landlocked but determined…

April 14th, 2009 · 35 Comments

in less than three weeks i take off for nyc for the tri-annual mommy visit, haircut and restaurant go around. therefore all socializing over food has now come to a screeching halt and my already compromised caloric intake needs to come down even further in preparation for what inevitably becomes quite the food-centric getaway. until then i am TRYING VERY HARD to figure out a way to order light and not feel the need to eat everything. or drink too much wine. and still have dessert. but not over do it.

in other words i am going to attempt to not be me.
wish me luck with that…

but the other night, overall, i thought i did quite well. there were 6 of us for dinner and i was in my kitchen and in control of the menu. beforehand i had boldly told my friends. no nibbles or appetizers, no salad – or dessert. i’m serving one thing. and a loaf of crusty bread, which for the record i personally abstained from – as well as the impressive wines that my friends brought over, because i am not only disciplined and strong (albeit in small spurts), but obviously also a masochist.

under these circumstances, i knew whatever i made had to be pretty striking. i also knew i was going to do a seafood dish but couldn’t face the selection at nashville’s ‘whole foods’. i considered a few cioppino recipes and even glanced at julia’s bouillabaisse. but then i wandered over to suzanne goin’s ‘sunday suppers at lucques‘ and i spotted "the dish". page 268-9. mussels and clams with vermouth, cannellini beans and cavolo nero. reading through it, i was captivated by the ingredient list. this was so very my kind of food. for those of you that haven’t been paying attention, i gravitate towards simple italian food, stressing the quality of the ingredients – ad nauseam.

i called d’artagnen to ask who they considered to be their seafood equivalent and they reminded me of browne trading. the way i see that is: if it’s good enough for eric ripert and daniel boulud, then i’m in. so i ordered my fish from them, which turned out to be a good move on my part. after speaking to nick for awhile about what was freshest and best, that’s about when i i decided to veer from the recipe, if only by upping the seafood ante. goin called for using clams and mussels, and to that i added 3 small lobsters, scallops, haddock and the last of the wonderful maine sweet shrimp, which was to be used as a garnish due to its inability to take much heat. i also doubled the recipe. because you just can’t have too much of a good thing…

and that, dear readers? is the very philosophy that gets me into trouble…

the largest serving vessel in my home is my 16" wok. i rarely use it because, well, it’s just huge. but this was the perfect thing for this dish and i was grateful that i had it around.

everything was piled into the wok which filled it to the brim – and somehow our italian seafood dinner looked quite at home, all nestled in the unfamiliar asian skillet. i wish i’d been more ‘on it’ with my photo’s, but once that seafood was ready to rock and roll, i had other things on my mind. so cary, being the good boyfriend, grabbed the camera and took some shots.

the recipe is both straight forward and detailed  – a testament to goin’s book which leaves very little room for any error with a lot of very helpful techniques and explanations… go and buy this book. seriously. it’s a great one…

the beans were of course from rancho gordo. they were soaked for a few hours, although goin throws hers in dry. the bean component was made the night before and i’ve got to tell you, it is beyond truly outstanding.

here’s how it works: toast 2 teaspoons of fennel seeds until brown and then pound them roughly in a mortar. in a medium pot heat 1/4 cup of olive oil and when hot, add to that a sprig of rosemary and a crumbled chili de arbol. sizzle for a minute and then add the fennel seed and a cup or so of diced onion along with a tablespoon of thyme leaves. sauté until the onion is wilted. add the beans and coat them for about a minute and then add water to 3" above the beans. bring to a boil and the reduce heat. place a paper towel over the beans to keep them submerged and add 2 teaspoons kosher salt after about 30 minutes (mine took longer to soften) and then cook adding water as necessary. you want to have a good amount of bean liquid that is starchy and rich. because this is THE STUFF that makes the final dish sing. there’s no fish stock used in this recipe.

and even if you don’t make this dish then just make these beans. and serve them with roast chicken. or with a poached egg and broccoli rabe. the beans themselves will knock you over. you will make them and then you will love me because i will have opened your eyes to greatness. they way i see it, it’s the very least i could do...

i also must tell you that these little sweet maine shrimp are very delicious little suckers, but you have to treat them with the utmost respect. too much heat and they turn to a mealy mush. after the dish was done and off the heat, these were placed on top of the rest of the shellfish and the residual warmth was all that was needed.

a perfect 1990 barbera sits beside a grassy tuscan olive oil. one bowl to eat from, and another for the shells…

a precarious balance – a profoundly visual metaphor for life…

the kale gets blanched in salted water and wrung out and cut into ribbons. olive oil goes into a (wide not tall) hot pot followed by diced red onion, a bulb of chopped fennel, tons of sliced garlic, chiles, rosemary, thyme and salt and pepper. then the greens for about 10 minutes until they break down – and then the beans along with the liquid. after a few minutes add the clams and then a couple of minutes later the vermouth and then the mussels. let it all steam until the shells open and then stir in a few tablespoons of butter. i forgot to taste for seasoning but i lucked out. it was just right.

