Cooking clam chowder, mussels and oysters while on the Oregon coast
We really enjoy clam chowder but don't eat it very often. This all changed when we decided to stay on the Oregon coast just north of Bay City, Oregon. Every restruant in the area seemed to offer a great clam chowder. I think we actually went 4 days in a row eating it. They really know how to make it there. It makes sense since they have a good stream of great locally sourced seafood. Because of this, we decided to make several dishes from local seafood while we visited. We started with clam chowder of course. Next mussels and then grilled oysters.
A simple clam chowder has a few basic ingredients. Of course the star are the clams. I bought about 4 lbs of live clams. You should always get more than you need. During prep you will find a few bad (not alive) clams that will have to be discarded. In addition to the clams, I used red potatoes, celery, bacon, onion, seasonings (thyme, salt and pepper), a little flour and some heavy cream.
The most difficult part of preparing this dish is the clams. They needed to be cleaned, cooked and shucked. I cleaned every one by brushing them under cold water to remove any bits of sand or dirt. Any clams that were open or had broken shells were discarded. Once this was done I steamed them in a large pot. I tried to cook them just enough to the point where the shells just opened up but ended up cooking too many at once and over cooking half the batch. But it's fine, it was my first attempt. Once cooked, each clam had to be removed from the shell and chopped. I also saved some of the clam juice for adding some more flavor to the soup. Save that juice!
The rest is fairly easy. Cook bacon and then onions in a large pot. Then add a bit of flour, some clam juice and water, potatoes, celery and seasonings. Cook until the potatoes are soft and then add the clams. Finally add some cream to thicken and cook a bit more. Serve with fresh parsley and oyster crackers.
Mussels in Red Sauce
We love mussels. So we were pretty excited about purchasing fresh mussels and making them at home. Again, preparing the mussels takes a good amount of time. The process is very similiar to clams but with an additional step. Mussels have a "beard" which is what they call the twine like mossy attachment on the side of the mussell. You have to pull it off of every single mussel. Grab it and tug it towards the hinge and it pulls right out.
I improvised this recipe and basically made a red sauce and cooked the mussels in it. I started with onions in olive oil until soft, then added garlic. Cook the garlic until fragrant and add tomatoes and seasonings. Once the tomatoes get soft I brought it up to a boil and then added the mussels. Cover and stir frequently. The mussels should open up a bit when they are ready. To serve, ladle them into a bowl with some crusty bread. The bread is a must so you can sop up all that flavor from the broth.
Oysters were sold everywhere we visited on the coast, including the small convience store by the campground. We haven't tried oysters often, but definitely couldn't leave this area without eating some. So we bought a dozen, scrubbed them (so much scrubbing), started a fire and cooked them on the grill. For a topping, I made compound butter with parley and shallots. Once they were on the grill it took minutes for them to cook. However, some did not open and we ended up discarding about half. But the ones that made it were delicious. So delicate and the briny "liqueur" was so tasty.
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