Saturday, December 31, 2011

Kinda boring

The season has been relatively boring. So far. Suits me fine.

A year ago the river had been frozen over for almost 3 weeks and we didn't see open water again until March.

31 December 2011 9:00 am

Here the second week of Winter and we've only had a couple of really cold days. One of those days left some ice along the river's edge but it's gone.

The weekend forecast is for unseasonably mild weather and even with rain I'm ok with this.

Clam chowder is a favorite any time of year but it's especially good this time of year. I checked and I can't believe I haven't blogged my clam chowder recipe. New England Clam Chowder. Of course. Anyone can prepare a killer clam chowder quickly and easily.

I've tried more clam chowder recipes than I can count and found simply: It's all about the clams. Herbs are conspicuously absent from my recipe.

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped celery. I like to get some celery leaves in the mix.
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 8 oz. clam juice. I like Snow's.
  • 1 small Yukon Gold potato, peeled and cubed
  • 8 oz. chopped cooked clams. Canned clams are excellent for this.
  • Half cup of half and half
  • 1 or 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
There's a lot of latitude in this dish within certain limits. Clams? Use more. Use less. Steam them fresh or use canned. Minced or chopped. Sometimes I use whole baby clams. I haven't tried razor clams yet. I intend to one of these days.

Like your chowder thick? Use more flour. Not so thick? Use less. Hard as it is to believe you can even use powdered non fat milk instead of half and half and *still* make a perfectly delicious creamy clam chowder. You do have to use butter though.


Melt your butter in a saucepan. Add the chopped celery and sweat it for 8 to 10 minutes. Until it's soft and semi transparent. It's important the celery be chopped as finely as you can chop it.

Add the ground pepper and onion powder, stir into the butter, add the clam juice.

When the clam juice comes to a boil add the cubed potato and reduce the heat, let that simmer until the potato is tender, 10 or 12 minutes. When the potatoes are done I take the half and half and, in a small jar, mix in the all purpose flour and give it a good shake. The I add it to the chowder and bring it back to a boil. It has to come back to a boil. Sometimes I add a little more butter here. That helps it thicken and makes it more silky. Reduce the heat and let it simmer for a few minutes to cook out the fresh flour flavor.

Remove the chowder from the heat.

Stir in the clams and any juice that might be with them.

Oyster crackers are traditional with New England Clam Chowder. I like a rustic bread with it myself.

A small bowl is a wonderful first course for a large meal and a big bowl is an excellent main course.

Every once in a long while I add a pinch of thyme to my chowder but otherwise I don't mess with this recipe much.

Sunday, December 25, 2011


From the back of my horse. Riding with the owls.

Christmas Day 2011

Friday, December 23, 2011

Time, determination...

And the right tools...

22 December 2011

I decide to decorate L's stall with a poinsettia garland. Actually, the plan is when it snows I'll drape this around her neck for next year's Christmas card picture. But meanwhile I thought I'd drape it around her tack hook for a festive appearance for the holidays.

Sure..they look like flowers. And.. what are flowers to a horse? Treats!

I didn't get it. Until I was cleaning her stall and found 3 red flowers in her bedding. Good grief! She chewed threw her wall to get at the flowers! She ate 3 of them and spit them out.

I'm amazed. Just amazed. How on earth did she put such a precise bead on the wall?! There. Now you know why some say she's smarter then me. I couldn't have done a better job with carpenter's tools. Speaking of carpenter's tools. Now I have to fix that wall...

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Rhythm of life

I live in a village. No really. Officially, we're a village. Thirty one miles from downtown Boston.

25 June 2011, 5:50 pm

I've wanted to put that picture up ever since I took it. There, that's our "Main St." looking east. It's almost 6:00 pm and I'm standing on the double yellow line taking pictures. Not a lot goes on here. The village common is directly behind me. The town hall is to my right and the village church is to my left. I live a block down that street on the right. The whole area is an historic district and the neighborhood has a lot of charm.

The population was less than 10,000 when I first came here and last year it was close to 13,000. I didn't plan on being here. It was sort of a happy accident I landed here some years ago and I didn't plan on staying. It's just kind of worked out that way.

There's a whole "rhythm of life" thing going on here that, while it's not for everyone, I've really come to enjoy. I guess it's a kind of stop and smell the flowers sort of thing. I've used the same "rhythm of life" expression to describe barn life and handling horses but it's different. Village life is mostly...slow, while barn life has a certain cadence moving through the day. In both cases I use the expression to describe the whole of it as a pleasant thing. I like it here.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Speaking of smoked salmon

I never liked smoked salmon much.

