“Sooooooo… How do you cook that thing?”

A recipe for Geoduck, and part of my application for BasqueStage sponsored by Sammic.

Geoducks, waiting to be cleaned

Last week I went digging for the prehistoric looking, giant clam known as Geoduck (read all about the rather challenging excursion here). This week I’m going to teach you how to prepare and eat it. But before that, a little info on this mighty creature.

The name geoduck (pronounced gooey-duck) is the Nisqually Native American word for ‘dig deep’, quite logical because these clams live 2½-3 feet below the surface of the sand.  They are the largest burrowing clam in the world and are exclusively native to the Puget Sound in Washington State, extending north to Vancouver B.C. The average weight is about three pounds, but specimens weighing over 15 pounds in not unheard of. They are also one of the oldest living creatures in the animal kingdom and can live as long as 168 years. There are an estimated 109 million ‘ducks’ living packed into the sediment of the Puget Sound, making them the largest biological mass in the Sound according to the Department of Ecology.

If you live outside of the Pacific Northwest, finding geoduck could pose a small problem. Aside from going digging for them yourself, you might get lucky at an Asian Supermarket in the live shellfish section. Or they can be purchased from Taylor Shellfish at any of their retail stores or from their online store.

Geoduck, blanching

Once you have your geoduck it is time for the preparation. While you are bringing a large pot of water to a boil on the stove, get a container of ice water ready. Dunk your ‘duck’ in the boiling water for 12 seconds and then immediately plunge into the ice water. Once it is chilled bring it out onto a cutting board. Blanching loosens up the skin around the neck, allowing it to easily slip off. When they are living in the wild their neck extends up to the surface of the sand, so I always like to stretch out the skin to see how big my geoduck was. Next, separate the shell from the body by slicing along the inside of the shell. I prefer a sharp, flexible-boning knife for this part. Discard the skin, shell and visceral ball. Separate the ‘neck’ from the ‘body’ by cutting where the two meet. Then slice the siphon in half lengthwise and rinse everything in cold water to remove any sand.

Blanched, without shell, with visceral ball

Geoduck siphon, or ‘neck’ is sweet, crunchy, has a bright clean clam flavor and is best eaten raw. With a sharp knife, slice the siphon on a steep bias, about one millimeter thick. At this point, preparations are endless, everything from ceviche to drizzling with lemon juice and olive oil. My personal favorite however, is with kimchi! Learn how to make your own here. I think that the fermented salty and spicy flavor of the kimchi compliments the sweet crunchy geoduck incredibly well.

Geoduck Crudo with Kimchi and Watercress

Geoduck Crudo with Kimchi and Watercress

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients:

1 geoduck ‘neck’

½ cup kimchi, minced

¼ cup kimchi ‘juice’ strained from the kimchi

½ bunch watercress – I always prefer wild, but hydrocress will work just fine

Preparation:

Slice the geoduck neck as thin as possible, about 1 millimeter thick. Lay out on a plate, drizzle with kimchi juice, top with minced kimchi and garnish with watercress leaves.

The mantle, or ‘body’ is more tender than the neck and lends itself better to cooking. It will make the best clam chowder you’ve ever had, but I prefer geoduck strips. Think clam strips that are tender, sweet, and taste like clam rather than fried breading. This recipe also calls for aioli. I always, ALWAYS make my own, but if you’re feeling less ambitious, mixing Sambal into store-bought mayonnaise will work, just know that I’ll be judging you.

Pan-fried Geoduck Strips with Sambal Aioli and Lemon

Pan-fried Geoduck Strips with Sambal Aioli and Lemon

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients:

1 geoduck ‘body’

1 cup flour

2 eggs, beaten

1 cup breadcrumbs – I prefer Japanese style panko breadcrumbs

1 cup Sambal aioli (about 1 tablespoon Sambal to 1 cup aioli)

1 lemon

Preparation:

Slice the geoduck ‘body’ into ¼ inch strips and do an English-syle breading. First, dredge through the flour, then egg, then breadcrumb, taking care to cover the strips completely in each step, as well as using one hand for wet ingredients and one hand for dry ingredients or else you’ll just end up breading your fingers. Next, put a large sauté pan on the stove with just over ¼ inch of canola oil. Heat on high until you see the first whisp of smoke and gently place the breaded strips in the oil. Flip after about 30 seconds, or until golden brown. Take out of the pan and let dry on paper towels. Meanwhile, spread a generous amount of aioli on a plate and pile geoduck strips on top. Finish by squeezing some lemon juice over the top.

