Southwestern Hasselback Chicken

Playing with hasselback chicken...
Hasselback potatoes and sweet potatoes are a special treat for the eye and the palate. Stumbling across a recipe for hasselback cajun chicken was a new and intriguing idea. Sometimes one doesn’t have everything on hand for a new recipe and that means it is time to play with it and make your own version. No green bell pepper. No andouille sausage and no cajun seasoning nixed the original recipe. Yellow and zucchini squash, red onion, a poblano chile pepper and an assortment of chile powders seemed like good way to try hasselbacking a chicken breast, but with a southwestern flair.

Roughly 50+ miles east of El Paso off I-10 is Fort Hancock, TX. It is a community of about 1,750 people in a green farming band along the Rio Grande in contrast to the sand, creosote and mesquite desert on the eastern side of the interstate. It is home to a modest trading post that has been in the same family for more than 100 years and to Chipotle Texas, a chile company that produces some wonderful chile powers and blends that make it worth a stop for several different kinds. My newest flavor blend is a Zesty Tomatillo Blend that is a bit on the mild side but has a wonderful complex flavor. Experimenting with it us an ongoing adventure. Visiting the store is a treat or you can also check out their website, www.chipotletexas.com and shop online.  The company now takes credit cards. Not too long ago, they would take your check for mail orders but wouldn’t ship your order until the check cleared. It is great that they have grown enough to be able to accept credit cards. If you are a chile fiend, do yourself a favor and check it out.

Hasselback is a term for making narrow slices almost through a base vegetable or meat, rubbing it with oil and seasoning it or inserting something into the cuts and then roasting it. The easy way to make the cuts is to put a chopstick or pencil on either side of what you are slicing to prevent your blade from cutting all the way through. Putting things into the cuts with out breaking the vegetable can be delicate work.

Below is the southwestern version of hasselback chicken stuffed with slices of poblano chile, red onion and squash. The Tomatillo Zesty Blend coated the chicken and was sprinkled in the cuts. It was mild and very tasty, but not quite spicy enough for my taste. Next time a little hotter chile powder will be added to ramp it up a bit. The chicken breast was cooked about 20 minutes at 450º on a foil lined baking sheet.

A few chile powders and blends in the spice pantry.

 

Southwestern Hasselback Chicken stuffed with squash, red onion and poblano chile and season with a tomatillo/chile blend. Served with baked potato and a kale salad.

Indecision Sparks Creativity

Breakfast can be a challenging meal.  Traditional fare is good, but one can get in a rut. Waking with a craving complicates the whole thing – what to do? A BLT sounded good, but so did  simple toast and jammy eggs with bacon. Time to play with my food and get the best of both, with a twist, of course.

Open-face BLT and Jammy Eggs breakfast.

No recipe, just taking what was on hand and playing with it as described below.

Open Face BLT With Jammy Eggs
Ingredients
2 slices 21-grain toast
2 slices sharp cheddar cheese
a big handful of curly endive lettuce torn from the stem
a generous handful of sliced grape tomatoes
3 slices of ready-to-eat bacon, crisped in the microwave for 30 seconds
a generous schmear of mayo
scant Tbsp olive oil
two eggs
light splash of white vinegar
light sprinkle of kosher salt and black pepper

Method
Bring enough water in a small pan to a boil; gently lower two eggs into water and simmer for EXACTLY seven minutes. Remove eggs with a slotted spoon and place in an ice bath for two and a half minutes, remove from ice water and set aside.
Heat olive oil in a small skillet, add sliced tomatoes and sauté until soft and getting a little char. Add endive and let wilt, you might need to add a Tbsp of water (use twice as much as you think you need because is loses volume when cooked). Stir in a light splash of white vinegar and a very little pinch of salt.
Toast bread, schmear with mayo and top each with a cheese slice while toast is hot. Add cooked tomatoes and endive. Halve bacon slices and put three pieces on top of tomatoes and endive. Peel jammy eggs (start on the big end where the bubble is), place on sandwich and slice in half. Sprinkle eggs with a pinch of salt and pepper.

