Friday, 30 March 2012

A Delicious Labor of Love...

Tonight I made seafood chowder. It is seriously the best thing I have ever made, not only because of the flavor but because of the pride I feel having made it! It took for-freaking-ever (the harvesting, soaking, cleaning, etc. Not the actual recipe itself) but, oh my GOD, it was totally worth it! The recipe will be at the end of this here entry so if you want to skip my rambling tale, go ahead and skip to the bottom. Jerk.

The other day when Dylan and I went to Newport Sands, it happened to be low tide and we stumbled across thousands of mussels. We decided to go home that evening and do some online research to see if they were okay to harvest and eat. I spent hours googling shit like "can I eat blue mussels?", "tiny mussels okay to eat?", and "will I poop to death if I eat wild mussels?". Don't laugh...I am a city girl. Not only a city girl, but a city girl that has spent the past 10 years of her life in a land locked state. This coastal living is all new to me, so don't make fun! Anywho, all signs pointed to "picking and eating your own mussels is a-okay"!

Tide Pools and Mussels @ Newport Sands

Sea Creatures: We Has Them!
Yesterday, we decided to go ahead and head back to Newport Sands for some bivalve goodness. We stopped on our way and purchased a bucket because we were SERIOUS about our mission. When we got to the beach, the tide was on its way out so we explored the tide pools while we waited for the mussels to make their appearance. Once the waves receded a bit, we began our harvesting. After about an hour and a half we had filled our bucket halfway with a bunch of mussels, one tiny clam and a few handfuls of winkles.

Yes, winkles. Let's talk about those, shall we? They're tiny sea snails and they have pretty shells so I was quite excited that whilst googling the safety of eating mussels I stumbled across people talking about how much they loved eating winkles. Yay! I could eat them AND keep their pretty shells. I had escargot once many moons ago with my dad. I was about 12 years old and I remember liking them so I figured I would also like winkles. I read that they were clam-like in both taste and texture so I was feeling pretty optimistic about them.

When we got home, I poured the mussels onto a cookie sheet, covered them with a wet dish towel and then popped them on the bottom shelf of my fridge. For the winkles, I put them in a cloth bag which I wet, tied the top closed, put them in a bowl and then set them next to the mussels.

Soakin' the Mussels and Clam (Can you spot the clam?)
So let me say now that I totally understand why shellfish are so effing expensive. Their preparation is SO time consuming. We had about 4 pounds of mussels, winkles and clam (remember, I found the one? Hahaha...) and it took me about 4 hours to de-beard, de-barnacle and scrub every last one of them. Ugh. My back is killing me! I soaked the mussels and clam in our sink for half an hour before I started the cleaning so as to give them enough time to cleanse themselves of any sand. I also soaked the winkles in a bowl of cold water for 30 minutes. I then brought a small pot of heavily salted water to a boil and then plopped all the winkles in.

Winkle Winkle Little Star
It was...interesting. For some reason I thought they would scream. I don't know why I thought that, but I did. Luckily, they didn't scream but they did expel a weird white liquid. I imagine it was all of their hopes and dreams that would never come to fruition because they were dying...all so that I could have a bowl of chow-dah! Life's a bitch, winkles. Next time around, come back as a human. It's pretty awesome. Anyway, after boiling them for about 5 minutes, I drained them and then soaked them in cold water. At this point I asked Dylan to remove the meat from the shells. I'm not gonna lie...this part SERIOUSLY skeeved me out. There are little ''plastic'' disks attached to the winkles that enables them to close themselves into their shells. You have to peel them off. They reminded me of toenails and I think toenails are gross. Anyway, you want those bits off. Then you take a pin, hook the pin into the flesh and then you like...''unwind'' the meat from the shell. When they come out, they look like corkscrews. They reminded me of the cursed merpeople from The Little Mermaid. Y'know, the ones that are stuck to the floor of Ursula's cave? Yeah. They are so gross looking but we kept on truckin'. They smelled really nice, though! I put all the little bits of corkscrew meat into a small bowl and put them in the fridge to keep cool.

Next up, I put about 1 inch of water and 1/4 cup of white wine into a pot and brought that to a boil - after thoroughly de-bearding, de-barnacling and scrubbing the mussels (and clam) I popped them into the pot about 10 at a time. After 3 or 4 minutes I moved the open shelled mussels into a bowl and the un-opened mussels into the trash. I did this until all of the mussels were cooked.

And then I came up with the following recipe for seafood chowder. It is absolutely decadent. Both Dylan and I indulged in two bowls each. So unbelievably tasty and even more delicious knowing that we picked the mussels, winkles and clam ourselves!! I definitely think I'll do this again and again! The winkles tasted just like clams. You've gotta try this :)

Seafood Chowder Amazingness with Crusty Bread

4 pounds mussels - cooked and removed from shells and coarsely chopped (made about 1 1/2 cups of meat)
30-40 winkles - cooked and removed from shells and coarsely chopped
3 small filets of white fish (I used pollock) - boned, skinned and cut into bite sized pieces
200g cooked and peeled prawns
1 cup frozen mixed vegetables (I used broccoli, carrots, cauliflower and peas)
2 1/2 cups vegetable stock
2 1/2 cups milk
2 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 T dill
4 T cornstarch mixed with 1/4 cup water
salt and pepper to taste
parsley for garnish

1. Combine milk and stock in a large pot and bring to a simmer
2. Add vegetables until cooked through
3. Add fish
4. When the fish is just about cooked, add the mussels and winkles
5. After 3 or 4 minutes add the heavy cream, the garlic powder, the dill and the prawns
6. Bring to a very very gentle boil and then add the cornstarch mixture stirring gently but constantly until thick.
7. Salt and pepper to taste, bowl up and serve with some crusty bread and fresh parsley for garnish

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