Goodcooking.com Cookbook Review---

Title: The Cape Cod Table
Author: Lora Brody
216 pages; Paperback Photography---Glossy Color
Harvard Common Press, Boston, MA
Date: May 2007
Reviewed by, Chef John Vyhnanek, September 2007

One of Good Cooking's Best Summer 2007 Cookbook Award Winners!

The review---

I've been to Cape Cod many times and during my trips I have eaten very well. Just like anywhere, little food gems exist in either restaurants, cafes roadside stands or mom and pop drive-ins. From Wareham, The Gateway to Cape Cod, to Provincetown at the tip of the Cape, you will find seafood and more seafood. So that's what I decided to test, the seafood recipes in this book.

The Clam Chowder recipe on pa. 75 would be perfect if it had no bacon. I guess I'm a traditionalist, as I don't want strange ingredients in my chowder. No white wine, nor garlic or carrots, as they just don't belong. I feel the same way about the bacon. To me bacon masks the flavor of sweet clams, the freshness of cream and the simplicity of the potatoes.

The clam fritters on pg. 49 were perfect examples of what you will find on the cape. Just like any other type of fritter, flour, baking powder, milk and eggs are folded into ingredients like corn kernels, and in this case chopped clams, and then dropped by spoonfuls into hot oil to deep fry. Served with tartar sauce on pg. 00, which by the way was also delicious, these puffed pillows of clams were a delight!

A word on tartar sauce--use Hellmann's mayonnaise! And if you like, then add a few spoonfuls of green relish to this recipe, it won't hurt!

Lobster rolls on pg. 132 are a staple on the Cape and through much of New England. Terrific versions can be had at the Lobster Pot in Wareham, Captain Frosty's in Dennis and The Lobster Claw in Orleans. I'm happy to report that the recipe in this book is just as good as any mentioned above. There is nothing else but lobster and mayonnaise in this recipe.

The Sea Bass with Ginger on pg. 124 seemed a little out of place in a book about Cape Cod, although time change and so does the way people eat. The dish tasted good but lacked the deliciousness of the many traditional dishes in the book.

Nice color pictures and an easy to read layout make this a good book for your collection. Good Cooking likes this book (but not the bacon).

Recipes tested---

Clam Chowder

Serves 8 generously

Here on Cape Cod there are as many recipes for clam chowder as there are clams in the sea. This one takes the very best elements of several dozen versions and puts together to make a creamy, rich meal in a bowl that New Yorkers will have to admit beats anything with tomatoes.

Although you can certainly start by digging and shucking own clams, most fish stores and many supermarkets shucked, chopped clams-my preference. While some call for thickening clam chowder with flour, I don't the library paste texture that can result (actually, I like to use any thickener at all), so those of you who are used to the thick consistency of many commercial varieties will find this soup on the thin side. If you wish to it up, see the instructions at the end of the recipe

3 ounces salt pork or thick slab bacon, diced
1 large yellow onion, peeled and chopped into medium dice
3 stalks celery (with leaves), rinsed and cut into small dice
3 cups Idaho potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch cubes
4 cups bottled clam juice
1 1/2 pints (3 cups) chopped fresh clams, drained, liquid reserved
2 cups whole milk
4 cups light cream

Salt and lots of freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, cut into slices, for garnish
Paprika for garnish

Place the salt pork or bacon in a heavy skillet and set over moderate heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is brown and crisp; then use a slotted spoon to remove it to a paper towel to drain. Add the onion and celery to the drippings and cook over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until they are wilted and the onion is golden. Use the slotted spoon to add the cooked salt pork or bacon and vegetables to a soup kettle. Discard the fat in the saute pan and scrape any of the brown drippings that remain into the soup kettle. Add the potatoes and clam juice (both the bottled juice and the liquid reserved from the fresh clams). Set the kettle over high heat, cover, and bring to a rapid simmer, then reduce the heat and cook for 15 to 2o minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. Stir in the milk and cream and heat, uncovered, without allowing the mixture to boil. When the mixture is hot, add the clams and cook for another 5 minutes without boiling. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately, ladling the chowder into heated bowls and garnishing each with a pat of butter and a sprinkling of paprika.

