There was so much activity in our vacation kitchen that my smile was an accessory to EVERY outfit I wore! But two things in particular stand out to me as outside the norm.
The first is that I got to cook with my dad. Not since (1) the days of scrambled egg hoagies when I was young and my mom worked in the evenings or (2) the days of ordering so much pizza from Pizza Village in Bethlehem, PA when I was a teen and my sister was away at college and my mom worked evenings that the Italian guys knew us by phone number have my dad and I spent time in the kitchen together “creating” (or phoning in) a dinner. But my mom was under the weather on this trip and my dad and I were determined to still serve her fabulous grilled clam pasta; so we set to work shoulder to shoulder under my mom’s direction!
Together we chopped and grated and zested and sautéed and grilled the necessary ingredients to end up with a fabulous, if a bit too spicy but just sassy enough, pasta!
First we cooked the bacon to crispy perfection and removed it from the pan to get crisp on paper towels. We poured off all but a bit of the bacon grease. In the remaining bacon grease we sautéed red onion until it was beautifully translucent and the bottom of the pan was a gorgeous chestnut brown.
Then we deglazed the pan with about a cup of Pinot Grigio and let it cook until most of the wine evaporated. We added the juice of two lemons and let that cook a bit longer. We added olive oil and chopped garlic, a few too many hot pepper flakes, the zest of two lemons, some cracked black pepper and one or two ladles of the salted water in which the pasta was cooking. We let that get nice and mellow and put the cleaned, fresh clams on the grill.
The clams cooked until they had absorbed the taste of the fire and smoke. When they opened we put them in a large foil pan and tossed them with the pasta, crisp bacon, oil mixture, zest of two lemons, and some chopped fresh parsley. The whole, delicious dish was served with grilled Italian bread, some fresh made seasoned bread crumbs for sprinkling over the pasta, and a bit of parmesan cheese.
Which brings me to the second thing that struck me as outside the norm in our vacation kitchen. Fish with cheese! Horror of horrors! Sins against food and man!
I have watched enough episodes of Chopped on the Food Network to hear Scott Conant say at least a gazillion times that it’s just not done. You don’t serve fish with cheese. It’s not the Italian way.
Well I stick out my tongue and give the raspberries to that sentiment!
As far as I am concerned, if we (cooks everywhere – whether home cooks or Michelin starred chefs) hadn’t pushed the proverbial envelope in the kitchen and broken a few rules along the way, we would still be eating exactly what our ancestors ate thousands of years ago exactly how they ate it! AND there would be no cooking shows like Chopped on television – Chopped, which judges food based upon CREATIVITY, taste and presentation – not on tradition and rules. How can we be creative if we do what we’ve always done? In fact, isn’t the definition of insanity “doing what you’ve always done and expecting a different result?”
Sorry for the rant, but I REALLY had to get that out of my system!
This turned out to be a great meal because I got to cook with my dad, I got to eat the freshest clams I’ve eaten in I don’t know how long, and I got to break a few rules. So I say eat what tastes good, cook with the people you love, and be innovative in the kitchen. After all, as Thomas Edison once said, “There are no rules here — we are trying to accomplish something!”