Undercook scrambled eggs, then nest into pastry

Put an egg on top, and the profile of just about any dish instantly and exponentially increases.

So proclaims a story in this week’s A la Carte. Similar logic would suggest that putting an egg inside a food item also heightens its appeal.

The theory certainly held true for a certain calzone that I enjoyed several times when Zoey’s Café inhabited the Shoppes at Exit 24. The café has long since decamped for Ashland, where it does a brisk business in “all-natural” ice cream. But I’ve been tempted recently to try my hand at “breakfast calzones.”

Keeping the eggs from overcooking is the trick, so a thinner pastry seems best in this case. The following “breakfast strudel” recipe calls for phyllo, rather than a heftier yeast dough. And because I typically keep both phyllo and home-smoked salmon in the freezer, these could be on our plates with little advance planning.

Smoked Salmon Breakfast Strudels

Tribune News Service photo

8 large eggs

2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided

8 sheets phyllo pastry

4 ounces smoked salmon, cut into thin strips or prices

1 tablespoon chopped chives

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

Lemon-Chive Sauce (recipe follows)

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, cream, salt, pepper and lemon juice until frothy.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the butter and swirl to coat pan. Pour in egg mixture and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring gently with a heatproof spatula, for about 2 minutes or until just set but surface is still shiny. Allow mixture to cool to just warm.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In small saucepan over low heat, melt remaining butter. Place the phyllo on work surface and cover with a slightly damp tea towel. Lay 1 sheet of phyllo on work surface with 1 short side facing you and brush lightly with melted butter. Place second sheet on top and brush with butter. Starting about 2 inches from short side of sheet closest to you, spoon one quarter of eggs in center in a 3-by-4-inch rectangle with 1 long side facing you.

Sprinkle one-quarter of the salmon on top of eggs and sprinkle with the chives and lemon zest. Starting at edge closest to you, fold pastry over filling. Fold both long sides toward center and brush surface lightly with butter. Fold up into a rectangular, loose packet. Don’t make it too tight, because eggs will puff up in oven. Place packet, seam-side down, on parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush strudel packets with more melted butter. Repeat to make 3 more strudels. At this point, strudels may be refrigerated for up to 12 hours.

Preheat the oven to 425 F. Bake strudels in preheated oven for about 15 minutes or until golden-brown. Serve strudels drizzled with Lemon-Chive Sauce or with sauce on the side. Serve over a bed of frisee, mixed baby greens or with tomato slices.

Makes 4 servings.

LEMON-CHIVE SAUCE: In a bowl, combine 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream with 1 teaspoon chopped, fresh chives and ½ teaspoon grated lemon zest. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight. While strudels are baking, pour cream mixture into a small saucepan and heat over medium-low heat, just until bubbles form around edge. Remove from heat. Whip 1/4 cup whipping cream until soft peaks form; whisk into hot cream mixture. Whisk in 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Adapted by Detroit Free Press from Food and Drink magazine.

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Rolls offset all-they-can-eat appetites for shrimp

Shrimp don’t need presentation as “popcorn” for my kids to consume them in massive quantities. Just a light sprinkle of salt and a bath in barely browned butter is all the ceremony required around shrimp.

The crustaceans have become one of the few foods to reliably find favor with my almost-4-year-old and 20-month-old. If I don’t have at least a pound on hand, my husband and I can hardly be guaranteed a few bites for ourselves.

Our most recent trip to a chain seafood restaurant saw my youngest son eating lobster swimming in cheese sauce from a spoon, followed by eight large-size, grilled shrimp, then any assorted scampi and fried shrimp that he could prize from my husband’s plate.

Because everything else around the shrimp is bound to be ignored, I usually don’t give much thought to accompaniment. Rice or polenta and steamed veggies or braised greens usually suffice for me and my husband.

But a new formula is in order, one that will enhance the illusion of a cohesive meal, rather than a motley assortment of whatever the kids will eat. These shrimp rolls are right up my husband’s alley, particularly with avocado. And deconstructed into its respective parts — roll, shrimp and sauce for dipping — the dish may even trick my boys into trying some cabbage.

Once the shrimp have disappeared.

Tribune News Service photo

Shrimp Rolls

In a medium bowl, combine 1/2 cup sour cream, juice of 1/2 lime, 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 2 drops hot sauce.

