Monday, October 27, 2008

Clam Bake 08

I’ll be honest with you, I’ve never been to a clam bake before in my life! I kind of filed the whole idea into the cabinet that has carnival food, sports venue food, and church fish fries. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll dive into a bowl of clams, but the aurora of the bake didn’t interest me much in the past. Luckily I was invited to cook a clam bake, and thus was introduced to what fun a clam bake can be, including the cooking part. These are a few of my insights

The ‘baker’ man and machine:
First you get a propane tank that’s about hip high. Then you hook it up to a unite capable of making a solid blue flame with a 4 inch circumference. Remember that Bunsen burner from high school chemistry, put it on a Barry Bond’s steroid cycle and this is the kind of flame I’m talking about. Over the flame is a sequence of pots that contain broth in the bottom, and in our case two large pots full of clams, and a lid that sits about 6 feet in the air. That’s the machine, Ed was the man. The clams need some care, they need to be cleaned, and bagged for easy extraction. The broth needs attention, and the lid has to be guarded at all time from removal. Ed took care of the clams with the upmost precision. I ate a dozen myself with not even a single grain of dirt. A real accomplishment since we were working with over 600 clams.

The sides/The buffet:
I was able to get a little creative with the sides that normally go with a clam bake. We had fingerling potatoes, creamed corn with panchetta, sweet potato ravioli, foie gras mousse.... see, not your normal ear of corn, baked potato in foil, and pat of butter. As for the buffet someone needs to do a psychological study of how people react to a food buffet. Everyone was hungry, you could sense it. All the food was out on the buffet, steaming hot. Yet no one was willing to be the first one to grab a plate and dive in. Sure there where a few close calls. Where someone sweeps in and takes a look before aborting their mission and returning to the comfort of their table. Groups work better I learned as a small group of 4-5 young ladies approached I made my move...uncovered all the chafers, stuck spoons in everything, and went on to identify each dish. That’s all it took, instantly everyone in a very organized and cautious manner made their way down the buffet line. What a beautiful thing.

A well stocked bar... enough said:
There was a slight chill in the air, the food was not yet consumed, and guests quietly arrived introducing themselfs in low, calm voices. Pour some Jagger down the ice luge on that nonsense! Get the grub, break a sweat, and the clam bake turns into an all out party. Grown men giving each other nuggies, relieving themselves in the bushes, and urging each other to drink more, reminiscent of the last frat party I attended. What a wonderful thing. The somewhat segregated guests came together as one solid mass of happiness as the liquor bottles emptied, and OSU had yet to lose the game. And to think I had the very wrong idea that a clam bake could have anything in common with a church fish fry. I couldn’t have been more wrong on that one.

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