatively, after the dough has its initial rise, deflate it and chill overnight, in the original bowl, well covered. The next morning, take the dough out of the fridge, then roll and cut the dough into rounds as described (cold) and let the rounds rise until billowy and close to room temperature (1 to 2 hours).

Heat a large cast iron skillet or fajitas pan (or a large nonstick skillet), over medium heat with enough clarified butter to create a thin, even layer across the bottom. When the fat is hot, reduce the heat to medium-low and lay the muffins in the pan, in a single layer, with 1 ½ inches in between them (you won’t be able to cook them all at one time unless you’re using two pans). Sear the muffins on the first side for 5 minutes, or until light golden brown. Turn the muffins over and sear on the second side. Cover the pans (with a lid) or with a large, inverted stainless bowl) and reduce the heat to low. Steam the muffins for 5 minutes (8 to 10 minutes if they are at all chilled), then uncover and raise the heat to medium. Sear again on the bottoms, and then turn the muffins to make sure that both sides are crisp and golden brown. The exterior centers will be light and will feel soft but set. To serve: Using a fork, pierce the center of the circumference of the muffin, repetitively, going all around the soft center. Gently pull the top and bottom away from each other, exposing the interior. Toast the muffins (or, if freshly cooked, simply broil the muffin, inside facing toward heat source) until golden.

 

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A new cookie…chocolate chunk, chopped roasted pistachios and dried plums.,

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Why Make Duck Confit?

Although one might wonder, in the 21 th century, why anyone would make their own duck confit–those that have done it know why–Because it’s so meltingly succulent with skin that’s so crisp and savory –that the cook (after serving this) feels like they’ve driven themselves and those at the table to another planet–one that’s friendly yet alluring–Old-World yet swanky–incredibly soothing yet unbelievably sexy. So, since I’m about to replenish my supply, I thought I would take you all along with me. Buckle up and stay posted!

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