Smoked wild Sockeye salmon

Then several years ago some friends of mine, one of whom is from Alaska, visited Fairbanks and brought back some salmon his dad smoked in the back yard. That's common in Alaska. Smoking salmon in the back yard. And this stuff was just *delicious*. That inspired me to try some smoked salmon from Harry and David. Which was very good but it wasn't like the homemade stuff. It was enough to make we want to try some less expensive, more easily available stuff.

Smoked salmon is complicated. I've come to generally like smoked salmon. But "Smoked Scottish Salmon" is *not* "Scottish Smoked Salmon" which, by the way, is *not* "Salmon smoked in Scotland". Which is not the same as "Scottish Style Smoked Salmon". Which is dry brined and hardwood cold smoked.

Surprisingly I find I generally like the Ruby Bay products. They're near the East River in Brooklyn! Who ever would have thought. They have a broad selection of smoked salmon products.

Ruby Bay smoked salmon

In this case, it's "Norwegian Style" Smoked Salmon. The salmon is sugar cured with spices and cold smoked over fruitwood smoke. Usually.

Turns out over time and testing I like "Irish Style" smoked salmon.

Irish Style Smoked Salmon (lower half of the frame)

Which is cold smoked over peat smoke. It has a lovely texture. See how shiny that salmon is? It's not at all wet. The top half of the frame there is a maple cured hot smoked salmon. With cracked peppercorns. Obviously I couldn't decide what I wanted. I like dill with salmon and smoked salmon is especially good with hard boiled or scrambled eggs.

Or with cucumber and red onions..and...pickled herring?

Smoked salmon and inlagd sill

I prefer wild salmon and Alaskan salmon (Coho, Sockeye and King) is just about the only wild salmon left. Norwegian, Irish, Scottish and even Nova Scotia salmon is almost universally farmed. It's extremely rare to find wild salmon in Europe.

I'm not sure I'm ready for smoked salmon mousse but a little piece of smoked salmon fillet is excellent on a cracker. With a slice of avacado.

Oh! And have a nice Pinot Noir with your smoked salmon!

Love this Pinot Noir!

Edited (18 December 2011) to add: I've learned more about smoked salmon! It turns out that an awful lot of smoked fish products (not just salmon) come from Brooklyn. Brooklyn is highly regarded in the smoked fish business. The smokehouses around the East River supply the greater New York City area with tons and tons of smoked fish. The quality whitefish, bluefish, mackerel, herring, salmon and trout get consistently good reviews. I had no idea really. Even the peppered mackerel I've enjoyed for years comes from Brooklyn!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Tofu? Again?!

I like tofu. No, no, I don't do tofu hot dogs and tofu burgers.

I like the cheese like blocks of firm tofu. I dry them with paper towels, cut them into cubes or planks and marinate them. Tofu has no flavor so it really has to be marinated. I usually marinate tofu overnight.

Tofu cubes in sweet and sour marinade

Marinated tofu is excellent with salads or noodles which can be an appetizer, a side dish or a main course. Plain tofu is good in soups.

Ponzu marinated tofu with soba noodles

I think Asian flavors work best with tofu. Soy. Teriyaki. Sweet and sour. Ponzu.

I want to try some more western flavors with tofu. I wanted to do something Mediterranean with tofu. Oh, some sort of olive oil and vinegar marinade. Maybe with some mustard and honey. Add some Mediterranean herbs. But I slipped right back to a teriyaki marinade when I decided this:

Ming Tsai did something like this on Simply Ming

Would be perfect with smoked salmon!

Teriyaki tofu salad and smoked salmon

Marinades I use all the time:

  • Soy sauce (oh, 2 tablespoons maybe)
  • Honey (a tablespoon or so)
  • Chopped garlic (not a lot, maybe 1 clove)
  • Ginger (a tiny bit, finely minced or run over a grater)
I have variations that I think of as "teriyaki based". Sometimes I add the juice from half a lime. Sometimes I use ponzu instead of soy sauce. Sometimes I add a big splash of oyster sauce.

Sweet and sour:
  • White vinegar, 1/3 cup
  • Honey, 2 or 3 tablespoons
  • Ketchup, a couple of tablespoons
  • Soy sauce, a tablespoon or two
I add a generous amount of sriracha to these and their variations. I often use some sesame oil, maybe a tablespoon, and I'll sometimes add finely chopped red onion. And green onion. And chili peppers.

These make good dipping sauces as well. The teriyaki based sauces are good with seared tuna. I withhold the honey for the marinade because it burns if you're not careful.

If I'm stir frying I'll mix these up and add a tablespoon of corn starch in some water and use it to finish the stir fry. You can add corn starch and water to these and simmer them to give them a slightly thick and silky quality that make good dressings.

So if you haven't tried tofu you have to try it!

Sweet and sour tofu stir fry
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