Tuesday, November 30, 2010

New England Clam Bake with Zatarain's

Judy has had some Zatarain's crawfish, shrimp & crab boil sitting in our cupboard for awhile and a few months ago I decided I needed to try it out.
Several things were on my mind. First, I thought of the crawfish we purchased in the boonies of Louisiana from a roadside store housed in a metal shack. We bought a bag full of boiled crawfish and they were amazing. Second, I thought of the mushy, spicy, corn on the cob I've had and love. My first attempt included corn on the cob, shrimp (the next closest thing to crawfish) and Louisiana hot sausage (which seemed like a natural addition).
I really enjoyed it.
Then, I started to think about the concept of a New England clam bake and that it could be combined with the Zatarain's for a real tasty meal. I tried several variations, always including corn and shrimp, but also including multiple types of clams, small lobsters
and red potatoes. The clams cooked this way are moist and very, very nice.
After going on WeightWatchers, the New England Clambake with Zatarain's provided a way for me to get some spice with very few points (leaving out the sausage, corn on the cob is 1 point for a medium ear, shrimp is 1 point for the first two ounces and then goes up a little after that, cooked red potatoes are less than 1 point for each two ounces and cooked clams are less than 1 point per ounce). The corn has been tasting particularly good to me.

The Zatarain's is a bag containing mustard seed, coriander seed, cayenne pepper, bay leaves, dill seed and allspice.
The bag is put in water along with 4 tablespoons of salt and a lemon. I usually forget the lemon. The package also suggests adding cayenne pepper to taste. I've learned that I really like the cayenne pepper and I sprinkle it in very liberally. For items that I want to cook longer, like the corn and potatoes, I put them in with the water and let them boil the entire time.
For the lobster and clams, I put them in a minute or two befoe the shrimp, and for the shrimp, I put them in for a minute before I turn off the heat. The package says to boil the shrimp vigorously for 1 minute. That overcooks them. I just put them in the water with the burner on high and boiling when I put them in, which stops the boiling, then turn off the heat and let all of the contents remain for 20 minutes. The shrimp are still moist and the potatoes and corn have a nice bite to them. I eat the corn with butter spray and the potatoes are great in soups, or just to eat cold, later, with a little salt.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Dungeness Crab

The Dungeness crab
is a crab found off the west coast of North America from Alaska to Point Conception, California.
It is named after Dungeness, Washington, which is about five miles north of Sequim, a place we have visited.
About one-fourth of the weight is meat.
Andrew purchased a Dungeness crab in Koreatown
which he brought to our home for a pre-Thanksgiving meal. I previously blogged on monkfish and New Zealand green-lipped mussels which were part of the ingrediants of the meal. This post will tie the meal together.

Andrew placed the still-live crab in a pot and steamed it.
It gradually turned red.
 When it was finished,
he opened up the crab
and let the juices mix with the mussel white wine broth in the frying pan.
Then he added the claws and some of the limbs to the mixture and got the crab meat out of the balance of the crab which he set aside. Lauren was slicing carrots, celery, leeks and fennel which she added to the mussel/crab broth,
then the mussels and the crab were added.
Finally, the monkfish was added, it was put on a bed of pasta, and it made a wonderful combination of vegetables, mussels, crab and monkfish. A lot of work, but an amazing combination.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

New Zealand Green-Lipped Mussels

As part of an involved pre-Thanksgiving dish, Andrew and Lauren brought a number of New Zealand green-lipped mussels from Koreatown.
I love mussels and these New Zealand mussels are my favorite. They are larger than any of the black varieties of mussels I've eaten. They are grown for aquaculture in New Zealand producing over 140,000 tons annually. The aquaculture mussels are known as Greenshell mussels. Andrew got an empty pot very hot, then dumped in the mussels followed by some white wine, producing quite a bit of steam. They did not stay very long before he poured out the broth into a frying pan
and put the mussels in a separate bowl. Many of the mussels did not steam long enough to open, so we struggled getting them open,
and ripped some of them in the process.
My prior post on monkfish and a later post on dungeness crab will tie together with the mussels to show how Andrew made one incredible dish.

