For the main course for our dinner with the yms, I skipped the Northeast and went to the South. What's left in the Northeast for meat is mostly game and something called jellied veal, which I plan to make when the weather gets hot. In the fish department, what's left is mainly all shellfish recipes. Bob is getting testy about not being able to eat what the rest of the guests eat, so I avoided the two recipes for clam pie, the clam souffle and the gefilte fish, which is not shell fish. On the first page of the fish section of the South, I discovered Clam-Stuffed Baked Rock Fish (Striped Bass.) The stuffing could be served separately, Bob could eat the fish. It was all good.
I went to our neighborhood fish store, The Fishery, to get the striped bass. I had the fish guy gut it, chop off the head and tail and take off the scales with something that looked like a curry comb for a horse. I was pretty sure we had a can of clams left over from my other adventures in shellfish, but I had to find it. The closet in our kitchen where we keep canned goods, etc, is jammed with Trader Joe's Pickles, Trader Joe's
Mustard, boxes of pasta that we no longer eat because it isn't gluten free, etc. etc. I moved cans of tomatoes, bags of rice and bottles of vinegar around to no avail. Finally, Bob waded in and discovered the canned clams.
The stuffing is nothing special. It has all the same ingredients as turkey stuffing for Thanksgiving, except for the clams. I used gluten free bread to make the recipe gluten free. (At Thanksgiving, you can get gluten free stuffing at Whole Foods.) I put the stuffing into a small baking dish and covered it with aluminum foil before putting it in the oven. The fish got two slices of bacon laid over it. I did not make gashes and fit the bacon in the gashes. Intellectually, I understand what the author is talking about here, but I can't really picture it. If you can, send us a picture when you make this.
Aside from Bob asking plaintively what he was going to eat when he saw the clam stuffing, everything was fine. He snapped out of his deprived routine and made excellent rice pilaf. Daughter-in-law was impressed. "Two sides!" she said.
"Hey, we're all about the sides," I replied.
As seafood recipes go, this one is fairly cheap. I think I paid around $38 for a four pound fish, sufficient to serve five people. Beats crab all hollow. This is no more difficult than your Thanksgiving turkey and looks impressive. If you want to move away from eating meat, but are concerned about putting pressure on the fisheries, striped bass (rock fish) are rated best choice, according to the Monterrey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch. There are large populations of the fish.
Clam-Stuffed Baked Rock Fish (Striped Bass)
1 eight pound or two four-pound rock fish, heads and tails removed
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup butter
1 onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped green pepper
1 rib celery, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 cups shucked soft-shelled clams with liquor (clam juice)
1 teaspoon plus one tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon oregano (I used more)
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
8 slices stale white bread, finely cubed (I used gluten free bread.)
8 slices bacon.
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Season the fish inside and outside with salt and pepper.
3. Melt half the butter and saute the onion, green pepper, celery and garlic in it until tender. Add the clams and liquor and cook until edges of clams just curl.
4. Add one teaspoon of the lemon juice, the oregano, parsley, bread and salt and pepper to taste.
5. Stuff the cavity of the fish with the stuffing. Sew or skewer to close. Make gashes on top of fish and fit the bacon in the gashes. Set fish in a greased baking dish.
6. Sprinkle with remaining lemon juice and dot with remaining butter.
7. Bake about one and one-quarter hours for an eight-pound fish and forty-five minutes for two four-pounders, or until fish flakes. Makes eight servings.