In which the world of culinary hedonism is explored with a cup and a half of curiosity, a heaping tablespoon of passion and a dash of clumsiness.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Sixty-seventh Post ~ Steamer Pot

I know that summer technically goes until the middle of September somewhere, but to me, the end of August always signaled the end of it. This meal was meant to be a celebration of the dog days of summer - and believe me - cooking it in my 90-degree third floor apartment kitchen really enabled me to welcome in the prospect of autumn and its crisp days.

This dinner was inspired by the steamer pots that my dad and I have shared at Joe's Crab Shack, a care-free restaurant chain that we have visited in Maryland and California. I really think that the act of slamming one pot down on a table and announcing, "Dinner is served!" sets a certain casual, laid-back sort of mood...

So here's what you'll need for tonight's meal (cook this for two - grab a friend, a S.O., a family member, a neighbor - honestly, it's just more fun!):

~ one 2-pound bag of mussels
~ any other kind of mollusk you want to add to the mix - I chose 10 steamer clams
~ one (or two) sausages
~ a good handful of fingerling potatoes
~ three or so ears of corn
~ onion
~ half teaspoon of sugar
~ scallions or chives
~ garlic (I used three cloves)
~ coarse-ground sea salt
~ seasonings (I used dried thyme, cayenne, white pepper, curry powder and bay leaves)
~ one big ol' pot to cook and serve it in!

Start a large pot about half-filled with water boiling on your stove. Grind in an embarrassing amount of salt.

Chop some onion and start to sauté it in a small pan with some EVOO. My goal was to caramelize the onion and I've learned that there's a fine line between burning and caramelizing. Once they're browning nicely, toss in some sugar and grind on some salt and keep them going, tossing them occasionally. I made the mistake of crushing in the garlic with the onions at this point - all it does is splash hot oil back onto your hand as you crush it in, and then the garlic burns a bit. Injury + Insult. I would recommend waiting until the onions are done caramelizing, turn them off, and crush in the garlic and let it meld.

Once you've turned off the heat under the onions, cut the sausage in half and just set it in the pan with a lid over all so the aroma of the caramelized onions and garlic infuses the sausage.

Now that your water is rolling nicely in your pot, add three bay leaves, a dash of cayenne, curry powder, white pepper, dried thyme, and the pierced fingerling potatoes to the pot. Savor the aroma as you add each spice to the water! Set your timer for 10 minutes. During this time, rinse off your clams and mussels. Also, prep some spices that you'll want to sprinkle over the whole pot before you set it to steam. I mixed a dash of all of the spices listed above into a prep bowl so they were blended and ready for when I needed them.

Cut the ears of corn in half. As soon as the timer goes off, add the corn and reset the timer for 8 minutes. Get your table ready. I recommend large placemats and smallish plates - you're mostly eating out of the pot, anyway! Get some beverages and a large empty bowl for shells and corn cobs. Put some butter on a plate so you can use it on the corn and potatoes if you wish.

When the timer goes off, pour out all but about two inches of water from the pot. Put the caramelized onions, garlic and sausage in. Keep the burner going and put in your clams and mussels. Sprinkle with your spice mix and slap on the lid for 4 minutes.

When the timer goes off, turn off the heat and let it sit for another minute. Then, unveil the steamer pot! Transfer it from stove to table (a trivet or strategically-placed place mat is helpful here). Snip in some fresh scallions or chives for a little fresh, crispy onion taste. Try not to burn your fingers, dig in and enjoy!

I served tonight's meal with a chardonnay by Casillero del Diablo - it was a perfect pairing for the mixture of spices and tastes in tonight's meal. It was refreshing with notes of citrus and vanilla.

All in all, a fun meal and a worthy send-off to summer!
Yours in the love of good food and wine,

The blogger is not an experienced chef. She takes no responsibility for the quality of the meals prepared while following her advice. Use your own judgment regarding cooking times and proper food handling.