Oh, how I have missed it. Also, can you tell I got a new camera, complete with very good lens? Such creamy goodness, such low light capability. I’m likely to start making bloggings again, now that I have some ambient candlepower to work with at dinner time.
The clams, very fresh littlenecks from Rhode Island, made a brilliant first course. It doesn’t take much to make a bowl of bivalves sing, and this combination of a few pungent substances really sent their harmonies into Soul Stirrers territory. A couple strips of bacon, diced, got rendering, and once they crisped up nicely I poured off the extra fat and threw in a sliced clove of garlic. Then the clams, then a big spoon of fermented soybeans in chili oil, then a generous grating of ginger, then a hard shake and the lid.
As soon as they all opened, I threw some kimchi at it, tossed it all together, and scooped everything into a bowl. The garnish, finely sliced leek middles, is one I heartily endorse for color, curves, and a tangy alliumaceous crunch. Bacon and clams is a classic pairing, of course, but adding a hot hit of funky umami and some supple sour cabbage elevated the briny bravado to a compelling amplitude. This is a beer snack for the ages.
The main course was arctic char, cooked in that poured off bacon fat skin side down until nice and crispy and then flipped to finish before serving. It went on a simple mixture of leftover black rice I tossed with kale that I sautéed in the skillet with the rest of the leek after the fish came out. I also squeegeed in the last of the clam sauce so as not to waste a drop.
I know this is grainy, but keep in mind I shot it in near darkness at 10,000 ISO. The light was gone by the time this was ready; it would have been difficult to read a newspaper on this spot. That’s going to change soon enough, as we gain an extra three minutes of light every day now.
I do love to eat in this multi-course, seafood intensive way. And these clams are going in the rarified “repeat often” category reserved for not so many of my improvisations. I was particularly pleased with my choice not to add liquid: no wine, beer, stock, or even vinegar meant that the sauce, rather than being a liquid, was thick and clingy and superbly scoopable—say, with a clam shell—as a salty finale. It didn’t even want for crusty bread, and that’s saying something for a pile of clams.