Tag Archives: clams

Key West!

Left Ottawa before sun up. -18 in mid-March. Brutal. Said goodbye to some very suspicious furbabies and we are off for a nice sunny respite after a whirlwind week of buying a house, selling a house and all that entails. Clear skies mean flights are on time. Too on time. We get into Charlotte, NC a half hour early, adding to our long layover, but not enough time though to find decent grub. We choose the airport burger joint from a myriad of bad fast food options figuring it is our best bet. Not so it turns out. Bad Daddy’s Burger Bar uses salt like it is a cure for cancer and anything else that might ail you. I don’t like to drink too many fluids before getting on an aircraft as to avoid needing to squeeze into the closet sized restroom but a Bad Daddy’s  meal necessitated a giant sized Diet Coke.  My tongue is still burning and probably swollen from the salt.

Arrived in Key West on schedule. 26 degrees, humid, sunny. Love.  Key West airport being the perfect airport, has no jet ways. You disembark and enter The Conch Rebublic Terminal. Fancy shmancy word for room. No visible security, a small luggage carrousel to the right and left of the door, First Call Bar serving up frosty cocktails while you wait, with car rental steps away. We had our car keys before our luggage, ten minutes.

We are staying at the Orchid Key Inn on Duval. This may turn out to be a mistake as we didn’t factor in American March Break, but being a tad pricey it seems to have scared the young’uns away leaving the pool to old farts like us. So far so good. The Inn, quaint in a mid 20th century way,  has all suites on ground level clustered around a courtyard pool. The layout and vibe remind me very much of the San Jose in Austin, Texas. Rooms are elegantly appointed and have everything the road techie needs. The Orchid Key bar, pool side, mixes up it’s own specialty cocktails and we think we will start there after a long day getting here. Gin and Juice to start off our vaycay! It’s the Inn’s signature cocktail — Cucumber-infused Hendrick’s gin, fresh grapefruit juice and cucumber slices.

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After cocktails we head out to snap some pics and wander Duval street in search of grub. Roosters crow at us and local colour pops. Tourists and students tour the street and shops. We spy DJ’s Clam Shack, recently featured on Food Network’s “triple D”.  An early dinner allows us to get street side seating where we can nosh and people watch.

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Orders come up fast. Icy cold Landsharks to start followed by a very excellent and classic New England, over-stuffed lobster roll — sweet meat, lightly dressed in a perfect toasty, buttery roll.

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Next up, little neck clams in garlic and jalapeno broth with garlic toasts, — sweet, garlicky clams with a nice background heat coming off the peppers.

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And finally an order of very tasty, perfectly fried conch fritters, sweet, doughy, loaded with conch and served with a mild sweet mustard sauce. The fritters came with well-made but superfluous shoestring fries.

Blog Key West 009Back to the Inn for an early night. This day began at 4:30 am.

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Dinner Party #1: Paella

A while back Rob and I were discussing ideas for our blog and decided that a series about dinner parties might be fun. We were not sure what this would look like, but it would be very social and interactive.

I haven’t made Paella in years, and then only three or four times. I don’t have a special recipe but I do have a paella pan that I must have thought was an essential purchase at some point. It’s quite large and takes up a lot of storage space in the pots and pans cupboard. I spied it while rummaging around in the cupboard the other day, and, combined with the awesome sunshine filled days of this Ottawa summer, decided to make Paella.


Our paella pan – empty and lonely.

Paella is not a dish for two and needs to be shared with friends. What a great way to get our new “Dinner Party” series off and running! In another impetuous moment we threw an invitation up on Facebook, casting a wide net out to family and friends. “We are blogging Paella. We need four guinea pigs to come to dinner. Who is in?” Within ten minutes we had our guest list complete. We usually try to choose dinner guests who either know each other or that we think will be a good match and enjoy each others company, but this time we threw caution to the wind and hoped it would not be an awkward evening. The experiment was a successful one, at least for this event and we will definitely do it again. From now on, we’ll send out random invites via our Facebook fan page. If you aren’t already a fan, go there NOW and click “LIKE”. We promise some good food, good company maybe even a surprise or two.

