Natural Light

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.

8 comments to Natural Light

  • Your ISO goes up to 100K??? I’m weeping. Weeping into my bowl of 1600 pathetitude.

  • Peter

    10,000, actually; that was a typo. It goes up to 25,600. I can seriously shoot freehand in near darkness.

  • I didn’t think 100K existed; but I can hardly keep up with camera improvements these days. And 25K may as well be 100 compared to my lowly, lowly ISO. But congrats! That’ll be a blast – not just because you can shoot later, but the quality of the light is so lovely right at dusk, but I often can’t capture the image my eyes can see.

  • Peter

    As long as you’re crying, that’s all that matters.

  • You guys and your cameras. I’m more excited about those leeks. Gorgeous! And the light. Oh, the light.

  • I want to know what kind of camera…

    • Peter

      6D. Full-frame, and about a grand less than total pro rigs. Everything I need, nothing I don’t. The lens is pretty great, too, and makes a huge difference. I’m very glad I had the prosumer one for two years, though; it taught me a lot and prepared me for all the things this one can do.

Yours Truly



I'm a painter who happens to also spend a lot of time growing, making, and writing about food. I'm particularly interested in the intersection of frugal peasant cooking techniques and haute improvisation. And I have a really great personality.

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