food, wine, golf, recipes, chocolate, holiday recipes, author: Never Trust A Skinny Chef...II Las Vegas Favorite Chef
Greetings from Alaska!
Camping is a way of life here, and living off the bounty of the land is an integral aspect of an Alaskan lifestyle for many of its residents and visitors. This tale of adventure actually happened last summer, but -- for personal reasons -- was too painful to write about. As this article revolves around my life and the food provided by the bounty of Alaska, it is time to tell the tale...and maybe for a little healing too.
Last summer started out like any other summer for me -- too little time and a tight video schedule, but by mid-July an extraordinary thing happened. I met Lisa. I cut my schedule back and spent 7 wondrous weeks connecting with a person whom I believe with all my heart to be my life's one true soul sister. We were the same age, had the same vivacious joy in life, and the goodness just shone from her beautiful face. Her spirit filled me at a time when I had lost my inner child and life was just a job, in spite of the incredible adventures I lived every day. The one difference between us was my body was whole, and hers was ravaged by time and an accident that had left her in a wheelchair since she was 17 years old. But that didn't stop Lisa! No siree, she attacked everything she did with all of her big beautiful heart. We talked non-stop from sun-up to sundown -- which is a lot in the land of the midnight sun. Braiding hair, painting nails, sharing paintings and poetry, we caught each other up in the tales of our lives.
One day, we all loaded up the truck and headed to Clam Gulch, as there was a huge negative tide that is perfect for clamming. Lisa, of course, stayed in the truck as her wheel chair would not work in the sand and surf, but she ran and played with me every step of the way. I felt her presence in me so strongly that day. Beverly, the current champion clam digger, limited out the first and kept her company, while Buzz -- Beverly's son and Lisa's fiancée -- and Roger -- her friend and personal care attendant -- walked further out to the edge of the shore, where the clams are the biggest, to have a digging contest. I skipped along the shoreline -- snapping photos and looking for treasures. I settled down to business though, abandoning my shovel because I kept cutting clams in half. I was soon arm deep in the sand tickling and coaxing the stubborn clams out of their holes. When you see a clam hole you plunge your hand in and try to grab the end of a clam before digs itself deeper. That's when the tug-of-war ensues, sometimes you win, sometimes the clam does! And NO, I did NOT break a nail!
Back at Beverly's house, the chore of cleaning the clams became an assembly line of cooperation. We all washed them in fresh water, then Buzz set up the grill and started a pot of water to blanch them in. After blanching, you remove the flesh by cutting along the hinge of the bi-valve and removing both sections of the clam and cut away the guts by splitting the clam up the middle. It's a long and tedious process when you consider we had 200 clams! Beverly set up chips and dip, and prepared the most delicious beer-batter recipe, which I will share with you now.
Deep-Fried Alaskan Razor Clams in Beverly's Beer Batter and Panko Crumbs
2 lbs. clams (Halibut is great this way too)
1 c. flour
1 T. butter, melted
1/2 c. beer
Pinch cayenne pepper
Pinch garlic salt
3-4 c. Japanese Panko crumbs
Enough oil for deep-frying
Mix everything but the clams, Panko crumbs, oil, tartar sauce, seafood sauce and lemon in a mixer and let set at room temperature for 3-4 hours. Dip the clams in the batter, roll in Panko crumbs and deep-fry to a golden brown, turning once. Serve with lemon wedges, tartar sauce, and/or seafood sauce.
Yields: 6-8 servings
Preparation Time: 5 hours
Beverly spends a day or two every fall making huge quantities of these clams and halibut chunks too. She follows the recipe until just before frying; she then sets the un-fried nuggets on cookie sheets covered in wax paper and freezes them solid. They can then be stored in resealable bags until they're ready to use. Just fry them while they're frozen.
It was late in the day by time we had all finished gorging ourselves on clams, but the sun was still high in the sky, so Lisa and I sat out in the garden. The radio was on and I danced around her wheel chair while she drew little fairy Deanas flitting amongst the flowers. Lisa died the following week -- August 25th 2001.
This article is in memory of Lisa Salminen, a Beautiful Spirit.
Think you don't like rabbit? Next month I'll prove you wrong!