You may have noticed a lack of post on Friday…or not. I was super burnt out by the end of last week and could not bring myself to even log onto a computer most of this weekend. Highly unusual for someone who thinks her belly button would function nicely as an usb port and actually a little worrisome. Basically I need to focus on my apartment hunting with reckless abandon because this commute cannot go on much longer for someone as hyperactive as me. It just can’t.
Continuing with my “break the chain” mode I’m in at the moment, today’s recipe will NOT be a muffin.
**Gasp** No muffin you say? What in the world can preempt the most simple to make, fast to bake, idiot proof quick bread around? No one thing can possibly be that important. Okay that last bit is a bit much don’t you think? Anyway regardless it’s not just one thing: it’s National Lager Day and a big batch of clams. Delicious, lager steamed clams to celebrate America’s favorite beer. Now it all makes sense doesn’t it?
As I am sure I’ve mentioned in the past, I’m not really a big lager fan. I prefer ales—specifically ales of the dark and nutty variety. Still a good lager can have its place on the table or even better yet, in the kitchen, where you actually will have need of the subtler, less yeasty drink. Like say when you are cooking a delicate yet flavorful shellfish that needs to be complemented but not overshadowed.
So here are some quick and dirty facts about Lager. I should give it a proper once over as part of my beer series but like I said, there’s a reckless abandon with which I’m doing my apartment search that is limiting how much time I have to spend on these posts for the near future. I’ll do my best to make it up to the brew (and you!) in the future:
- America’s most popular beers (Miller and Bud) are both lagers and have a high “drinkability” score. Drinkability refers to how easy it is to get a consumer to have more than one beer. Lagers in general will rank higher on drinkability because their less aggressive flavor, and in the case of cheap lagers “wateriness”, makes them easier on the stomach. An extreme opposing example would be Guinness—a very dark ale that is extremely filling. You wouldn’t play beer point with Guinness, or shouldn’t as I learned the hard way back in my college days. Drinkability is a great way for companies to create a product which they can sell a lot of at a cheaper price hence the great success of Bud and Budlight.
- Lagers are bottom fermenting beers. This means that the yeast sits at the bottom of the tank, rather than the top, while it does its business. Lagers also use a different strain of yeast than ales. Ales are traditionally brewed with the baker’s yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Lagers are brewed with Saccharomyces pastorianus. It’s not hard to remember the name of this yeast when you also know that lager is a bottom fermenter. Har Har potty humor Har. This is just the basic though as yeast strains are often toyed with for beer production and in fact, guarded quite closely. In another post I’ll get into yeast science a bit more for you.
- Dark lagers do exist, are more like their bitter ale cousins and are a bit more popular in Germany than here. If you want to sample one of these varieties try picking up a Dunkel or a Schwarzbeir – meaning black beer.
- Lagers are subtler in their yeast flavor and are fermented at lower temperatures for longer periods of time. What’s the benefit to this longer, colder fermentation? An increase in shelf life time which, coupled with Drinkability scores, is what makes Anheuser-Busch(and Inbev) both brilliant and rich! It’s also why you can get your 36 pack for the house party much cheaper when it’s a mass produced lager than artisanal small ales.
The lager I used in my recipe this week is NOT produce by the mega-conglomerate that currently owns the majority of brewhouses in the world. Since I wanted to go with a New England vibe for the clams I opted for a classic staple lager that you don’t really find in this country outside of states bordering Canada’s eastern seaboard: Moosehead Lager. *Note you are required to be able to say you are 21 to enter that website*
Moosehead is a beer I distinctly remembered my mother drinking when we lived in Maine oh all those years back when I was a wee lass of 5. It’s the product of Canada’s oldest independent brewery and still operated by the same family today. That might have nothing to do really with the quality of the beer but I have to say, drinking something with that kind of family history really lends a pleasant nostalgia experience to your consumption. At least I think it does. Dining is quite different from eating and I’ve found that stories that invoke small town, family hearth kind of feelings really add to the enjoyment of the dining experience for a lot of people. Food is such an intimate thing—after all how often do we describe it as “made with love”—and so providing that element to the experience really does seem to enhance it. I do think it’s a superior product to the blue can stuff so I ran with it and this was my resulting meal. If you can’t find Moosehead, don’t despair, any lager will do really. The whole point is to lend the flavor of beer without making the dish taste like beer. You really want the clams to sing in this dish.
Moosehead Lager Steamed Clams
An Olivia Original
- 2lb littleneck clams (preferred but any clam will do)
- 12oz Moosehead lager
- 1 Tbsp finely minced shallot
- 4 Tbsp butter
- 2 Tbsp chopped parsley
Scrub all your clams and be sure to remove any sand, grit and beards left behind. Nothing worse than biting into a sandy clam.
In a large stock pot add your butter and shallot over medium heat. Sweat and bring out that translucent delicious color of the shallots—approximately 8 minutes. Pour in your lager, clams and chopped parsley and bring the liquid to a boil. Cover the pot with a tight fitting lid and reduce to simmer for about 5-10 minutes.
Clams are small and delicate—they will cook quickly and become like rubber if you don’t watch it. Once the majority of your clams have opened remove them from the heat. A few may still be closed…toss them! Those were dead clams and you do not want to pry them open to eat them. Dead clams = bad bugs. I usually find 2 to 5 in every batch. If you have significantly more than a handful of closed clams, you might not have let them cook long enough. Add the closed ones back into the pot and give them another 5 minutes. Not opening still? Bad luck. Toss them.
Serve with the remainder of the liquid and some extra chopped parsley for presentation. Grate some lemon zest on top if you are feeling citrusy today and sop up any extra sauce with a giant slice of Anadama bread to make it a real New England style feast.
See I told you it was worth giving up muffins for.