The Whyfors (Whyfor did I do that?)
Think about the flavors of the ingredients and what you can do with them. Multigrain toast, mayo and sharp cheddar is a great foundation for any sandwich, open-face or closed. Traditional bacon, lettuce and tomato are a wonderful filling. Cooking sliced grape tomatoes a little enhances the sugar in them and kicks them up a couple of notches. Curly endive is tantalizingly bitter. Cooking it reduces its bitter bite and a little white vinegar takes out a little more of the bitter while emphasizing the sweetness of the tomatoes. The eggs feature cooked whites and a thickened “jammy” yolk that gives the whole sandwich wonderfully rich mouthfeel and flavor.

Modesty forbids my raving (too much) about this creation. Odds are it will be breakfast again this morning and a regular on the morning menu until the next idea comes along.

After making the earlier post, I had to rush out the the kitchen an play with this idea more for this morning’s breakfast. I did a few things differently. I put the sliced grape tomatoes in a heated dry pan and let them yield some juice and take on a little char. Then I added a Tbsp of water and cooked it off to steam the tomatoes and cook them faster.  When they were tender, I added the endive. I added twice as much as I did yesterday and think it would be good to add even more.  I added 2 Tbsp water with the greens and cooked it off to steam-wilt them and get a little darker.  When the water was cooked off, I added it and stirred the tomatoes and endive until the vinegar had mostly evaporated.  Cooking the vegetables both ways tasted about the same because of the vinegar. The advantage of the dry pan and water is that there was no spatter mess as there was with olive oil.  I plated one open-face BLT and one with a jammy egg. The were equally good, but I do have a weakness for jammy eggs any number of ways.

  

As I enjoyed this breakfast, I thought about how it might be with English muffin, Swiss cheese, a poached egg and hollandaise sauce. Watch this space and see what happens.

 

Frittata for One

Broccoli and Feta Frittata with a stack of Dave’s Killer 21-grain Bread Toast and a Schmear of Butter.

Here we go again! I did some browsing and found a good-sounding frittata that called for 8 eggs.  That’s a lot for one guy at breakfast! Here’s a version using most of the ingredients called for and to make recipe for cooking without a recipe for a great breakfast for one.  With a side of fruit, it could easily become a breakfast for two. Do some elementary arithmetic and expand it for more if you want to impress folks.

Broccoli and Feta Frittata for One
Equipment
8-inch ovenproof sauté pan
Small bowl
Small whisk or fork
Kitchen knife
Ingredients
Two or three eggs
1 Tbsp chopped onion
1/2 – 3/4 cup small broccoli florets
2 Tbsp crumbled feta cheese
1 pat butter
Optional – a sprinkle or two of chile flakes to taste
Method
Heat broiler in oven with a rack about 4 inches below the flame.
Melt butter in sauté pan on stovetop. Add onion and cook on medium temp for 3-4 minutes until soft. Add broccoli and cook about 6 minutes. The broccoli will turn a beautiful bright green and be tender but still have a little “tooth” to it. You can speed this up by adding a table spoon of water to the pan at a time and letting it steam and evaporate to help soften the onion and broccoli.

While the onion and broccoli cook, beat the eggs until whites and yolks are well blended and stir in chile flakes and about 2/3 of the crumbled feta.

Pour egg mixture over the broccoli and onion and stir to distribute broccoli and feta in the eggs. Let cook a couple of minutes to set the bottom of the eggs. Sprinkle remaining feta over the top. Transfer the pan to the oven and cook for 5 minutes, check frequently to see that the eggs have set and the sprinkled feta is lightly browned.

Remove from oven, remembering the pan handle is very hot! Plate and enjoy.

Non-paid testimonialI am a great fan of Dave’s Killer Bread 21-grain loaf. Great flavor and usually the only bread in my house. Read the package for the story behind it and the good things it makes happens for Dave’s employees. If you like it, buy two loaves in a bag at the big warehouse stores and save considerably over the price of one loaf at the chain grocery stores.