For a thicker chowder, add 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour to the pan after you have cooked and removed the salt pork and drained off all but 3 tablespoons of the fat. Whisk continuously over moderate heat until the mixture is smooth. Cook 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Add this slurry to the chowder after the potatoes have been cooked, and stir well to combine. Simmer over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until the chowder is slightly thickened before adding the remaining ingredients.

Sea Bass Poached in Ginger Fish Broth with Cilantro Pesto

Serves 6

Sea bass is tender and flavorful and, most important. sturdy enough to be steamed without falling apart In this recipe, created for my son Max, fragrant ginger infused shrimp broth surrounds the lovely white fish along with accents of yellow and green from both kinds of squash, the bright red of the cherry tomatoes, and the vivid green of the cilantro pesto. The broth can be made a day ahead and kept refrigerated until ready to use. The same is true for the cilantro pesto.

For the shrimp broth:
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 yellow onions, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
3 stalks celery with leaves, cut into 1/2-inch dice
3 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
8 ounces shrimp, in the shell
4 anchovies in oil
2 cups dry white wine
10 cups water
1 cup clam juice (fresh, bottled, or reconstituted)
1/4 cup lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the pesto:
1 cup cilantro leaves
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 cup mild olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon for drizzling

For poaching the fish:
1 cup clam juice (fresh, bottled, or reconstituted)
1 cup water
24 littleneck clams
3 pounds boneless sea bass, cut into six 8-ounce portions
4 small, tender zucchini, cut into small dice
4 small, tender yellow squash, cut into small dice
6 Red Bliss or new potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch slices and steamed until just tender
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved

To make the shrimp broth: Heat the oil in a large saucepan set over high heat. Add the onions, carrots, and celery and cook for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring frequently with a wooden or heatproof plastic spoon, until the onions are limp and just beginning to turn golden. Lower the heat to medium and add the garlic. Cook for 2 more minutes, stirring frequently to avoid letting the garlic turn brown. Add the ginger, shrimp, and anchovies and cook for 5 minutes, continuing to stir occasionally. Add the white wine and stir the mixture, scraping the bottom of the pot. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook until the wine is reduced by two-thirds. Add the water and clam juice, bring to a boil, and turn the heat down to a simmer. Simmer, uncovered, for 45 minutes over low heat. Add the lemon juice and continue to simmer until you have about 8 cups of liquid. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Strain the broth through cheesecloth or a fine-mesh sieve. You should have 8 cups. If you are not proceeding with the rest of the recipe until later, pour the broth into a metal bowl, cover with foil, and refrigerate immediately. Since the shrimp have given up all their flavor to the stock, they will now be tasteless (and tough) and should be discarded.

To make the pesto: Add the cilantro, garlic, lemon zest, and salt to the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Pulse to combine. With the motor running, pour the olive oil through the feed tube in a slow, steady stream, processing until it is absorbed. Pour and scrape the mixture into a small plastic container. Drizzle a tablespoon of olive oil onto the surface and place a piece of plastic wrap over and touching the surface, to keep the mixture from discoloring.

To poach the fish: Add the clam juice and water to a large pot placed over high heat. When the mixture comes to a rapid boil, add the clams, cover, and return to a gentle simmer. Cook for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the clams open. Remove the pan from the heat and keep it covered while you prepare the fish.

Bring the shrimp broth to a gentle simmer in a large skillet. Add the fish, cover the pan, and cook at a gentle simmer until the fish is cooked through, 15 to 18 minutes. Add the zucchini, yellow squash, potatoes, and cherry tomatoes at the very end of the cooking time and simmer for 1 or 2 minutes, until the vegetables are al dente.

Use a slotted spoon to place a piece of fish and some of the vegetables in each of 6 rimmed soup plates or shallow bowls. Place 4 clams around the edge of the fish and spoon the hot broth over all. Top with a dollop of cilantro pesto.