Sunday, July 26, 2009

Peconic Bay Oysters and Clams with Warm Potato Salad

Photo (Lexi Van de Walle): Long Island Little Neck Clams, Peconic Bay Oysters and Soft Shell Steamer Clams

When it comes to Long Island seafood you really can't get more local than with shellfish. Most of the time though I, the Lighthearted Locavore, don't cook local clams, oysters or mussels simply because my family doesn't eat them -- although my husband will occasionally order fried oysters when we are in New Orleans. Since I absolutely love little neck and small steamer clams, I thought I'd try all three for dinner last night including a down home Nawlins-style deep fried oyster recipe using my homemade blend of Creole Seasoning and freshly milled corn meal from upstate New York. All really fresh, sweet and perfectly cooked!

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Deep Fried Peconic Bay (Long Island) Oysters
with corn meal and creole spices
Steamed Long Island Little Neck Clams and Soft-shelled Steamers
Warm North Fork Creamer Potato and Green Bean Salad
with Mustard Vinaigrette
About the Seafood
For loyal followers of the Lighthearted Locavore Blog, you know that there's usually a side of politics with any dinner I cook. In a google search of Peconic Bay Oysters, I was very pleased to learn more about what local, state and federal authorities are doing together to help local bay fisherman and protect bays and estuaries on Long Island and their fish and shellfish.

Through an initiative called the Aquaculture Leasing Program which is operated by the Suffolk Aquaculture Board, over a dozen oyster farmers have access to approximately 100,000 acres in the Peconic and Gardiner's Bays to seed and grow their oysters (which apparently take 18 months to mature). Here's an interesting and impressive tidbit, apparently New York State owns the underwater lands and several years ago gave Suffolk County authority to lease the bottomlands for this aquaculture project. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are also involved in the shellfish permit process. The Suffolk Planning Department has taken the lead via its Aquaculture Lease Program Advisory Commission to oversee this process. This has been a part of a great effort by many (do you remember Billy Joel going to Washington to testify on behalf of the baymen) to bring back the oyster and scallop population after the brown tides of the 1980's that nearly wiped out Long Island bivalves. (See my post, including some good recipes from 2008 on Long Island's scallop industry).

RECIPES

Deep Fried Peconic Bay (Long Island) Oysters with Corn Meal and Creole Spices

24 Oysters
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup of corn meal, locally grown
2 Tbls of Creole Seasoning (a blend of salt, pepper, paprika, cayenne, garlic powder, onion powder, thyme, rosemary, oregano)*
Canola oil
Coarse Kosher or Sea Salt, to taste

* I keep a supply of Creole Seasoning in my spice cabinet and typically use Emeril Lagasse's proportion of spices in his Creole Seasoning recipe on the Food Network

Shuck oysters (save the sweet liquor for another recipe) and pat dry. In a small bowl, beat two eggs and put oysters in the egg mixture for 5-10 minutes to coat well. On a plate, mix corn meal and creole seasoning. Dip egg-coated oysters in the cornmeal one at a time and set aside on a plate. Add enough canola oil to fill your fry pan with 1-2 inches of oil and heat to 370 degrees using a deep-fry thermometer. Cook oysters in batches until they turn golden brown. Remove and drain on paper towels. Avoid overcrowding the pan and be careful to keep temperature stable for crisp, delicious oysters that are not greasy or burned. Salt, to taste.

Steamed Long Island Little Neck Clams and Soft-shelled Steamers

24 Little Neck Clams
1 pound of Soft Shell Steamer Clams (small or medium sized)
2 cups of white wine
1/2 chopped onion
Fresh herbs from the garden (basil, chives, or thyme depending on your preference)
Butter for dipping clams
Reserved cooking liquid, strained

In a large, covered pot such as a spaghetti pot, heat wine, onion and herbs until boiling. Reduce heat to medium and steam the little neck clams with the cover on until they open and transfer immediately to a large bowl and cover. Cook soft shell steamers clams in the same liquid until they open and transfer to bowl. Do not over cook or clams will be rubbery. Strain cooking liquid and reserve to use as a dipping sauce. Serve clams right away with small bowls of melted butter and the cooking liquid for dipping.

Warm North Fork Creamer Potato and Green Bean Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette

1 pound local new or creamer potatoes, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 pound local green beans, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
1/2 red onion, diced
Salt and pepper, to taste

Vinaigrette Dressing:
1/2 cup olive oil
1/8 cup local vinegar
2 Tbls. of a high quality, coarse dijon mustard

Prepare dressing in a measuring cup and set aside. Boil the cut potatoes and green beans in separate pots until just cooked through. Do not overcook. Drain and toss warm vegetables and onion with the vinaigrette. Serve warm or at room temperature. Salt and pepper, to taste.

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