Currently reading: Ma Gastronomie by Fernand Point

Currently listening: Laughing Out Loud by The Wallflowers

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“What is THAT in your hand?”

Geoducking, Videos, and BasqueStage

I spent this past Sunday on the shores of the Puget Sound with three friends and coworkers at Matt’s in the Market with a two-fold mission; the first, an excursion to wrestle to the surface the world’s largest burrowing clam, a quite phallic looking creature, the geoduck. And the second, to document the experience and to make my application video for BasqueStage, a six month stage in San Sebastian sponsored by Sammic. We set out from Seattle around 9:30am to head to the south sound, stopping only to get the necessary provisions of sandwiches and Rainier. We stopped at Frye Cove, a somewhat tucked away county park on the shores of Eld Inlet. Seeing two men digging for clams was an assuring sign that we had found the right place. On closer inspection however, we realized that the clam holes we were digging were not geoduck, but instead horse clams, a common mistake apparently. We asked one of the men if this was a good beach for geoduck, to which he replied with a somewhat nostalgic look in his eyes, “Geoduck lives our there” pointing out towards the water. It was possible, we figured, that we just needed to wait for low tide, which after all, wasn’t for another 90 minutes.

Beautiful day on Case Inlet

We decided to look for a better location and headed toward the shores of Case Inlet, about 20 miles north. We didn’t make it more than 50 feet walking down the beach when we spotted our first geoduck hole. Obviously a good sign. As we continued walking down the beach, more and more geoducks made themselves known by squirting water up to 5 feet in the air! This was definitely a good geoduck beach.

If you’ve ever dug geoducks you know that finding them is the easy part, considering they live 2½-3 feet below the surface of the sand. Everyone has their own technique, some more elaborate than others. Armed only with shovels, we began to dig. The first foot was no problem. “We’re going to hit our limit (3 per person, per day) in no time!”

Geoduck siphon, photo courtesy WDFW

Now, if you’ve ever tried to dig in wet sand you know that a three-foot hole is no easy feat because with every shovelful of sand you remove from the hole, an equal amount of water fills it back up in a matter of seconds. Then the sides start collapsing, and before you know it you are trying to dig in an ever-expanding pool of wet, syrupy sand. Sounds fun, right? The technique we developed was for one person to grab a hold of the neck of the geoduck, while another person sloshed water out of the hole, and the third person would dig with the shovel near the mammoth clam, being very careful not to hit it or the hand of the person holding on. And forget stopping to rest, because the second that you do the somewhat dry, four-foot diameter hole will turn into a four-foot diameter pool. Did I mention that getting these pre-historic looking creatures out of the sand takes about 20 minutes? Hence the fourth person, “the reliever”. He who would stand by, Rainier in hand resting up for his turn to jump in and start digging, sloshing water, or holding the clam neck, depending on who was the closest to exhaustion. After a rather difficult but extremely fun slosh session, we emerged, clam in hand, soaking wet, filthy, and victorious. Now, where is the next hole? MISSION 1: ACCOMPLISHED!

Victorious!

Now, we were having so much fun digging for sand monsters that we completely lost track of time, and before we knew it the entire geoduck bed was covered by the quickly approaching tide. Oh yeah, wasn’t I going to shoot a video? Weren’t we going to try to document the experience? We quickly got out the camera and shot a couple of scenes and snapped a couple of photos before heading back to the car to change out of our filthy, soaking wet clothes, hoping that this would be enough footage to work with, even though I knew it wasn’t.

