Exactly a year ago today, I hit “publish” on my first post for Lemon Baby: grilled Mediterranean-style octopus, which remains one of my most popular posts. Our first blog birthday coincides with my own birthday, which was yesterday. As I said in the octopus post, I am one of those people who genuinely wants to spend their birthdays cooking a sumptuous meal. And if I make the mistake of asking my oldest kid for input, his answer is always going to be “clams and mussels.” It may seem odd that a five-year-old can get jazzed about shellfish, but jazzed he is. We have been known to fork-fight for the errant, shell-less morsels at the bottom of the bowl.
A lot can happen in a year (a new job and a new house, to name a few) but one thing remains constant: Lemon Baby is and forever will be a labor of love–a love of seriously good food. This spring, I took a little hiatus from posting. Social media was easy to keep up with, but the process of cooking, styling, photographing, editing, and writing just wasn’t happening. I was in a state of turmoil from all the changes occurring in our lives, and for the first time in my life, cooking seemed more of a chore than something I have always done for stress relief. Little kids are hell on dinnertime.
It seemed, amid all the screaming and clamoring for bottles of milk or “ice water” and snacks to keep them (and us) from losing their everloving minds, it was just easier to throw together a few grilled cheeses and plunk a few strawberries on their plates. And it was easier, in a way, except for the fact that I felt like I had lost a part of myself. A part that I had desperately missed, and last night, even when my son lost his mind when he “accidentally” blew out my candle and we wouldn’t let him light it himself, I found. I cooked, and then I actually took photographs of our meal before one of us dug in. The kids clamored per usual, but my sweet husband occupied them while I garnished and clicked and adjusted and clicked again. And it felt pretty great.
Not only did I cook a meal not involving butter, American cheese, and sandwich bread, but I also made an accompanying cocktail: a spicy-fresh combo of coconut water, vodka, and lime that complemented the flavors of the clams tremendously. Thai bird chiles are extremely hot (as my poor husband found out before I had a chance to warn him), so I advise only making a small sliver in the chile as opposed to slicing it and releasing all its fire.
Normally I’d serve this cocktail in a martini glass, but those are packed in preparation for the move, so these Baccarat Optic wine glasses sufficed.
A refreshing, slightly spicy drink of coconut water, lime, vodka, and chile.
- 1 can coconut water not cream or milk
- 3 ounces vodka
- juice of two limes
- 1 ounce simple syrup
- 2 Thai bird chiles
- 2 lime wedges
1 In each chile, made a small incision and drop into each glass as a garnish.
2 Fill a shaker with ice and add the syrup, vodka, lime, and coconut water. Shake until cold and strain into the two glasses glass.
3 Garnish with lime wedge.
I have tried steaming clams in coconut milk before and was woefully underwhelmed. None of the flavors came through, and I discovered that the ingredients need time to simmer before the clams are added. The liquid can even be held at room temperature for an hour or two and then brought back up to simmer before adding the coconut milk, which makes prep a breeze for a dinner party. Crusty bread, crostini, or even naan or roti would be a welcome addition to soak up all the sumptuous juices.
The clams are tender, bursting with the heat of chiles, cooling coconut milk, tangy lime, and spicy, earthy ginger. We all loved this so much I wonder if it will replace our old French-style standby with white wine, lemon and tomatoes. I think we’ll all be happy if both are in regular rotation.
The spiciness of Thai bird chiles and the richness of coconut milk are perfect foils to each other in this decadent rendition of steamed shellfish.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 red onion peeled and sliced
- 4 cloves of garlic minced
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 6 1- inch pieces of ginger root peeled and sliced
- juice of 3 limes
- 1 tablespoon lime zest
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- 1 3- inch piece of lemongrass peeled and smashed
- 1 can of full-fat coconut milk
- 2 pounds of littleneck clams or a mix of clams and mussels, scrubbed
- 2 Thai bird chiles depending on your heat preferences, sliced thinly
- cilantro green onions, basil, parsley, and lime wedges for garnishes
1 In a large, shallow skillet or wok, heat olive oil. Sauté onions until translucent.
2 Add garlic and stir until fragrant.
3 Add chicken broth, lemongrass, ginger, fish sauce, lime juice, chiles and bring to simmer. Let simmer for 20 minutes.
4 Add coconut milk and stir, season with salt to taste.
5 Add clams and bring to high simmer. Cover, and cook until all clams have opened.
6 Pour into bowl and garnish with chopped cilantro, green onions, chopped parsley, chopped basil, and lime wedges.
It feels good to be back. And, although I didn’t reach all my blogging goals for this year, I’m looking forward to the next, and what delicious things it will bring. Thanks for reading, all, and don’t forget to leave a comment and/or use the handy sharing buttons to pin this recipe for later. It’s a keeper, I promise.