Saturday, November 27, 2010


The night before Thanksgiving, Andrew and Lauren arrived from Koreatown with an unusual delicacy: monkfish.
I remember seeing this gruesome fish in Pike's Market in Seattle. It is known for having a taste and consistency similar to lobster.
It is a species of anglerfish with three long filaments coming out of the middle of the head.
The filaments are used as lures to attract other fish which the monkfish then swallows whole.
They have extremely large mouths and heads, compared to the rest of their body and their teeth are shark-like.
Andrew was using the monkfish as part of a very complicated dish that also involved crab and mussels. I'll bring out elements of that dish in another post, but in this one want to focus on the monkfish itself.
Andrew cleaned the fish and cut himself on the sharp teeth, drawing blood.
He cut the flesh away from the backbone,
thoroughly dried it, then sprinkled it with salt and curry to help draw water out of it.
Judy and I made some monkfish a month or so ago that ended up tasting quite mushy. I think we did not get enough water out of it. This monkfish was much better than that we'd cooked a while back.
I would not rate it in the same league as lobster, but can see that the texture and even the taste are somewhat similar. It can't be beat for looks.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Smoked Goose

A friend came up to me several days ago and asked if the Cannons were having dodo for Thanksgiving. I remarked, "no," but we are having smoked goose.
I think the response more than satisfied him. It appears we are getting a little bit of a reputation for eating unusual foods. Most people will probably not believe this, but Judy is actually a participant, even an instigator, in this unusualness. In fact it was she, not me, that suggested and ordered the smoked goose for Thanksgiving. It was a brilliant idea and one I fully supported.

She ordered it from a firm in Louisiana, but the bird actually came from North Carolina.
It was wonderfully packaged, shrink wrapped in plastic, and needed only to be warmed and served. While the turkey and Cornish game hens were nearing completion, I removed the shrink wrap
and wrapped the goose in foil and put it on our grill. It remained there about 40 minutes, then was removed
and carved.
It was wonderfully different. The meat was reddish and smoky smelling,
much like a cured ham or bacon.
Some pieces also resembled corned beef. It also had a very strong taste like smoked ham or bacon. I'd just had a roast goose less than a week prior and the smoked goose was completely different tasting.
We got a plate full of the smoky red meat which complemented the grilled Cornish game hen and turkey.
Andrew commented that it was the best Thanksgiving meal yet, and I think I agree with him. Smoked goose is not something I would want to eat regularly, but it suited this occasion perfectly. Andrew made a sandwich of it this morning, along with some avocado, and said it was wonderful. Although still relatively greasy, the smoking got rid of the vast majority of the grease.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Bactrian and Dromedary Camels

I recently had the treat of taking a day off to spend with my granddaughters at the Living Desert in Palm Desert. While there, I could not pass up the opportunity to ride a camel. There were two camels: one was a dromedary camel with one hump
and the other was a Bactrian camel with two humps (although the two humps were not visible as they were covered with a blanket). We got to ride the Bactrian camel.
The Bactrian camel is native to the steppes of central Asia. There are about 1.4 million Bactrian camels alive today and all but about 800 are domesticated. The 800 wild Bactrian camels are found in the Gobi Desert of Mongolia and the Taklimakan Desert of Xinjiang, China. These wild camels are critically endangered. Bactrian camels grow a thick coat of hair each winter to deal with the extreme temperature variations they encounter: summer highs of over 100 degrees and winters that can have significant snow. The thick coat of hair falls off each summer. By contrast, the Dromedary camel has a uniform length of hair year round. Bactrian camels are more mild-mannered than the dromedary camels. Dromedaries are known for being bad tempered and will spit and kick. The Bactrian camel is larger than the dromedary. The carcass of a male Bactrian can weigh up to 1,400 pounds, while that of a dromedary about 900 pounds. The Bactrian is stockier and hardier, able to survive from Iran to Tibet, but the dromedary is taller, faster and more durable. A loaded Bactrian can move at about 2.5 miles per hour while a loaded dromedary can maintain 8 to 9 miles per hour for hours at a time. 

The dromedary camel is probably native to the Arabian Peninsula and is found widely in North Africa and the Middle East. There are no wild dromedary camels, but there are significant numbers of feral dromedary camels (over 1,000,000) in Australia, domesticated camels that have gone wild. My grandfather, Edwin Q. Cannon, visited Egypt in 1910
and we have several pictures of him riding a dromedary camel there.
When we were in Beijing, China several years ago, we had a dish of sweet and sour camel.
I am assuming it was Bactrian camel meat as the Bactrian camel is native to China. In countries where camels are common, camel meat is widely eaten. Because of the way it was prepared, I would not have noticed any difference between the camel meat and pork. Someday I would love to try it again, with less sauce, getting the unvarnished version. Our niece, Lisa DeLong, often travels to the Middle East with her work for the Prince's College. She sent us some camel milk chocolate
which I assume would have been made from dromedary milk (based on the picture and the location). There again, it was just good chocolate - I would never have known a camel was involved in the process.
We visited Africa in May 2014 and while we were driving in northern Kenya, not too far from Buffalo Springs National Reserve, we saw a large group of bactrian camels being herded off the side of the road. We were able to get a few pictures before the angry herders tried to approach us to demand money for taking the photos.