When I got home I looked over the footage, as expected, I didn’t have what I needed to make a video that I would be proud of.  MISSION 2, FAILED.

So here are my takeaways from the day:

  • The weather was amazing. 70 degrees and sunny. A beautiful day on the beach spent with friends.

The Matt's Crew, after the work is done.

  • There has got to be a better technique to dig geoducks than our four-man team. Next time, we are going to try the garbage can method, where you cut the bottom our of a metal garbage can and insert it into the sand around the geoduck to prevent the sides from caving in.

There has got to be an easier way... Photo courtesy of WDFW

  • We ended up with two geoducks and two horse clams, and made some delicious geoduck crudo and the best clam chowder I have tasted to date.

The day's bounty: two horse clams (left) two geoducks (right)

  • Note to self; When trying to shoot a video, do the camera work at the BEGINNING of the day, so that when you lose track of time and are too filthy and wet to film, you are already done.
  • Check back next week to see how to clean, prepare and eat geoduck!
  • Last, but certainly not least, here is my video application for BasqueStage. The geoduck theme didn’t turn out like I wanted it to, so here is another food near and dear to my heart, the pig!

Pig Butchery for Basque Stage from Benjamin Artaiz on Vimeo.

Currently reading: Lucky Peach Issue 3

Currently listening: All Day by Girl Talk

Kimchi: why no self-respecting Korean would buy this stuff

The best way to eat kimchi - Rice and two fried eggs!

It is said that no self-respecting Korean would purchase kimchi. They, instead, choose to make it at home, from scratch. Considering that it is consumed with nearly every meal in Korea, this is no surprise. In addition to being very easy to make, it is also delicious and very healthy. Ever heard of pro-biotics? Kimchi is a living food, and only improves with age. Additionally, there is no set kimchi recipe. It is more a technique with a countless number of possible ingredients than anything else. Here is a simple version of the stuff that I enjoy. Feel free to add/subtract vegetables as you like.

Kimchi mise en place

Kimchi

Yield: 1 gallon

Ingredients:

2 heads napa cabbage, cut into fourths, core removed

1 medium daikon radish, peeled and cut in to 3-inch sticks, ¼ inch diameter

2 bunches green onions, cut into 3-inch sticks

3 bunches watercress – I prefer wild, but hydro-cress works as well

6 bulbs garlic, sliced as thinly as possible

1 thumb ginger, peeled and fine julienned (think thin matchsticks)

2 tablespoons salted shrimp – Korean style is best but shrimp paste works as well

3 tablespoons fish sauce – I prefer Vietnamese

½ cup Korean chili flake

1 tablespoon sugar

1 cup kosher salt

Fish sauce and salted shrimp - really imparts a "funky" flavor

Preparation:

Heavily salt the daikon radish and napa cabbage, taking care to get salt in between the leaves. Let sit out on the counter for 6 hours. This adds salt as well as draws moisture out of the vegetables. Too much residual water and you will have a very watery kimchi. Rinse thoroughly under cold water and taste to be sure you got enough of the salt out. If the vegetables are too salty, your kimchi will be too. Then squeeze as much of the water out of the cabbage and radish as you can.

Kimchi mixed, ready to go into jars

Toss the cabbage and radish with the remaining vegetables. Puree the shrimp with the fish sauce and pour over the mixed vegetables. Sprinkle the chili powder and sugar over the top and toss again to distribute. Then pack the kimchi into glass jars with tight-fitting lids. You will have about one gallon. Leave the jar on the counter at room temperature to ferment with a plate underneath to catch any kimchi-water that comes out. Taste after two days. The kimchi should have a slight effervescent quality to it along with a fermented flavor. If not, leave on the counter for another day, then refrigerate. It will last in your refrigerator indefinitely, but will develop a stronger fermented “funk” to it as time goes on.

Kimchi a' fermenting

My favorite way to eat kimchi is with rice and two fried eggs, for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or even a late-night meal.

This is how you know it was good!