when i make this again, and i will, i think i’ll keep it less busy. the lobster was wonderful but extraneous, the haddock got knocked around by the shells and shredded – making for a heartier broth, but really in the end was unnecessary. the browne trading’s scallops were fresh and phenomenal, as was all the seafood. they’d be a do-over for sure, if only because cary loves them best.

goin’s ‘sunday suppers’ is a seasonal book – from market to table. this recipe was listed for fall, which although we’re completely faced in the other direction, it still felt right on a cool and rainy friday evening. we talked, they drank, and we laughed our asses off for 4 hours. everyone chipped in on the seafood tab which eased the $ load and we couldn’t have had a better seafood dinner anywhere in nashville.

and i’ll venture to guess that no one missed dessert in the least…

Tags: beans · fish · greens · seafood

35 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Julia // Apr 14, 2009 at 5:27 am

    Everything looks fantastic, but I especially appreciate your treatment of the maine shrimp. I actually eat them raw because the texture is so amazing … and I’m confident in my source ;)

    Another great seafood purveyor is All the top restaurants in Boston use them and they also ship.

  • 2 codfish // Apr 14, 2009 at 7:06 am

    Claudia: What a smart thing to do, call D’artangan and ask for their seafood equivalent. Seriously, way to go girl.
    Everything looks delicious, and Cary did a good job on those photos. Wouldn’t have missed dessert in the slightest.

  • 3 maggie (p&c) // Apr 14, 2009 at 7:09 am

    Wow, awesome. This looks fabulous. I have the book out from the library (realllly trying not to buy so many cookbooks) but may just have to bite the bullet and buy it.

    Love the wok…it’s totally perfect!

  • 4 Jennifer Hess // Apr 14, 2009 at 7:20 am

    Beautiful. I’ve had my eye on that recipe for a while but haven’t quite gotten around to it – and now I’m inspired, of course.

  • 5 Robert // Apr 14, 2009 at 8:27 am

    “is the very philosophy that gets me into trouble…”

    The first step is always admitting there is a problem.

    (Fabulous Food and Great Company-aholics Anonymous) Join the club…..

  • 6 Choosy Beggar Tina // Apr 14, 2009 at 8:54 am

    Man, that looks good. Seafood, beans and kale? That’s like gospel in my opinion.

    Great idea with the wok. After all, wok vs paella pan – how different are they REALLY? :)

  • 7 Lesley // Apr 14, 2009 at 9:51 am

    I am certain that Chris would have chopped of a digit or possibly an entire limb to have sat in on this dinner. But because he’s stuck with me, he’s been having Rancho Gordo beans sans sea critters. Tonight, we’ll be on night three of Christmas Limas!

  • 8 Ethel // Apr 14, 2009 at 10:30 am

    How I want to dunk my crusty bread into the broth. Claudia, what a fabulous informative and beautiful post. Enjoyed the photos, wrtitng and the whole nine yards. This was outstanding in every way. I have to hand it to you, you sure DO IT instead of just thinking about it.
    Wish I were a guest. Can’t wait to read about your NYC eating adventure’s.

  • 9 lo // Apr 14, 2009 at 11:06 am

    I’m with Ethel. I’m standing here with my crusty bread, all drooling and ready for lunch.

    As a Dedicated Seafood Lover and Kale Devotee, this is my kind of food.

  • 10 Rachel (S[d]OC) // Apr 14, 2009 at 11:08 am

    Even I can’t help admiring the beauty of that dish and I don’t even like seafood. You have outdone yourself. Your choice of vessel worked perfectly.

  • 11 The Culinary Sherpas // Apr 14, 2009 at 12:32 pm

    I would like to shove my face in that big wok of love.

  • 12 Amy at Minimally Invasive // Apr 14, 2009 at 12:55 pm

    OK, OK! Consider my arm twisted. I’ve had Sunday Suppers wish listed/bookmarked for the longest time, but you’ve finally convinced me to take the plunge.

  • 13 Heather // Apr 14, 2009 at 1:00 pm

    You’re an iron woman, and I commend your discipline. I love a good frutti di mare, but can’t even conceive of bread abstention.

  • 14 Hillary // Apr 14, 2009 at 2:26 pm

    I was watching Food Network and saw an episode of throwdown where Bobby made cioppino. I’ve been craving intense amounts of seafood ever since! This looks outstanding!

  • 15 rachel // Apr 14, 2009 at 3:05 pm

    I already knew we gravitate towards the same platefuls or panfuls.

