Nine Years of Marriage Deserves a Mighty Feast

by Marina Chotzinoff

Yesterday was our anniversary. Often this means we’re headed out to a swanky restaurant. But lately (or I should say this whole year), Ryan has been crazy busy building some fabulous pieces for his clients. His dad came out for a week to help out and has already been put to work painting at the shop, putting up tile in the bathroom and fixing things around the house. So it seemed fitting that we all celebrate at home together.

At the last meeting of WAS-SOUP, a group of mom’s who make and swap soups for their kid’s lunches but really eat most of it themselves, we also swapped some cookbooks. I made off with David Chang’s Momofuku book and was devouring it over morning coffee. I stopped short at a recipe for clams and fingerling potatoes cooked in a bacon dashi. Um, yes please. The idea of using smokey bacon instead of smokey fish flakes seemed brilliant. The potatoes would soak up the bacon love, then the clams would steam and impart their flavor to the broth which would all be served together with crisped bacon and green onions.

I left immediately for the store. While I stood at the fish counter pondering whether a pile of clams was enough dinner, I noticed the scallops we had a couple weeks ago. They were so very very good. But then I saw crab legs. On sale. I looked slowly from one to the other. Crab is Ryan’s favorite and they are on sale. Those scallops. Man, those scallops. I had to settle on the only real option and get both. It was an anniversary after all. Still thinking about the David Chang book and an amazing meal I had had at his restaurant years ago, I grabbed a pile of brussles sprouts and mint and headed home.

The dashi was first and really simple. Heat kombu (a seaweed) in a pot of water to simmering, turn off the heat and steep 10 minutes. Remove the kombu and add 1/2 a pound of bacon and simmer for about 30 minutes. Remove the bacon and skim the fat. You can do this easily by putting it in the fridge until it hardens, but I did not have a lot of time so I just skimmed. I then simmered the potatoes in the broth until they were tender and removed them to a bowl. I soaked the clams in cold water and scrubbed them clean and set them aside.

The brussels get halved, browned cut side down in a cast iron then roast in a 400 degree oven for about 15 minutes or so. They are then tossed in a sauce of sugar, fish sauce, water, mint, chili/garlic (Chang uses chilis and garlic but I use sambal), cilantro and lime. He served them with puffed rice and shichimi (a spice mix) but to simplify things I skipped them this time.

For the crab, I cut through the shells on one side and threw them in a 450 degree oven to roast. The dipping sauce I conceived was probably my favorite thing of the meal. Melt 3T butter in a pan, and add a medium diced shallot, 2 minced garlic cloves and 1/4 t red pepper flakes stirring over medium low heat until they just start to brown. Whisk in a tablespoon each of white miso and mirin and 2 to 4 tablespoons of the bacon dashi. If you were making this for another recipe you could also use plain dashi, clam juice or even chicken broth.

Ryan came home just in time to cook the scallops which is great because he’s a master at giving them a perfect crust while keeping them perfectly cooked inside. I believe all he did was lightly dust them in flour with some pepper and cook them in the cast iron in butter….but he won’t share his secret. We threw the clams in the broth while the pan heated for the scallops and once they had opened, plated them and put the potatoes back in the broth to warm. A few potatoes went on each plate with a ladle of broth and some crisped bacon and green onions.

The crab legs were served as is alongside the brussels, scallops and a side of sauce. We sat down to indulge, chasing it all with some crisp sake and many sighs of true pleasure. What a meal!

 

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