Dave’s Killer Bread

Note
I’ve been looking at a lot of “cooking for one” cookbooks and the all see to being with a chapter on how to stock a pantry and what kitchen gear one needs. I began this post with a list of equipment because of that influence. Surely your kitchen looks as much like the the kitchen store at the mall as mine and you don’t need a list of equipment. But, just in case, it is here this time.

Scavenger Shakshouka

Shakshouka, a tomato based stew topped with eggs, has been trendy for awhile as breakfast,a brunch or a light supper. I’ve made and posted traditional shakshouka, green shakshouka and even a leftover corn bread version my daughter named Corn Shouka and enjoyed them all. I was surprised this month when one of my food magazines had multiple shakshouka recipes including one in an advertisement for a diet program’s new marketing plan. There were multiple spelling including the magazine’s Shakshuka version. All that got me shukaed up, so you might find different spellings scattered through here.  Yes, it is a terrible pun; just deal with it!
I decided to make shakshuka for breakfast, regardless of the spelling. The challenge was that most published recipes make a lot, come calling for a dozen eggs!  These days, I’m cooking for one. Reading some of the recipes, I got a feel for ingredients and decided to check out the fridge and pantry to see what I might scavenge for an impromptu shakshouka. You know how I enjoy playing with my food!

Shakshouka just out of the often. Drat!!! one egg yolk broke. Not bad, though, for scavenged ingredients!

Scavenger Shashouka

Ingredients found on hand:
Diced canned tomatoes left over from another project
Onion
Garlic
Bell pepper
One foil packet (two tablespoons) tomato paste What a great convenience discovery they are! Six packets in a box so you don’t have to throw away most of a can of tomato paste.
Jarred red chile salsa (Chimayo brand is amazing!)
Greens (I happend to have some red Swiss chard)
Eggs
Feta cheese
Olive oil
My stove top blend of 60% kosher salt and 40% ground black pepper

Method
NOTE: Measurements included in the methods are eye-balled estimates. Trust your experience and instincts and play with that food! Makes two servings.

Heat up the broiler in your oven.
Add a splash (1 or 2 Tbsp) olive oil to an 8-inch non-stick sauté pan and heat until it begins to shimmer. Use a second-press inexpensive olive oil for this, save your EVOO for salad dressing or for drizzling over the shakshouka at serving.
Add chopped onions and bell pepper, about a Tbsp or two of each, and cook until tinder.  Lower heat if needed to keep from burning the onion.
Add a minced garlic clove or two and let them soften, but not turn golden, stir in the packet of tomato paste, but don’t include the foil. When paste is soften and blended in, add a cup of so of drained diced tomatoes. My pan was filled to about half an inch short of the top. Stir in the salsa (as much for Chile heat as you think you can take) onion, bell pepper and garlic and let it all simmer until reduced and not soggy wet. Add chopped greens to the pan, stir into the mix as the greens wilt and be come tender.
Make two wells in the tomato mix and crack an egg into each. When eggs begin to set, transfer pan to the oven under the broiler. Check it frequently and remove the pan when the egg whites are just set. The yolks should be just set.
Remove pan from the oven and sprinkle crumbled feta cheese on the tomato mix an eggs. Let it set up a couple of minutes and the cheese soften a little, salt and pepper mix to taste, then plate and enjoy.

Half an 8-inch plan and a side of toast was just right for breakfast. The good news is I get to have the second half today!

Bulletin: Left overs were more flavorful than the first time around!  I may have to experiment making it a day ahead.

Adventures of a Salad Barfly

Have you ever scored a pickup at a salad bar?  It can happen.  Flattering lighting, arrays of exotic beauties calling for a closer look. Taking them all in with your eyes and finally choosing one to take home.  Once you score, you’ll find yourself hanging out at the salad bar more and more often… and maybe venturing to the hot foods bar, the olive bar, the ceviche bar and on and on.

With a focus on cooking for one or two, it is easy to get hooked on the salad bar scene.  No need to worry about planning for leftovers, pick up something fresh in a useable amount and enjoy.  It is a nice way to get variety in your side dishes and concentrate on a great main dish. It makes mealtime a pleasure instead of a chore and sure beats take out fast food or yet another sandwich supper.