  • 16 Angela Kaset // Apr 14, 2009 at 6:09 pm

    I came,
    I ate, (oh gawd),
    ate it again the next night,
    (still fresh and wondrous),
    skipped a night,
    and then ate it again the following night,
    (fine fare for a lazy girl),
    froze the remaining broth….

    I done tole Claudia I could live on this dish.
    It’s not quite a cioppino, but then I guess it is….well whatever it is,
    it’s just the right bite, just the right everything….and it sneaks some greens in.
    Big plus for this cheeto eater.
    If I were bread, Claudia’s wok would be my swimming hole.

  • 17 Jeff // Apr 14, 2009 at 7:00 pm


  • 18 democommie // Apr 14, 2009 at 7:41 pm


    I would not have missed dessert either; because I woulda put a torte in the glove compartment of my Ranger and whipped it out just when everyone was commending themselves on their sucroserestraint systems.

    Turns out I’m going to be in Massachusetts North Shore and Southern Cow Hampshire 3oth b’day) . I’m stopping at a place near Albany to get something for a friend and when he told me what he wanted I thought, “oooooooooooh, I know SOMEBODY ELSE that likes that, too!” I’ll be sending you something if they have enough of it in stock. It’s not perishable.

  • 19 democommie // Apr 14, 2009 at 7:42 pm

    That should have read :

    “Massachusetts North Shore and Southern Cow Hampshire (my pal’s daughter’s 3oth b’day celebration)…”

  • 20 JUNE BUG // Apr 14, 2009 at 9:55 pm

    Once again! Well done! I love the combination of flavors going on here. It’s a seafood-gasm!

  • 21 cary // Apr 14, 2009 at 11:02 pm

    I washed up. It was the least I could do.

  • 22 SpinachTiger // Apr 14, 2009 at 11:39 pm

    Looks delicious. I’m so in the seafood all in one bowl mood. Made my first mussels last week. Need to know your seafood connection. Who needs dessert when you have sweet scallops and sweet shrimp?

  • 23 The Italian Dish // Apr 15, 2009 at 8:03 am

    You outdid yourself. What a dish! I would have loved to taste that. I’ve got Goin’s book and you’ve inspired me to tag that recipe and make it.

  • 24 Heidi Robb // Apr 15, 2009 at 12:28 pm

    One hedonistic vessel of everything I love to eat.

    I’ll bet no one even missed the bread.

  • 25 kristie // Apr 15, 2009 at 3:59 pm

    I gained 3 pounds in Chicago and I was only there for 4 days. Good luck! And does this D’Artagnan equivalent do tuna? It’s hard to find good tuna…

  • 26 Marc @ NoRecipes // Apr 15, 2009 at 5:52 pm

    Wow that looks amazing! We get descent seafood here in NY, but seeing those shrimp is making me think I need to check this place out.

  • 27 Peter // Apr 15, 2009 at 6:49 pm

    Outstanding. Hey, email me your NYC dates and we’ll try to make it happen.

  • 28 yes Yes YES // Apr 15, 2009 at 10:10 pm

    I know you don’t know me. But i want you to know me… Because I would like to come to dinner this weekend. I’ll bring dessert!

  • 29 goodfoodmatters // Apr 16, 2009 at 8:28 am

    great info on your bean prep
    and browne trading–beautiful baby maine shrimp, who knew?
    if you come across a purveyor of (so sweet, size of your pinkytip) peconic bay scallops, this former long islander would love to know.

  • 30 Maggie // Apr 16, 2009 at 1:43 pm

    wait – you abstained from wine?!? :)

  • 31 cookiecrumb // Apr 16, 2009 at 4:50 pm


  • 32 Brooke // Apr 16, 2009 at 5:45 pm

    Fucking YUM. That looks amazing. I can’t believe you resisted soaking up the juice with your crusty bread. You are a much stronger woman than I am.

  • 33 rebekka // Apr 17, 2009 at 8:26 pm

    Omigosh. HOW perfect! And thank you SO MUCH for the Browne trading tip. Seafood in Nashville is beyond depressing.

  • 34 annie // Apr 18, 2009 at 7:07 am

    1. I would like Angela to set her comment to music and record it; despite my jealousy that she actually got to eat the meal, I think she put a lovely flourish on the experience.

    2, I am incredibly impressed that you ate no bread, because the juice must have been to die for.

    3. Beautiful post. Thanks!!!

  • 35 we are never full // Apr 20, 2009 at 3:43 pm

    there is NOTHING i don’t love about this dish. after the ridiculous amount of beef and sausage i just ate in argentina, i need something like this in my life. you really are good if you didn’t do the bread “schwooping”. nuts, and good. would love to meet you sometime you’re in ny. bring the good weather, please!

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