Currently reading: Everything but the Squeal: Eating the Whole Hog in Northern Spain by John Barlow

Currently listening: Black and Blue by Miike Snow

“Whatchu know about pork?”

AKA, Charcuterie

According to Merriam Webster:

A delicatessen specializing in dressed meats and meat dishes. Also refers to the products sold in such a shop. A French word in origin, literally pork-butcher’s shop, from chair (flesh) and cuit (cooked).

Inside Museo del Jamon in Madrid

Over the past six months I have been on a bit of a charcuterie kick. I am lucky enough to work at a restaurant where I have been given quite a bit of freedom and leeway to create, experiment and most importantly LEARN! Thank you Chet and Dan for allowing me to run with this, and Charlie for using my creations as daily specials.

Some of my favorites have been:

Merguez – traditional north African lamb sausage made with roasted piquillo peppers, pimenton, oregano and red wine. Check out my recipe here, featured in Seattle Weekly’s Grillaxin!

34 baby Merguez sausages!

Spanish Chorizo – lots of pimenton and garlic. I also add ancho chili powder.

Boudin Noir/Morcilla/Blood Sausage – My current favorite. Made with, you guessed it, pork blood!

Blood Sausage, Boudin Noir, Morcilla, Blood Pudding - Many names for one delicious sausage!

Bratwurst – best enjoyed with saurkraut!

Thuringer – fermented, and tangy pork sausage from eastern Germany.

Andouille – a spicy smoked pork sausage from Louisiana. Excellent in gumbo!

The secret to a great gumbo (other than roux)? ANDOUILLE!

Kielbasa – the Polish word for sausage. I smoke mine and spice it with coriander, garlic and black pepper

Korean – a homage to my days working at Revel. Spicy, salty and unctuous. I use lots of ginger, garlic, Korean chili flake, coriander, cilantro and fish sauce. Then smoke it and serve it with kimchi-kraut and sriracha mustard!

Korean goodness

Hot Dogs – all beef seasoned with black pepper and coriander and then smoked. Homemade is always better!

Weisswurst – literally “white sausage” seasoned with parsley, lemon zest and mace.

Anything confit – literally, “cooked in its own juices/fat” – pork, rabbit, and my favorite, duck! Slowly cooked in duck fat. So soo soooo good!

Rillettes – “mashed” confit. Served as a meat-spread with crostini, mustard and pickles.

Head Cheese – not a cheese at all! Instead it is the meat, gelatin, soft tendon, and “other stuff” that is picked off of a boiled pig’s head and feet. I promise it tastes more appetizing that it sounds.

Foie Gras torchon, Headcheese, Boudin Noir, Merguez, with accompaniments (clockwise from top)

 

I am going to start something new that I am copying from another blog, ¡Hola Yessica!.  At the end of every post I will share what I am:

Currently reading: Life, On the Line by Grant Achatz

Currently listening: Fader by The Temper Trap

“You cannot open a book without learning something.” – Confucius

I have always been a reader. That is not to say, however, that I am always reading. Like most people, I go through phases, ups and downs. Periods that I will read three books in as many weeks, and months were I do not open a single book.  Reading is my favorite way to pass time. I have a half-hour bus ride to and from work. 60 minutes a day that I have the privilege spend nose deep in whatever has captured my attention. I often find that this is not enough time.

A few months ago, I re-discovered books. It had been about five months since I had completed my last book, and it was by pure happenstance that I stumbled upon a book at Barnes & Noble. I’m sure you’re saying to yourself right now “Of course you found a book in a bookstore.” But let me clarify. I like to kill time in bookstores, gushing over the latest cookbooks, like a kid with a Green eggs and Ham. I spend far too much money on cookbooks, and love to read them for enjoyment, entertainment and inspiration. Recipes however, do not exactly expand your literary mind. Which brings me back to the cookbook section at Barnes & Noble. Sandwiched between Alinea and A Day at elBulli was a small novel with a yellow jacket, completely out of place. Ghosts of Spain by Giles Tremlett immediately grabbed my attention.