As usual, my wonderful guests always wish to contribute in some way. So when asked, “What can I bring?”,  I decided to keep within the Spanish theme and requested tapas from the guests who enjoy cooking. We would be spending a couple of hours on the deck in the sun enjoying sangria and Spanish beer, while Rob and I tended to the paella. My guests were really up to the challenge and arrived bearing Serrano wrapped fresh figs, mini pork ribs, and grilled haloumi cheese. All I had to do was add a plate of mixed olives and voila! One guest even brought a small potted red rose for the outdoor table for all to enjoy. Their contributions made for a really enjoyable early evening as we waited on dinner. It was a very sociable “get-to-know-you” time.

We plan on hosting and blogging more of these dinner parties. If you would like to be included in the invitation (it will be on a first come basis), “like” us on Happy Mouth on Facebook. Future invites and details will be posted there.

(adapted from Ethnic Spicy Food And More)

Serves 6-8

6 tbsps. olive oil
1 pound large shrimp (I used wild) shelled and deveined, leave tails on
1 pound mussels
2 dozen littleneck clams
1 pound Spanish (dry) Chorizo
1 chicken thigh per person
1/2 pound calamari tubes, sliced into rings (I used frozen as I could not get fresh and they were fine)
4 cups shrimp stock*
2 cups pinot grigio (or any cheap white wine)
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 398 ml can of cherry tomatoes, drained and crushed with fingers
1 medium sweet onion, diced
1/2 tsp. saffron threads, crushed
3 cups Valenciano or paella rice
1/4 cup fresh parsley, rough chop
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, rough chop
3/4 cup frozen peas
1 bay leaf
1 cup roasted red peppers, cut into strips
1 tsp. salt, divided
juice of 1 lemon

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a large saucepan, heat 1 tbsps. of olive oil and cook the onions and garlic until translucent. Add the tomatoes, parsley and remaining 1/2 tsp of salt to the pot. Cook the mixture, covered, stirring occasionally for about 8 minutes. Add the shrimp stock, white wine, saffron, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil and then let simmer on low.

3. Place chicken, shrimp and squid in a large bowl. Squeeze the lemon juice over the the meat and sprinkle a 1/2 tsp. of salt. Toss and set aside.

4. Heat the paella pan over a medium heat. Add 3 tbsp. of olive oil and saute the chicken and sausage, about 3-4 minutes. Remove from pan, empty any liquid and saute shrimp and squid for about 1 minute. Remove from pan.

5. Heat the remaining 2 tbsp. of oil in the paella pan over medium heat. Add the rice, stir to coat and continue to stir until rice becomes translucent. Increase heat to high and add simmered stock to rice. Bring to a boil.

6. Reduce heat to medium and cook until most of the liquid has been absorbed. Bury the chicken, sausage, shrimp and squid in the rice mixture. Lastly, bury the clams and mussels into the rice.

7. Sprinkle the peas and cilantro over the top of the rice and arrange the red pepper strips on top of the dish.

8. Bake uncovered in preheated oven for 20 minutes. Turn oven off, tent paella with aluminum foil, and let sit in oven for 10 minutes.

* Shrimp Stock: When ever I cook shrimp, generally I buy them in their shells. When I de-shell them I toss the shells in a baggie and throw it in the freezer.

For this stock I use the shells from about two pounds of shrimp. In a medium pot, melt a good sized knob of butter. Cut a large onion in chunks, skin and all and throw it in the pot. Roughly chop up two carrots and a two celery sticks. Throw them in. Add a bayleaf and a few sprigs of fresh thyme. I also threw in a handful of parsley stalks because I had them on hand (you can use up any old veggies in you fridge for stalk except for starchy ones like potatoes). Add the shrimp shells and cook, stirring until shells turn pink, about 5 minutes. Add two tbsp. of tomato paste and stir to coat veggies and shells. Add 5 cups of water and bring to a boil. Turn heat down and simmer for 30 minutes. Strain. You now have shrimp stock.  Stock freezes well. You could substitute Fish stock or clam juice for this recipe, but it won’t be as rich or flavourful. Shrimp stock is also awesome in seafood risotto and shrimp bisques.