First of all, let's get one thing straight. If you're from New Jersey or the Philadelphia area, you're going "down the shore," NOT "to the beach." And shore towns in Jersey can vary in character from places that are noted for flashy boardwalk rides (Seaside Heights before Superstorm Sandy) --
|photo from Jerseyboardwalk.com|
to quiet shore towns with manicured lawns and multi-million dollar McMansions (Spring Lake) --
Photo by Ron DeCicco
to shore towns whose streets are lined with old-fashioned "gingerbread" Victorian homes (Cape May).
|photo from www.thenewestvegetable.com|
But no matter where you go along the Jersey shore, you'll find great local seafood (OK, so the shrimp aren't caught here) - perfect for a summer clambake. We were lucky enough to be invited to one such event at the lovely seaside home of friends - Mary Ellen and Jim - in Pt. Pleasant.
The lobster-themed table setting was a hint at the feast to come.
Take a closer look at the beautiful, embroidered napkins.
We arrived in time to see the whole process, which starts with an assortment of seafood and small potatoes. The recipe, from Ina Garten, also calls for kielbasa. Mary Ellen left it out and I was glad she did, because I'm not fond of the smoky taste of the sausage either. Throw in corn in you like, but you really don't need it.
Don't forget the lobsters -- quick, before they get away.
The recipe starts out with a sauté of leeks and onions in good olive oil. Make sure you've got a huge pot to contain all the layers. First the potatoes, then the clams.
Pile on the mussels and shrimp next.
Finish with the lobsters, pour in some dry white wine and place a lid on top (maybe with a weight as well, to keep those frisky crustaceons from clawing their way out).
After everything is cooked, remove the lobsters and separate the tail and claws from the main body. Jim snapped off the claws and snipped their tips with kitchen shears to allow water and steam to escape,
You could tell he'd done this many times before, expertly slicing the tails in half before placing them on the platters with the rest of the seafood and potatoes.
There were four of us at the table, but more than enough food for at least two more. This is only one of the platters. No complaints here, as we dug in with gusto.
This mesmerizing view of the bay (their "back yard") only added to the enjoyment of the meal. I think I could happily eat hot dogs and beans with a view like this, but I sure was glad to be eating the clambake instead.
Thanks Mary Ellen and Jim, for a fun night of terrific food and friendship.
See you "down the shore."
Recipe from Ina Garten
printable recipe here
1 1/2 pounds kielbasa
3 cups chopped yellow onions (2 large onions)
2 cups chopped leeks, well cleaned (2 leeks, white parts only)
1/4 cup good olive oil
1 1/2 pounds small potatoes (red or white)
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
2 dozen littleneck clams, scrubbed
2 dozen steamer clams, scrubbed
2 pounds mussels, cleaned and debearded
1 1/2 pounds large shrimp, in the shell
3 (1 1/2 pound) lobsters
2 cups good dry white wine
Slice the kielbasa diagonally into 1-inch thick slices. Set aside. Saute the onions and leeks in the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed 16 to 20 quart stockpot over medium heat for 15 minutes, until the onions start to brown.
Layer the ingredients on top of the onions in the stockpot in this order: first the potatoes, salt, and pepper; then the kielbasa, little neck clams, steamer clams, mussels, shrimp, and lobsters. Pour in the white wine. Cover the pot tightly and cook over medium-high heat until steam just begins to escape from the lid, about 15 minutes. Lower the heat to medium and cook another 15 minutes. The clambake should be done. Test to be sure the potatoes are tender, the lobsters are cooked, and the clams and mussels are open. Remove the lobsters to a wooden board, cut them up, and crack the claws. With large slotted spoons, remove the seafood, potatoes, and sausages to a large bowl and top with the lobsters. Season the broth in the pot to taste, and ladle over the seafood, being very careful to avoid any sand in the bottom.