For example…

A craving for cruciforms, but not for whole heads of cauliflower, romanesco or broccoli is satisfied by a few florets of each from the salad bar. Take them home, roast them on a sheet pan and your side dish delimma is solved.

Florets of cauliflower, romanesco (a green cauliflower) and broccoli pan roasted in the oven provided a healthy fiber-rich side dish without a ton of leftovers in the crisper.  Since the oven was hot, a small oven-roasted sirloin steak was a wonderful main dish treat. A bonus was the discovery of a watermelon, feta, mint and jalapeño salad that could not be passed up!  What more could a salad barfly ask?

And on another night at the salad bar…

Sometimes, it is hard to decide between two toothsome beauties, so take them both home and enjoy!  Rainbow carrots with a mix of kale and radicchio were terrific with a light vinaigrette.   And the house rule of three tiny roasted potatoes provided the starch for the meal.

Rainbow carrots atop kale and radicchio brighten up a steak and potatoes supper. By the way, steak is not an every night protein here.

 

 

Cooking for one? Play with the salad bar.

It is fun to reduce the servings in a given recipe and succeed.  We’ll be doing a lot of that in the new category “A New Season.” Still, there are those days when you just don’t want the bother of reducing, prepping and cooking. There are alternatives. A visit to Whole Foods turned up a chilled bar featuring different takes on ceviche, a cold salad in which seafood is “cooked” in acid such as a vinegar or citrus juice.  A ceviche of shrimp and scallops called my name and resulted in the creation of a cold salad supper just right for a triple digit temperature day.  A small container of the ceviche – enough for topping two tostadas,  a few large cooked shrimp for garnish, a mango for color and sweet balance to the ceviche,  and an avocado for a third tostada featuring guacamole tostada completed shopping for dinner. Since the ceviche is sold by the pound, getting just enough for two tostadas didn’t require a bank loan for shopping at Whole Foods.  There were enough other ingredients in the fridge at home to complete the meal.

Shrimp and scallops ceviche, guacamole and mango – a cool treat to beat the heat.

 

Ingredients (made without an actual recipe)

Three corn tortillas (or more if you want tortilla chips)

About four or five tablespoons of deli bar ceviche

One medium to large avocado

Five or six grape tomatoes

One or two scallions

One or two lettuce leaves

One ripe mango

Garlic powder, to taste, or one small finely minced garlic clove mushed into a paste with a sprinkle of salt and the side of a chef’s knife.

One lime, halved

Salt to taste

Olive oil or neutral oil cooking spray

Method

Tostadas, flat, crisp tortillas.  These may be bought in a package, fried in a quantity usually too big for one or two servings.  You can fry them at home or bake them in the oven for a “healthyish” version.  I’m stealing this term from Bon Appètit because they have been publish lighter recipes in the magazine and online. Sprinkle your chips lightly with salt to taste.

Preheat oven to 350°.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil.  Place three tortillas on sheet, and spritz lightly with cooking spray.  If you want to make chips, cut a couple of tortillas into wedges and place on sheet with whole tortillas and spritz the, with cooking spray. Place in heated oven.  Check after 10 minutes, turn tortillas and chips over and spritz again.  After 10 minutes, check again and turn.  Return to oven.  Check every five minutes or so to make sure tortillas and chips are toasting crisp – no soft spots in middle or edges when done and not burned edges.  Rotate the sheet pan in the oven to help with even cooking. Remove from oven and let cool.

Guacamole, an avocado dip or spread that every cook swears that his/hers is best.  I assure you, mine is the absolute best!  This version is for a single guacamole tostada and slices of avocado for garnish.  If you want to use the whole avocado and sue some for dip on your tortilla chips, go right ahead.

Chop grape tomatoes into small pieces; slice scallion very thinly at an angle. Slice all the white and an inch or inch and a half of the gree.  Mince and mash garlic clove into a paste.  A pinch of salt helps to break up the garlic as you mash it.  If you wish, you may use a light sprinkle of garlic powder (not garlic salt) instead of the garlic clove paste.

