Insetto di Mare

Frutti di Mare (fruit of the sea) really should be Insetto di Mare, after all the best fruit in the sea are the critters with many legs, shells or tentacles.  In my mind, bugs.

On Christmas Eve, these bugs are at the bottom of the food chain at many a household, especially ours.  We had shrimp cocktail, baked clams, and squid ink pasta with shrimp, clams, lobster and squid.  The squid is better known as calamari or gahlahmod depending on how well you identify with “Jersey Shore”, but don’t get me started on that nonsense.  Nik is a big fan of reality TV, so unfortunately Andy gets to see a lot of it.  I just don’t get it.

This post comes to you on the road and TJCC is on location celebrating Christmas Eve away from Mr. and Mrs. Jew’s residence. I’m all for the irony of the Jew hosting Christmas, but it would have been a bit much for my new relatives. The upshot is we didn’t need to do any cleanup (before or after).  The downside?  We had to traffic live lobsters across state lines.

Almost done, just waiting on the lobster to turn red.

We chose not to pack up the studio equipment, so the imagery  is all quick snapshots instead of my feeble attempts at art…in this case, the photography didn’t matter, it was all about family and food.

Warning:  You are now entering a pork-free zone.

Before I dive into the recipe, lets talk a little about killing the lobsters.  The most common approach is dunking ’em in boiling water.  This approach leads to a high pitched screeching sound the lobsters make, and doesn’t feel very humane.  I’m reminded of Aliens in more than one way with these mud puppies: “In sauce no one can hear you scream”.  Muddafuka!   Since I really wanted chunks of lobster in the sauce how would this work?  Do I do a pre-dip in the boiling pasta water to put the lobster down and then cut it up for the sauce?  Seems like a lot of work and mess.  Next option.

In cooking classes and shows they tell you that to instantly kill them you just stab the poor bastards in the head and push your knife forward to bisect the brain.  Talk about a lobsterotomy!  This was the approach I took, and let me tell you it may be more humane but it certainly doesn’t feel that way.  I ain’t no marine biologist but lobsters must have a hell of an autonomous nervous system.  They don’t stop moving after cutting them in half and I’m not talking about minor twitchies!   Try ripping the tail and claws off while they are still wriggling in your hand.  Not fun.  It would really suck if the claw got you after it was dead!

As an aside, putting the lobsters in a pot of cold water and then bringing them to a boil was a non-starter for me.  Seems more humane for the cook then the food.

You talkin’ to me?

Gettin’ medieval on yo’ ass.

You may have noticed the finger “rubber” in the pic above.  I fought the knife and the…knife won.  I fought the knife and the…knife won.  Yes, I like The Clash.

I was watching Top Chef (the reality program I do like) and Carla cut off part of her fingernail (and finger).  Jeez I thought,  I haven’t cut myself in a really long time, like 10 years or more.  Yup, same exact cut.  Thinking is a terrible thing, I shouldn’t do so much of it.

All righty, lets get to the recipe before PETA discovers us.

Ingredients

(serves 6, to serve more jack up the pasta and tomatoes a bit)
  • 2 large cans of tomatoes, use good ones brother
  • handful of basil, sliced thinly (just before adding to sauce)
  • 5 or 6 garlic cloves, diced fine
  • 3 tablespooons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 cup dry white wine, you could probably use red instead but I never tried it
  • 3 shallots (or 1 small onion), diced finely
  • 2 small anchovies
  • a few shakes of crushed red pepper (shake it senora, I like it spicy)
  • a shake or two of dried oregano (optional, but I like it)
  • 1 lb small squid, body cut into rings, tentacles cleaned up
  • 1 lb shrimp, cleaned
  • 1 dozen littleneck clams
  • 2 small lobsters
  • 2 tablespoons cornmeal (optional to clean the clams)
  • 1.5 – 2 pounds of pasta

Directions

  • A few hours before eating, preferably the night before put the clams in a large bowl of water and cornmeal. The lore is that they eat the cornmeal and spit out the sand.  I doubt it, but it can’t hurt.  Refrigerate.
  • In a large pot, heat up the oil and simmer the shallots until translucent
  • Add the anchovies and mash into the oil.  They should almost dissolve.
  • Add the tomato paste, and cook until it starts to turn brown.
  • Add another splash of oil and throw in the garlic and red pepper.  Don’t overcook (burn) the garlic, just when it gets fragrant you are ready for the next step
  • Drink a glass of the white wine, and add a cup or two to the pot.
  • Blend up the tomatoes, leaving them a smidge chunky and add.
  • Bring the whole rigamarole to a boil, and lower to a simmer.  Taste occasionally and add any spices that float your boat (I like oregano).
  • Add the squid, if you leave it low and let it cook for several hours it should go from tender to tough to tender again.  If you aren’t going to cook it low and slow, add the squid later.
  • Meanwhile rinse off your clams, and scrub the outsides.  You don’t want any external junk in your sauce now do you?
  • When ready to eat, get the pasta water boiling, adding a bunch of salt.  Be generous, you want the pasta water to taste like the sea.
  • When the water is boiling, add your pasta
  • Working quickly (you want the sauce to be ready right around when the pasta is), bring the sauce up to a boil and add the clams
  • Kill the lobsters and dissect in a manner you like to eat ’em.  I like the tails split in quarters, and the claws broken in half.  Toss ’em in.
  • When the clams have opened, and the lobster looks red, lower your sauce to a simmer and toss in the shrimp and shredded basil.  They only need a minute or two to cook.
  • Drain the pasta, and serve with a lot of bread for dunking and a lot of red wine (for drunking).

Merry Christmas all!