Friday, July 23, 2010

Around the table with a new cookbook...

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Do you ever enjoy something really delicious while dining at a restaurant, and wish you could recreate it at home? Now you can! Closed on Tuesdays, written by Chef Charles Park, gives easy to follow instructions for many of the famous dishes from his two restaurants, Beaufort Grocery Company in Beaufort NC, and Shepard's Point in Morehead City, NC.

A few weeks ago, Chef Park and I met for a cooking lesson—I'm trying to learn all I can about preparing his special dishes. We met at Shephard's Point, in Morehead City. And we met EARLY—at 8:00 AM, because that was the only free time he had. Hence, dinner for breakfast—local grouper and clams—two of my favorites. I'm being spoiled.

First things first, fresh herbs from the raised bed herb garden just behind the restaurant. He placed the clams in fresh water just for a few minutes to allow them the opportunity to spit out a little sand. White wine, shallots, sliced garlic, cold butter, fresh basil, pepper and toasted baguette slices completed the ingredient list.

We shared a Mess o'Clams as soon as they were plated. It took just about the same amount of time to make the dish as it did to toast the bread. Chef Park showed me how he really likes to eat clams, piling some of the shallot and basil on the clam, filling the shell with wine broth, and then slurping it down, biting the clam loose with his teeth. He assured me that it was perfectly acceptable to eat oysters, clams, and mussels using fingers and slurping. Then he demonstrated soption, an original family word emerging from the verb 'to sop', which is also acceptable as well as necessary when eating anything with such a delicious broth. We vigorously participated in both soption and slurping.

Mess o' Clams

Serves 4

48 fresh clams

One-half cup white wine

2 large shallots, chopped

2 T chopped garlic (Chef Park actually thinly sliced the garlic, so it could be avoided, to taste)

2 T cold butter, sliced

1 sprig fresh basil, chopped

pinch of pepper

1 loaf French bread, sliced and toasted

Wash the clams and place in a large saucepan with a tight-fitting lid. Add the wine, shallots and garlic. Cook, covered, over high heat just until the clams open; do not overcook. Discard any clams that do not open.

Spoon the clams to a serving dish with a slotted spoon, taking care not to stir up the cooking liquid. Drain the liquid into a smaller saucepan, leaving any sand in the larger saucepan. Bring to a boil and stir in the butter gradually. Add the basil and pepper. Spoon the sauce over the clams and serve with the toasted bread. Garnish with sprigs of basil.

Next dish was Pan Seared Grouper with Dijon Dill Sauce. I wondered if Chef Park even realized all the little details he was sharing as he cooked. Searing versus sautéing, using the oven to finish dishes, making pan sauce from the fond (pan juices), using nonstick spray appropriately, when to salt, when not to salt, cold, cold butter added at the end to make a creamy sauce without cream, when to add fresh herbs, how to plate the dish for the best presentation. I tried to get it all down, but sometimes I was so busy eating, I forgot to write. Fortunately, as I think through the process, I'm remembering.

I would gladly have paid the price of the book, Closed on Tuesdays, for my two favorite recipes, the Tuna Napoleon, featuring fresh yellowfin tuna, wasabi slaw, and crisply fried wontons; and Collard Soup with Cornmeal Dumplings and Slivers of Country Ham.

For more information on Chef Park, his restaurants or your very own Closed on Tuesdays, visit

Asian Tuna Salad (Tuna Napoleon )

from Closed on Tuesdays by Chef Charles Park

(Serves 4)

12 thick won ton wrappers

2 cups vegetable oil

One-half cup Wasabi Cole Slaw*

8 oz. sashimi-grade yellowfin tuna, very thinly sliced

2 T pickled ginger, julienned

Chopped fresh cilantro and Toasted sesame seeds to garnish

Seafood Dipping Sauce**

Cut the won tons into halves diagonally. Fry the won tons in the vegetable oil in a deep fryer until crisp; drain.

Spoon one tablespoon Wasabi Cole Slaw onto a serving plate and arrange three won tons in the slaw. Top with a second tablespoon of the Wasabi Cole Slaw, one tuna slice, a second wonton and a second tuna slice. Sprinkle with the pickled ginger. Garnish with chopped cilantro and 1 tsp. Toasted sesame seeds. Drizzle with Seafood Dipping Sauce. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.

*Wasabi Cole Slaw

1 cup mayonnaise

One-fourth cup milk

One-fourth cup white or cider vinegar

One-fourth cup confectioners' sugar

One-fourth cup wasabi powder blended with 2 tsp. water

1 tsp. Celery seeds

One-half tsp. Salt

One-half tsp. Freshly cracked pepper

4 cups finely shredded green cabbage

1 cup finely shredded red cabbage

1 cup finely shredded carrots

Combine the mayonnaise, milk, vinegar, confectioners' sugar and wasabi powder blended in water in a medium bowl; whisk until smooth. Whisk in the celery seeds, salt and pepper.

Combine the green cabbage, red cabbage and carrots in a large bowl. Add the mayonnaise mixture and mix well. Let stand for 30 minutes before serving. You can prepare the slaw in advance and store in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours.

**Seafood Dipping Sauce

(makes 1 cup)

1 cup packed light brown sugar

1 cup rice wine vinegar

1 T chopped garlic

1 T fish sauce

Combine the brown sugar, vinegar and garlic in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook until reduced by one-half. Stir in the fish sauce.