One avocado, halved.  Lay one half cut side down to prevent oxidation (turning brown). Spoon the flesh from the other have into a small bowl. Cut it up with the side of a fork, then mash it.  I like to leave a little texture when I mash it with the fork.  When I’m by myself, I squish it between my fingers and then get to lick my fingers clean – chef’s bonus!  I don’t do that when making guacamole for guests – at least not where they can see me. Stir tomato, some of the scallion, garlic paste or powder and some of the juice of lime.  The lime will delay oxidation, but you don’t want to overdo the lime juice when making this small quality of guacamole. Scoop flesh from remaining half of avocado, cut into six slices for garnish and sprinkle lightly with lime juice.

Sliced mango, sweet, but not too sweet taste to balance the acidity of the ceviche.  Remove pit from mango, slice flesh and plate on a bed of lettuce leaf.  You might enjoy a couple of drops of lime juice on the mango. (The OXO mango slicer actually works and is well with a little drawer space in your kitchen.)

Serving, spread guacamole on one crips tostada, garnish with slices of avocado and a couple of large shrimp.  Place on plate.  Spoon ceviche on tostadas, place on either side of guacamole tostada and garnish with large shrimp and avocado slices.  Add lettuce leaf and mango carefully to the plate and enjoy your cool meal at the end of a hot day.

A Detour on Memory Lane

Remember the wedge salad from the late 50′ and early 70’s? A wedge of iceberg lettuce, that must have been a quarter of a head, drenched in creamy chunky bleu cheese dressing, and if you were lucky enough to be in the right restaurant, heavily sprinkled with crumbled crispy bacon. It still appears on the occasional menu.  When it does, I look for beef carpaccio to be there, too.  Creamy bleu cheese and delicately thin sliced raw lean beef! Forget the rest of the menu, these two appetizers become my meal, and no, you cannot have a taste!

I am addicted to food magazines and websites.  When I saw a new take on a wedge salad in one, I was up and off the the grocery store.  Actually it turned out to be two stores were needed to find all the ingredients.

My excitement was a grilled bok choi wedge salad.  One small to medium bok choi, split in half and spritzed with olive oil, then grilled over low heat until the leaves wilt and get a little char and the stem is warmed through, but still retains it crunch. I topped the bok choi with halved yellow grape tomatoes, thinly sliced raw ripe shishito peppers and marinated Peruvian peppers.  Then I drenched the salad with creamy bleu cheese dressing and lots of extra crumbles.  The salad was served with a small sirloin steak, grilled to 145 and tented to rest for five minutes. It was a perfect medium rare.  I wish I had sliced and photographed it, but I couldn’t wait do dig into the plate.

My standard three baby potatoes halved and grilled provided a bit of starch for the meal.  Because I am still working on my bag of shishito peppers, I grilled a few of the ripe ones.  Their caramelized sweetness was a great foil for the slight saltiness of the bleu cheese!

I cooked this on the grill last night after the temperature dropped to 100.

Grilled bok choi wedge salad with “sides” of beef sirloin, baby potatoes and grilled ripe shishito peppers.

Something New on the Plate!

Last fall, the Master Gardeners were looking at some new ideas to enhance the varieties of produce at their market garden. They were looking at eliminating some that were not the best for us such as okra which does’t respect our work and market day schedules.  It  grows too fast and gets woody before we can harvest and market it. For something different, I suggested shishito peppers (enunciate the name carefully). They are a  mild wrinkled green Asian snacking pepper that is usually sautéed. I found them at a local grocery store last year, tried them and really enjoyed them as something good and different! About one in ten has a kick which adds to the excitement of eating them. I have been tossing a few on the grill until they are tender and pick up a hint of char.

Last weekend, one of the garden co-chairs brought me a bag if shishitos to try.  It had both green peppers and some that had ripened to a bright red.  On the drive home, I had to taste one of each – a green one, with the expected not quite raw bitter flavor, rather than pepper heat, and a red one which was surprisingly sweet!

