At the beginning of February, Locals Seafood kicked-off with their 1st annual Winter Seafood Jubilee, a series of North Carolina winter seafood-centric events and promotions taking place in NC’s Triangle region throughout February.
The Winter Seafood Jubilee kicked off with the “3 on 3 at the Winter Seafood Jubilee,” taking place during the first three weeks of February. Locals Seafood recruited three “social media foodie gurus” to participate, a challenge where each guru is responsible for one week in February and given three different species of winter seafood to cook and showcase to you. Kristen Baughman (@knbaughman) showcased her creations the first week, Kim Alexander (@trianglelocalista) the second week and now the torch has been passed on to me. It will be my job to highlight another three ways to incorporated local seasonal NC fish/seafood into your everyday cooking routine. Let the fun begin!!
I picked up my three species of fish this past Saturday at the Western Wake Farmers Market and was absolutely ecstatic when I saw the littleneck clams from Bogue Sound, near Swansboro, NC and harvested by Susan and Bobby Cummings. There is a story behind this recipe and one that I will forever hold near and dear to my heart.
I am blessed to have three amazing stepchildren. While all but one has left the nest, the one at home has an excellent palate and an interest in cooking. Adrien and I have toured the downtown Durham lunch scene on many occasions but one lunch stood out. It was the clam pizza from Pizzeria Toro. To boot, he and I recently talked about making clam chowder and ding ding ding…an idea was born! Why not make a New England Clam Chowder Pizza…Yes Please!!!
First off Adrien is a master of pressing dough and making a mean pie. He’s worked at Dominoes for 5 years and we’ve enjoyed many of his creative creations over the years. This we decided was going to FUN!!
I scanned the Internet for ideas but really found nothing helpful. Every recipe I found called for using condensed clam chowder soup as the base and that was not what we wanted. We were looking to make our own. After much discussion, we decided on a homemade clam chowder soup base as the sauce topped with sliced potatoes, caramelized onions (Adrien’s idea and brilliant), cheese and pancetta. We’d add the whole clams towards the last ten minutes of cooking so they popped open just as the pizza finished cooking.
The recipe following was truly an experiment and not perfect but boy did we have fun. A word to Adrien. Thanks for being a great person. I am so glad we had this moment and look forward to more. Love you!
Here is a short video of Adrien pressing out the dough. The end is hilarious!
New England Clam Chowder Pizza
4 medium onions, halved and sliced thinly
2 Tablespoons oil (I used grape seed oil)
1 stalk celery, finely diced
3 garlic cloves, peeled and flattened using the edge of your knife
3 sprigs thyme
1-cup heavy cream
1-cup clam juice
Small container of ricotta cheese
2 small packages pancetta (or substitute bacon)
3 green onions, both white and green parts
I bag pre-made pizza dough (I get ours at Harris Teeter in the deli section)
25 littleneck clams
Preheat oven to 425 degrees with rack set in the middle of the oven
Sauté celery in a small saucepan until soft, about 10 minutes.
Combine the smashed garlic thyme and bay leaves and tie together in cheesecloth
Add stuffed cheesecloth to sauce pan with the 1-cup of heavy cream and ½ cup of the clam juice.
Bring liquids to soft rolling boil, cover and take off the burner
Let the celery cream and herb mixture steep for half an hour.
Once steeped and cooled, remove cheesecloth and discard.
Add remaining mixture to a food processor or blender and puree until smooth
Add ricotta by the tablespoon and blend in to the mixture until desired consistency is achieved. (To me this mean dipping a spoon in the mixture and when I take it out the sauce is sticking to the spoon and not dripping off)
For the Pizza
Peel 2 medium size potatoes (Russet or Yukon Gold)
Cut in half and par-boil approximately 12-15 minutes (you want them just cooked through and not too soft)
Drain potatoes and place in freezer, 20 minutes (This will harden them up and make it easier to slice with a knife or mandolin)
When potatoes have finished cooling, slice a 1/8 inch think
When the onions start to sizzle turn heat to medium and let caramelize, stirring occasionally, approximately 20 minutes. (You want them a nice deep brown color)
While onions are caramelizing, cook pancetta in a sauté pan over medium until cooked through lightly. The pancetta will continue to cook on the pizza so you don’t want to overcook it. (Note: I actually cooked my pancetta first and used the rendered fat to cook the celery in =))
Assembling the Pie
Press out the dough on a cutting board or counter top that has been sprinkled with a handful corn meal. This prevents the dough from sticking to the surface. We pressed out ours to fit a large cookie sheet (see pictures)
Top with desired amount of sauce. We used about a cup
Top with sliced potatoes
Add caramelized onions in dollops
Add desired amount of cheese
Note: At this point we went ahead and placed the pizza in the oven for 15 minutes.
After 15 minutes, or piecrust is just turning lightly brown on the bottom, pull out of the oven and sprinkle pancetta over top.
Take whole clams (washed and scrubbed) and place spine side down over the pizza.
Cook another 10 minutes or until clams have opened fully. (Discard any that do not open)
When done, take the pizza out of the oven and let rest 5 minutes.
Sprinkle with green onion
For a spicier version, sprinkle with crushed red pepper
Slice and chow down =)
This was a true experiment and we mostly guessed at a lot of things. I am confident this recipe is near exact but be prepared to wing some of the cook times depending on your oven.
Locals Seafood Winter Seafood Jubilee Events
Locals tapped several of their best restaurant customers around the Triangle to host events in conjunction with the Jubilee; Mandolin in Raleigh, Oakleaf in Pittsboro, and Carolina Crossroads at the Carolina Inn in Chapel Hill. According to Chef Brendan Cox at Oakleaf, “If we’re truly dedicated to seasonality, it cannot begin and end with produce but must include our fisheries. Everything including fish and shellfish tastes better in its time”. Each restaurant will host a dining event featuring a variety of winter seafood.
Thursday, February 20th, 6:30pm – Mandolin Restaurant in Raleigh hosts a four-course winter seafood feast featuring a different item in every course. Reservations required, please call Mandolin at (919) 322-0365.
Wednesday, February 26th, dinner service, 5:30 til – Oakleaf Restaurant in Pittsboro will offer a supplemental Winter Seafood Jubilee menu in addition to their regular menu that evening with a selection of small plates under $20 featuring winter seafood items. Reservations encouraged but not required, please call Oakleaf at (919) 533-6303.
Thursday, February 27th, 6pm – Carolina Crossroads at the Carolina Inn invites guests to attend a cooking class in the Piedmont Room highlighting Chef James Clark’s techniques preparing three types of winter seafood. The event features the beers of Durham-based Fullsteam Brewery, with founder Sean Lilly Wilson on hand to speak to the importance of seasonal, local sourcing. Reception at 6pm, instruction begins at 7pm. Reservations required, limited seating available. Please call Lina at Carolina Crossroads, (919) 918-2735.