The back cover contained no promises of a far off land filled with phantoms. Instead it spoke of a civil war, a far-from benevolent dictator, mass graves, terrorists, separatism, and a country trying desperately to forget its violent not-so-distant past. Considering that I am planning on moving to Spain in the near future, this book seemed like a must read for me. Two weeks and 400 pages later, this book has found itself near the top of my fascinating-books list and has re-invigorated my hunger for reading.

There are many other books that have had strong impacts on me, and for different reasons. Some are educational. Some are inspirational. And some are pure entertainment. Here is the short list of some of my favorites:

 Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain

I read this book during my final weeks at Seattle University, a time when I was trying to figure out “what next?” All my life I have been into food, and was considering enrolling in culinary school. This book pushed me over the edge and convinced me that a life in the kitchen was for me. Not because I wanted to be one of the “whacked-out moral degenerates, dope fiends, refugees, a thuggish assortment of drunks, sneak thieves, sluts and psychopaths” that Mr. Bourdain writes about. Instead there was something in his tales of life in the kitchen that contained a unexplainable draw for me.

The Omnivore’s Dilemma, by Michael Pollan

This book had a profound impact on me and my consideration of “what is food?” It opened my eyes to the backwards idea of mono-crops, fertilizers and pesticides and the horrors of feedlots. It made me think twice about where my food comes from and what I am putting in my body. If you eat food (more specifically a western diet), you need to read this book.

Devil in the Kitchen by Marco Pierre White

A look into the mind and life of Britain’s first three-Michelin-starred chef and the youngest chef in the world to achieve this honor. Marco takes his readers on the roller coaster ride of being a pot-throwing, chain-smoking culinary genius with a fierce dedication to constant refinement and improvement.

The Apprentice by Jacques Pépin

When I think of a memoir, I think of someone far more boring and mundane than Jacques Pépin. This book takes us from growing up in rural, war-ravaged France to working in France’s most famous restaurant at the time, Plaza Athénée, Charles de Gaulle’s personal chef, turning down the job of Executive Chef in the Kennedy white house, and becoming best friends with Julia Child, Craig Clairborne and James Beard. This is a story about America’s culinary awakening.

 

It Must Have Been Something I Ate by Jeffrey Steingarten

Food writer for Vogue since 1989, Steingarten has been nominated for multiple James Beard awards. In his follow up to his previous book, The Man Who Ate Everything (another of my favorite books), Steingarten shares many of his prize-winning essays. Everything from going fishing for his own bluefin tuna to debunking the mythologies of lactose intolerance and MSG sensitivity, this book is another that you just can’t put down.

 Next up on my reading list? Life, on the Line, by Grant Achatz. A chef’s story of chasing greatness, facing death, and redefining the way we eat.

“Ugh, Fabada AGAIN?

 

Would you complain about this?

I feel like I deal with statements like these almost on a nightly basis. Family Meal, also known as Staff Meal is the name given the meal that the staff of a restaurant eats at the end of their shift. Depending on where you work, staff meal might have a positive or negative connotation. If you work front of house at my restaurant however, I can guarantee that you are spoiled, eat like a king, and like to complain about not getting foie gras or beef tenderloin (oh wait, we serve them that too!)

Lets go back to the title of this article. I feel like every time I serve Fabada to the staff, I hear this complaint. Fabada is a classic dish from Asturias (northern Spain for those of you who don’t know). A thick white bean stew often made with pork, sausage and breadcrumbs, it was originally meant sustain field workers and provide them with the energy needed during the day. Think cassoulet, but better. Way better. The version we serve at the restaurant is slightly more refined and definitely not as heavy. Rabbit confit, menudo, three kinds of Spanish sausages made from scratch by yours truly (chorizo, morcilla, merguez) and lemon make this dish fantastic, and oh so good.

Fabada - as served at the restaurant

 

“I don’t eat seafood.”

This is another of my favorites. Often heard when we just served first of the season Halibut or Copper River king salmon. “Um, you do realize that we are primarily a seafood restaurant, right?”