I grilled a couple of chicken thighs and a few green peppers. I also made a salad of mache greens, yellow cherry tomato slices and slices of red shishitos with a light vinaigrette.  It was a wonderful salad!

Visit Ardovino’s Farmers Market on Saturdays and give the shishitos a try. You’ll enjoy them green or red.

Grilled chicken thighs with grilled green shishito peppers and a salad mache rosettes yellow grape tomatoes and sliced raw ripe shishito peppers in a light vinaigrette. Dinner cooked on an outdoor gas grill after the temperature dropped below 100.

A New Season Means New Experiments and New Favorites

Still making many adjustments to all the facets of a new season, but things are moving along…

It is fun to pare down a recipe, even when you know it might have been a little better at six or eight servings. Sometimes, it is great to whip up something from what you have on hand and enjoy the creativity.  And, at other times it is good to visit something from the past and reimagine it.

Being only slightly removed from generations of Texas and Arkansas farmers, I’m very fond of okra in many variations.

Back in May of 2014, I started grilling okra on skewers. I like that it retains some texture and that it loses the sticky secretion of boiled okra and doesn’t make the mess of fried okra.  I’ll love fried okra wherever I find it on a menu and am thrilled when I don’t have to clean up the mess of frying.

Grilling red okra in 2014. Heat changes the red chemical color and it turn out green. Threading on two skewers makes it easier to turn. Elevating the skewers on clean bricks get’s it off the grate and helps it cook more evenly.

I found okra at the grocery store the other night and, since I was grilling chicken thighs, thought it would be a good side.  I have a stainless steel thingy I put over my old grill grates and decided to try grilling okra on that  instead of on skewers. It occurred to me I should  grill some tomatoes and onion at the same time because I know that works!

I cut the stem ends off the okra, sliced some onion and washed some grape tomatoes.  If you feel you need a recipe here’s how I did it! I used a dozen pods of okra, two sliced of onion separated into ring and 10 grape tomatoes. I tossed it all with olive oil and a little salt and pepper. and put in on the grilling thingy over medium heat.  I kept an eye on it, tossed be veggies as the cooked and tested the okra’s doneness with a fork.  I wound up with a light char on tender vegetables. The tomatoes softened and wilted. When pierced with a fork, they yielded a hot delicious tomato juice to mix over the other vegetables. My chicken thighs cooked on another part of the grilling thingy at a higher temperature.

I like to have two or three very small potatoes as a side ( inch to inch and a half diameter). That satisfies my potato craving without a serving the size of a football.  I cheat with them. I microwave them for a few minutes (remember to pierce the skins or they will explode in your oven) then split them and finish them on the grill for a little color and extra flavor

Grilled chicken thighs, okra, onion and tomatoes with grill-finished potatoes. The okra was tender but with a little texture and now sticky secretion. Delicious with the onion and tomatoes and reminiscent of boiled tomatoes and okra without the slick texture.

The okra was so good, I decided to make it again the next evening.  The store where I bought my first batch, was out.  I went a sister store in the chain and found some.  It looked a little long and I was concerned about it being stringy and tough.  It was, but at least it photographed well.

I was a very hot evening. Still over 100 at 6:30 p.m.  Too hot to stand over a grill, so I decided to cook on a sheet pan in the oven.  That gave me a chance to try making a roasted onion flower I had been wanting to try.

Oven roasted onion flower, tomatoes and okra. Delicious and not sticky.

Pan roasting the vetables at 425 until tender worked.  I cut a thin slice off the stem end of a smallish onion, then carefully removed the roots.  I sliced the onion almost to its base six times to make reasonably narrow petals. I drizzled the vegetables with olive oil before cooking and a couple of times while they cooked. The okra was done before the tomatoes and onion, so I removed it and set it aside until time to plate.  I want to find small red onions next time I have guests and make little onion flowers to put on top of something. My white flower was tender and delicious with the okra and tomatoes and a pork chop. Left from the other night. Part of this New Season is cooking enough of a protein to have a second serving a couple of days later. I warmed the cooked pork chop for a few minutes while, the vegetables finished cooking.  In the upper right corner, you see the tip of a roasted ear of corn.  At eight ears for $1, I had to buy one for this meal.

