A Tale of Two Seafood Cities

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Hey ya’ll.

I said ya’ll because this post is inspired by the great city of New Orleans, and “you guys” just doesn’t fly there.

This past weekend was a doozie for us folks here in Atlantic City. We had all kinds of stuff goin’ down in town, like the return of the Miss America pageant (and the parade!), the AC triathlon took place, and my favorite event of the year, Atlantic City Seafood Fest!IMG_2689

This was the second year Atlantic City held its annual Seafood Festival at Bader Field, and the second year I got to participate. Event coordinator Jon Henderson and his team at Good Time Tricycle did an amazing job at putting together TONS of food vendors, great music (the reggae band was killer!), and fun activities for adults and kids alike. These guys really know how to throw one hell of a festival.

I had the pleasure of demonstrating one of my favorite dishes on both Saturday and Sunday. I had a great crowd each day, filled with hungry friends and strangers alike.

For my demo, I wanted to make something that was indigenous to South Jersey, but also something unique that people around these parts haven’t seen before. So I took some inspiration from one of my favorite places in the universe: Louisiana.

I spent my college years bopping around the eccentric state of Louisiana (Geaux Tigers!), and fell head over heels for their lifestyle, culture, and especially their food. In particular, the barbecue shrimp.

Never had New Orleans barbecue shrimp before? Well, let me tell you, it’s a thing.

We’re not talking about throwing some shrimp on the barbie and slathering them in a traditional barbecue sauce. It has nothing to do with BBQ in the traditional sense, probably because the dish came about before traditional Que was even a thing. They’re cooked head and shell on in a rich, super buttery, black peppery, spicy Worcestershire based sauce. Served with a lobster bib and lots of crusty French bread to soak up all the sauce, they are absolutely to die for.

No. They are to live for!

But here in New Jersey, we don’t have gorgeous jumbo shrimp coming out of our waters like they do in the gulf. But we do have something New Orleans doesn’t have… clams!

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So I tossed a couple Jersey fresh little-neck clams in a spicy buttery sauce inspired by barbecue shrimp, and by golly, it worked!

It worked really, really well. I’m giving myself a nice pat on the back for this one.

This recipe combines the saucy spice of New Orleans with the salty sass of Atlantic City. Two of my favorite cities meeting together for one rockin’ dish. Oh, and did I mention butter? This recipe uses lots of butter.

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Now before you get your panties in a bunch, let’s take a few things into consideration:

1. New Orleans and French cuisine are known for using copious amounts of butter. They are also known for being delicious. Coincidence?
2. You have definitely eaten this much butter – if not more – in one sitting at a restaurant, you just  didn’t realize it.
3. This isn’t something I suggest feeding your family on a daily basis. It’s a dish best saved for special occasions, and served to a group of at least 6-8 people.
4. Butter is awesome, and you know it.
5. YOLO.

So just relax and laissez les bons temps rouler.

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New Orleans Style Barbecued Clams
I find commercial Creole seasonings to be too salty, especially when cooked in this dish, as the clams can be pretty salty themselves. Making your own is easy- you can control the amount of salt, and it keeps for quite a while in your pantry. Plus, you likely already have most of the ingredients on hand. This recipe makes quite a bit, so adjust the tablespoons to teaspoons if you don’t think you’ll use it all.  I strongly suggest sprinkling some on buttered popcorn. Actually, skip the butter altogether and use bacon fat. Trust me. See the recipe for my mix below.

Ingredients
½ cup Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp cracked pepper
2 tsp Creole seasoning
2 cloves garlic, minced
50 littleneck clams, scrubbed and rinsed of sand
3 sticks cold, unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 lemons, juiced
Crusty Italian bread for dipping

Directions
Simmer the Worcestershire sauce, pepper, creole seasoning and garlic in a large pot for about 2 minutes. Add in the clams and toss to coat with the liquid. Cover, turn the heat to high, and cook until the clams just open about 6-8 minutes. Remove the clams from the heat and add in butter, a little at a time. Toss the clams and butter until its all melted. Stir in lemon juice. Ladle clams and broth into bowls and serve with lots of crusty Italian bread.

Creole Seasoning
2 tablespoons onion powder
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons dried oregano leaves
2 tablespoons dried sweet basil
1 tablespoon dried thyme leaves
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon white pepper
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon celery seed
5 tablespoons sweet paprika

Combine all ingredients and store in an airtight container.

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Nothing against my other volunteers, but these girls killed it up on stage! Stars in the making.

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