I made a point to try and look for things outside of my uniform. Although I was naturally drawn to my normal blacks and blues, I did, in a fit of adventure, try on a pair of mustard colored shorts. I almost BOUGHT said shorts after rapidly texting several girlfriends asking if it was okay if I looked like a bottle of yellow mustard, but at the end decided against it. But the ACT of trying something so out of character must have spurred on something in me and suddenly I tried on a bunch of things that I would normally NEVER buy. I ended up with four items, two VERY me (shorts and a t shirts) and two NOT me at all (a gauzy dress and a sequinned top) and when I told Husband that I was shopping and I had bought some things, he bellowed, "BUY MORE." Seemingly he too, is bored of my standard uniform.
Getting out of my comfort zone was kind of fun, and it seemed to be a theme of the week I was away. Father has been talking about a clam bake for a long while, and when he came and visited the Bay Area, kept on mentioning how he wanted a clam bake. We never made it to one and so, after a brief discussion with Brothers, I told my mom that I wanted to do a clam bake for him at home. She readily agreed and thought it would be a fantastic birthday dinner and so the plan was set. Stovetop clambake it would be!
Brother #1 procured fresh seafood from Santa Monica Seafood, where the items would be fresh. For a dish which focuses on the seafood, we mutually decided that fresh and highest quality of fish would be in order. I began studying a bunch of clambake recipes and basically decided to rework one I found on Martha Stewart. The result was something so fantastically amazing that it put a smile on Father's that threatened to rip his face from ear to ear. Even the following day he mentioned how it was such a luxurious way to celebrate his birthday. Children devoured lobster like it was going out of style and corn on the cob and potatoes were consumed with relish.
This is a dish that I want to make more often. The recipe is simple and not too complicated. Making sure that all the seafood is ready before you begin cooking is the only tricky part. The rest is just opening the pot at the appropriate time and dumping seafood in. The only thing that stops me is that the seafood is pretty pricey. But for a special occasion with a huge mess of people, it is something completely worth every penny.
**Note - Brother did buy seaweed (about $4) worth at the seafood market, so I did use that method. It seemed to add an additional bit of flavor, but don't feel like you have to buy it. Use the steamer basket.
Stove Top Clambake
adapted from Martha Stewart
6 to 8 servings
2 large or 3 medium onions, cut into large wedges
6 garlic cloves
1 bottle pale ale or medium-bodied beer
1 cup water
Fresh seaweed, well rinsed, for layering (optional)
1 1/2 pounds small new potatoes (white, red, or a combination)
8 oz good bacon, cut into pieces
8 oz bratwurst
3 lobsters (1 1/2 pounds each)
36 littleneck clams, scrubbed well
4 ears of corn, husked and halved
2 pounds mussels, debearded and scrubbed well
1 1/2 pounds large shrimp (about 30), shell-on
2 tablespoons unsalted butter (optional)
2 lemons, halved
In a 16-quart stock pot, cook bacon until fat is a bit rendered about 3 minutes. Add bratwurst, onions and cook until bratwurst takes on a bit of color. Add ale and deglaze the pot. Then add water and garlic. Cover with a layer of seaweed (or place a steamer basket on top of onion sausage mixture.) Add potatoes and 1 tablespoon of salt. Bring to a boil. Add lobsters; cook over high heat, covered, for 15 minutes. Add clams and corn; cook, covered, for 6 minutes. Add mussels and shrimp; cook, covered, until clams and mussels open and shrimp are cooked through, 4 to 8 minutes.
Remove seafood, corn, potatoes, and bratwurst using tongs, and transfer to large platters or rimmed baking sheets. Discard seaweed and any unopened clams and mussels. Strain liquid through a sieve into a bowl; add butter, swirling to melt. Squeeze lemons over clambake.
Lime Cilantro Cocktail Sauce (optional but delicious for the shrimp)
1/2 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lime juice
2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
1/4 teaspoon tabasco (more if you like it with some kick)
Combine all the ingredients in a bowl. Refrigerate at least 3 hours to let the flavors meld.
a grand way to celebrate outside my comfort zone