I will be doing more grilled okra this summer but only using smaller tender pods.

Paring Down Can Foster Indulgence, so Play with Your Food!

Some of us subscribe to cooking and recipe sites on the web.  Interesting things appear that tantalize the eye and the appetite.  Some arouse curiosity and other demand to be made. All those happened when I ran across Chile-Lime Clams with Tomatoes and Grilled Bread.  My curiosity was peaked by the inclusion of chick peas (garbanzo beans) in the recipe.  I’m most familiar with chickpeas as hummus and don’t have much experience with them as whole beans.  What the heck, give it a try!  And this recipe for four servings appeared easy to reduce per my goals in this New Season of reduced quantities. It also was flexible enough to allow for loose measuring of ingredients. For instance, it called for 24 clams. Six clams per serving? Pikers!  I ordered 12 clams to make one serving. I love clams and had no guilt over this indulgence. When cooking for one, or som times two, indulge and enjoy! I used the recipe below as a guideline for this dish.  I played with parts of it, hence inclusion in the Play with Your Food Category.

Chile-Lime Clams with Tomatoes. As good as it was hoped it would be! A keeper.

The original recipe suggested cooking in a cast iron pan on a grill outside. Think this over… acid foods (including tomatoes)  cooked in cast iron can acquire a metallic taste and cause the pans to lose their carefully built up seasoned finish. I read that acidic foods cooked in cast iron for no more than 15 minutes will not acquire a metallic taste, nor will the harm the finish.  Not worth the risk on my older than I am cast iron hand-me-downs from early in the last century!

It has been unseasonably hot so far this spring and summer.  I’m convinced hot air from the Capitol fanned by Tweet kindling is the cause, but that’s a different rant. I chose to cook on the stovetop in an anodized aluminum pan that has a non-teflon, dishwasher safe non-stick finish.  I had to forgo grilled toast, but was satisfied with torn chunks of bread with a schemear of butter for sopping up the pan sauce with the meal. This photo is of the pan on the stovetop.  I knew a dozen clams in my serving bowl, would be too crowded for a good picture.  Indulge me and imagine chopped cilantro sprinkled on top.

CHILE-LIME CLAMS WITH TOMATOES AND GRILLED BREAD

4 servings

INGREDIENTS

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces, divided

2 large shallots, chopped

4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 cup beer

1 cup cherry tomatoes

1 (15.5-ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed

2 tablespoons (or more) sambal oelek

24 littleneck clams, scrubbed

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

4 thick slices country-style bread

2 tablespoons olive oil

Kosher salt

1/2 cup cilantro leaves with tender stems

Lime wedges (for serving)

METHOD

Prepare a grill for medium, indirect heat (for a gas grill, leave one or two burners off; for a charcoal grill, bank coals on one side of grill). Place a large cast-iron skillet on grill over direct heat (move it around to cooler part of grill as you cook if needed) and melt 4 Tbsp. butter in skillet. Add shallots and garlic and cook, stirring often, until soft, about 4 minutes. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring often, until paste darkens to a rich brick-red color, about 1 minute. Add beer and tomatoes. Bring to a boil and cook until beer is reduced nearly by half and no longer smells boozy, about 4 minutes. Stir in chickpeas and sambal oelek, then add clams. Cover (if you don’t have a lid that fits, use a sheet of foil) and cook, stirring occasionally, until clams have opened; this could take from 5–10 minutes depending on size of clams and the heat level. Remove from heat; discard any clams that don’t open. Stir in lime juice and remaining 2 Tbsp. butter.

While the clams are cooking on the grill, drizzle bread with oil and season lightly with salt. Grill until golden brown and crisp, about 2 minutes per side.

Transfer toast to plates and spoon clam mixture over; top with cilantro. Serve with lime wedges for squeezing over.