New Year’s Eve was a quiet night for us, although we did stay up till midnight this year. Every New Years, I think back to the first time Lisa and I shared that holiday. It was going to be our first Christmas together and since my restaurant was closed for the winter and she was off for the holidays we decided it would be the perfect time for a trip together. I had spent the past few years in Florida with friends for the Holidays and since we both enjoyed Disney World, we thought it would be a great place to spend New Years Eve.
What we found were escalated room rates and the highest flight rates we had ever seen….sigh, I mean we were flying from Pomona to Orlando on Spirit, a small airline…..they wanted $400 for a flight I usually paid $160 for. As I sat with my travel agent, I’m sure he could sense my disappointment and frustration, because he turned to me and asked if we had to go to Florida? I told him no, it was just a thought, and asked where else we could fly for $400? He told me he would check around and give me a call. About an hour later he called and asked if I would like to go to Paris? Now is that really a question that you have to think about, I mean it was Paris! I tried my best to remain calm, and called Lisa at school to ask her if she would like to go to Paris….lol, you can imagine her response.
It was an incredible trip, although very tiring, we arrived in Paris the day after Christmas and spent the week exploring and eating our way through my favorite city, the city of lights….sigh, how I do love Paris! So we spent our first New Years Eve together in Paris, the most romantic city on earth, now I would like to tell you that we celebrated the new year in shadow of the Eiffel Tower, but the truth was that jet lag still had us in its grip and we were in bed by 10! Now the fireworks did wake us up at Midnight as we heard the celebration in the streets, the sounds of the new year echoing though our room. It may not have been picture perfect, but we were in Paris and that’s where we shared our first New Years Eve Kiss, and that my friends is something I will always remember.
So when I say we stayed at home and just spent a quiet evening, it doesn’t mean we didn’t have a good dinner. We did go out for Christmas Eve, and enjoyed an incredible meal at Sapori in Collingswood, but instead of going out again on New Years Eve I decided to make something at home. When I want to make something special for dinner, my mind normally goes into restaurant mode, to dishes I served time and time again. There really isn’t any secret formula to the dishes, it’s just a matter of getting the ingredients you need in the quantities you need them in. Making delicious restaurant style meals at home is really easier than you think, and dishes like a seafood combination are not only perfect for that intimate dinner for two, but also for a party of eight, It’s all in the timing!
Ingredients can vary depending upon whats available and what you like, but a standard seafood combo, usually has, Flounder, scallops, shrimp, and some form of crabmeat, other than that what ever else you like can be an added bonus. In my restaurant days, we stuffed the shrimp with crab imperial, or sometimes the dinner would include a small lobster tail and that would be stuffed with crab imperial. Of course the lobster version commanded a higher price! In my restaurant days Clams Casino were king and I made one of the best clams casino you’ll ever have, and there were always a few on any seafood combo I served, so for my New Years Eve dinner I decided to whip up a small batch for Lisa and I to enjoy! They were better than I remembered and besides the two on our plate we finished the rest of the dozen I had made.
I don’t know when clams casino lost their popularity, and it’s a rare occasion to find them on a menu. For those of you that have never had them, you really need to make them. The next time you friends or family over make two dozen and watch them disappear, I promise you they will be the hit of the evening! If your pressed for time, you can make the clams up ahead of time, they store well and can even be frozen. I’ll let you in on a little secret to opening clams easily too! If your stuffing clams, throw them in the freezer for about an hour, rinse them under cool water and just slip a knife in and they open like magic! Now this only works for stuffing clams, please don’t use this method for clams on the half shell! While were talking about clams, I want to mention that you need to be sure your source is reliable, small bags of clams will always have a tag on them, telling you when and where they came from, its the law! This is true for mussels too. If your buying clams or mussels by the dozen and they’re on display, you can ask to see the tag that came off the original container. Only buy shellfish from reliable sources you trust!
That’s another thing I love about Wegman’s, they tell you where all of the seafood came from. They should also tell you if the seafood is wild caught or farmed, be aware of what your buying! Wild caught is always the preferred seafood to purchase, and if your buying farmed seafood, make sure its from the US. Stay away from seafood farmed in Asia, and India. While they may have excellent fresh seafood, there farming techniques and sanitation don’t always come up to our standards, so it’s better not to take the chance. If your supplier doesn’t know where it came from don’t buy it! The US has become a great source for farmed raised seafood, with Branzino, Orata , little neck clams, and mussels as well as many other varieties that can now be found all year long.
My seafood combo was very basic with 3 shrimp , 4 scallops, a small piece of flounder with some jumbo lump crabmeat, a half a dozen mussels, and of course my clams casino. I placed all my seafood (except the crabmeat and clams casino) in a baking dish with a little water in the dish, and spooned a little melted butter over the seafood and a sprinkle of old bay, place in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes. I kept the casino in a separate dish because they needed a few minutes under the broiler, after there time in the oven. The crab meat I gently sauteed in a little melted butter and topped the flounder with the crab meat when I was ready to serve dinner. Make your favorites sides, a small salad, and you’ve just saved yourself about 65% of what the meal would have cost you if you had gone out to dinner.
- 24 Top neck clams-cleaned
- 2 sticks of Butter
- 8-10 slices of Bacon-thinly sliced
- 1 Large Red Bell Pepper- small dice
- 1 Large Spanish or Va dahlia Onion-small dice
- ½ cup grated Romano Cheese
- 1 Teaspoon Oregano
- ½ Teaspoon Black Pepper
- 1 Tablespoons fresh Italian Parsley finely chopped (optional)
- Chop the onion, and bell pepper into a small dice
- Slice the bacon slices about ⅛ of an inch thick.
- place the butter, bacon, peppers, and onions into a medium sauce pan and cook on low heat for about 15-20 minutes.
- Remove the pan from the heat and add the grated Romano, black pepper, Oregano (and always use dry, fresh oregano does not work as well) and the chopped parsley. Mix well.
- Place into the refrigerator and stir it occasionally so all the ingredients stay well blended, until the butter has firmed back up. This will take at least 2 hours, so give yourself time.*
- Take the clams out of the freezer, and rinse them in a bowl with running water for about 5 minutes.
- Open your clams with the blade of a knife, just be careful!
- Take a spoonful of the prepared Casino mix and make a nice mound of it on top of the clam, pressing it into the clam firmly with your hand. Repeat this process until all of the clams are stuffed.
- Now place your clams in a casserole, there will be butter run off, so we don’t want that spilling into your oven.
- Place the clams into a 375 degree oven for about 15 minutes, then finish for about 5 minutes under your broiler or until the bacon and tops begin to get nicely browned.
Making delicious meals like this seafood combination not only save you money but allow you to make exactly what you like, you don’t have to ask your server if the chef would substitute something for you, and of course there won’t be any extra charge for giving you what you want!! Imagine that!
Thanks for stopping by, I hope everyone’s holidays were happy and restful, and that 2012 proves to be a good year for all of us!
Happy New Year my friends!