 

“What, no seafood?”

Usually heard when we put up a spread similar to this:

"What, no seafood?"

Roasted chicken dressed with foie gras emulsion, grilled beef tenderloin, bratwurst with saurkraut, tortilla chips, guacamole, and Dungeness crab and scallop ceviche (apparently this doesn’t count as seafood). 

 

“Charlie (the AM Sous Chef) makes the best family meals.”

Said for no particular reason other than to complain for the sake of complaining.

 

“Don’t we get a salad?”

Usually said after a spread like this:

"Don't we get a salad?"

Grilled beef tenderloin, family size Fabada, grilled octopus with romesco, guacamole, crab and scallop ceviche and tortilla chips.

 

Now, I don’t want to give you the impression that our front of house staff complains all the time. They only complain some of the time. But it feels like, at least to me, that they complain most of the time, and especially on the days that we put a little extra effort into the meal and decide to really hook them up. In their defense, they do give us a lot of thank you’s and they truly are a great staff. Most of the time…

“We have a snow day and I want to read David Sedaris and go sledding and all you want to do is get drunk and eat Korean food.”

“Yeah, what’s your point?”

Kalbi Marinated Shortrib Dumplings. mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

I find myself in these situations often, where my ambitions and desires do not mesh well with those around me. To clarify, it is not that David Sedaris bores me and sledding actually sounds like fun. But the draw of the salty, spicy, sweet, and always-generously-caramelized-borderline-charred Korean food at Revel is too strong to ignore. And as for the booze, what semi-responsible 20-something doesn’t want to partake in an adult beverage or six when snow is falling from the sky and work is cancelled for the day? The fact is, I awoke with visions of Revel’s shortrib dumplings dancing through my head and I wasn’t going to quit until I stuffed myself to the point of physical discomfort on them. Especially not a book or even the draw of careening down a hill at breakneck speeds on a plastic death-trap.

Just one problem though… Revel is not located in convenient walking distance from my house. And as this being Snowpocalypse 2012 in Seattle, the busses sure as hell weren’t going to be running. The only option was to drag my Sedaris-loving roommate on a 5+ mile trudge through the snow on a dumpling-vision-quest that surely end with us either passed out in a snowbank or gorging ourselves at Revel. Possibly both. Let the mission begin!

Catching some scenery on the walk.

Truthfully, the walk to my dumpling mecca was not as harrowing as I have thus made it out to be. Quite the opposite in fact with the lack of cars on the road and the peacefulness that only a layer of five inches of white can instill. With good conversation and company, the walk turned out to be quite enjoyable. We were obligated to take a pit-stop at Gasworks Park to witness some impressive sledding runs and even more memorable wipeouts which only reinforced my decision to not partake.

The myriad of people sledding at Gasworks.

Fast forward through one particularly windy-cold-nasty stretch between Gasworks and downtown Fremont, we were at our dining destination. Stepping out of the cold into the dining room, we were greeted by the wafting, warming aroma of the place. Did I mention that I used to work here? Another story for another time I guess. I only bring it up because of the familiar vibe I got of seeing an old friend after far too long. Sitting at the counter was the perfect vantage point to both catch up with my old coworkers as well as to enjoy a fully satiating meal.

Seaweed noodle with dungeness crab, creme fraiche and spicy red curry.

Every bite of every dish was fantastic. Warming, comforting, salty, unctuous, and just the right amount of spice. Dungeness crab noodle bowl? Check. Pork belly pancake? Check. Blackened tofu rice bowl with king oyster mushroom confit and grilled chinese broccoli? Check. All great. But those kalbi marinated shortrib dumplings with pickled shallots and scallions? Oh. My. Freakin. God. Of course, washing the grub down with Fremont IPA didn’t hurt either.

An old favorite; pork belly pancake with kimchi and bean sprout batter.

Thank you Mark, Mike, Geo, José, Kaytee and Antoinette for a fantastic meal! And my roommate Jessie for being a trooper and marching 5.2054 miles in the snow just so that I could have my dumpling fix.