Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Clam Salad

Clam Salad!! I have finally had an opportunity to serve clam salad.  And, as I envisioned, it was at a picnic. Liz and Bill, some old friends, invited us to a Fourth of July celebration in Washington Grove, a quirky little town hidden deep in the Montgomery County, Maryland suburbs. When Liz called me, the first words out of my mouth were, "Can I bring clam salad?" "Sure," she said. Liz is easy.
I almost didn't get to make the clam salad, due to a dire natural disaster, viz. a thunderstorm with a fancy name that came through on Friday night and knocked over 10 percent of the trees in the Washington Metropolitan area. Result, no lights and citizens inveigling against Pepco, our electric utility. Plus, it's hot. I mean really hot. Wake up in the middle of the night with your body slick with sweat hot. After three nights of cold showers at 2 am and days spent sitting in a  chair because that was all I had energy for, the lights came on Monday night. We had gone to the movies (because they have air conditioning)  and as I pulled up in front of our house,  Bob started yelling.
"What?" I said, in alarm.
"The lights are on!" he shouted.
"Yeah team!" I yelled.
So, Tuesday, after a better night's sleep, I rediscovered my energy. I washed the dishes, which were piling up in the sink, went to the fish store and Safeway, and got to work. Clam salad is suspended in aspic. You have to make each layer and wait for it to gell. It's a real "Day before" dish. It's not difficult.
As to the result. The dish, as are many dishes from the 50s, is bland. If I were to make it again, I  would put in more salt, and maybe Tabasco sauce. The guests who tried it were enthusiastic.   A young man from Baltimore County said it was delicious. Other people did not try it, and that was fine.
Clam salad is visually striking. It is arranged in layers, clams in aspic, cottage cheese tinted pink with catchup, and a green top of chopped parsley. This dish uses a lot of parsley. In case you want to make it, and are wondering what to use, I used my pate pan, which is a narrow enamel loaf pan that was used, once or twice in the dark ages of cooking to bake pate. You could use a regular loaf pan.
Anyhow, clam salad has been cooked and served,  and did not fall into the category of can't do this, like the recipe for dandelion flowers which tells you not to wash them . Come on. We live in a city. Any dandelions that might be picked also probably came in contact with a dog. We are not doing that one.

Clam Salad

2 envelopes unflavored gelatin
1/4 cup cold water
1 cup  boiling water
grated rind and juice of one lemon
1  seven ounce can of chopped clams, drained, and liquor reserved. (That means, keep the juice.)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground  black pepper
1 1/2 cups clam broth or water
1 teaspoon Dijon or Dusseldorf mustard
2 scallions, finely chopped, including green part
6 large stuffed olives, sliced
1 cup cottage cheese
1/3 cup catchup
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1 hard-boiled egg
salad greens

1. Soften the gelatin in cold water. Add the boiling water and stir to dissolve gelatin. Add the lemon rind, lemon juice, reserved clam liquor, pepper and clam broth or water. Stir well.
2. Halve the gelatin mixture between two bowls, Stir the clams, mustard and scallions into one bowl of gelatin mixture.
3. Pour the clam mixture into a one-and-one-half quart mold or oblong baking dish that had  been rinsed with cold water.
4. Chill until the layer just starts to set, then poke the olive slices down around the sides of the mold or dish. Chill until almost firm.
5. Reserve one-quarter cup of the gelatin mixture in the second  bowl. To the remaining, add the cottage cheese, catchup and six tablespoons of the parsley. Spoon the cottage cheese mixture over the setting clam mixture . Chill until firm.
6. Sprinkle the remaining parsley over the top of firm mixture, then arrange the egg slices in an attractive pattern over all. Spoon     reserved gelatin mixture over the coat the egg slices. Chill until firm.
7. Unmold or cut into squares. Serve on salad greens.
Makes 6 to 8 servings.

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