In a skillet over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Add 2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced, and 1/4 teaspoon crushed red-pepper flakes; cook until garlic is soft, for about 1 minute. Increase heat to medium-high; add 1/2 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring, until shrimp are just pink, for 3 minutes.

Spread 4 toasted sandwich rolls with sour cream mixture; layer with chopped cabbage, shrimp and avocado slices. Makes 4 servings.

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Pass up power bars for homemade energy bites

Frigid weather and the region’s related power outages have me thinking about nutrient-dense foods that can be kept on hand in the case of emergencies, stashed in the car or tossed into a backpack.

Better than commercially made “power bars” are homemade “energy bites.” A scaled-down version of grab-and-go snacks, energy bites are popping up at coffee shops, juice bars, artisan bakeries, online recipe sites and social media such as Pinterest.

Like the oatmeal bars featured in this blog’s previous post, this recipe from the Kansas City Star would be another fast fueling option for athletes. And a batch will keep for weeks in the refrigerator or transferred to resealable plastic bags and frozen for up to three months. Or in this weather, just plop them on the back porch.

Tribune News Service photo

Energy Bites

1 cup pitted, dried dates (such as Medjool)

1 (6-ounce) package dried apricots, about 1 cup

1 cup pecan halves or chopped pecans, toasted (see note)

1 tablespoon honey

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)

1/2 cup finely chopped nuts or shredded sweet coconut (optional)

Place the dates, apricots and pecans in bowl of a food processor. Process until finely chopped. Add the honey and cinnamon, if using, and pulse to combine.

Use a heaping tablespoon to form mixture into approximately 16 balls. Use your hands to roll balls and make solid.

If desired, roll balls in more chopped nuts or the shredded coconut.

If not serving immediately, refrigerate. These can be enjoyed straight from refrigerator or allowed to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Makes 16 balls.

NOTE: To toast nuts, preheat oven to 350 F. Spread nuts in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven for 5 to 7 minutes or until lightly toasted.

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Chocolately cookie bars refuel athletes of all ages

Chocolate was a recurring theme of interviews for a story on runners’ nutrition in this month’s Oregon Healthy Living.

Compared with regular milk, chocolate milk provides practically the perfect ratio of carbs, protein and fat, according to sources cited in the article. A recipe for homemade energy bars, courtesy of local sports dietitian Annie Behrend, also can incorporate chocolate chips.

A cross between a cookie and an energy bar, the following recipe from Tribune News Service contains some of the more typical ingredients in baking — flour, vanilla extract and baking powder and soda — in addition to the nut butter and liquid sweetener in Behrend’s bars. Perhaps predictably, they’re billed as perfect for school-age athletes (and parents) on the go.

Tribune News Service photo

Peanut Butter-Chocolate Chip-Oatmeal Bars

Cooking spray, as needed

1 cup creamy peanut butter

1/3 cup honey or maple syrup

1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup white whole-wheat or all-purpose flour

1 cup rolled oats

1/4 cup milk

1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line an 8-by-8-inch baking dish with parchment paper so some overhangs sides like “handles,” then lightly coat paper with some of the cooking spray. Set aside.

With an electric mixer in a large mixing bowl or in bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat together the peanut butter, honey, applesauce and vanilla extract until smooth and evenly combined, about 3 minutes. Beat in the salt.

Sprinkle the cinnamon, baking powder and baking soda over top. Then, sprinkle in the flour and oats. Beat until combined and batter comes together.

With mixer running on low speed, drizzle in the milk and continue beating until incorporated. Batter will be very thick. With a wooden spoon or spatula, fold in the chocolate chips.

Once dough is well-combined, scrape it into prepared baking dish. Then press top to make it even.

Bake in preheated oven for 16 to 19 minutes, until bars are lightly golden and just set. (Test kitchen bars took about 22 minutes, and were still fairly gooey in a good way.) Allow to cool completely, remove from pan using parchment-paper overhang, then slice.

Makes 16 bars.

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Fermented foods are traditional and on trend

Food-trend forecasts aren’t all about the next superfood, ethnic-cuisine craze or unexpected pairings, such as salted sweets or savory desserts. Sometimes, the industry’s most informed players can agree on the staying power of dishes steeped in tradition and comfort foods in general.

Count all things fermented in that category, according to recent stories by the Sacramento Bee. This week’s A la Carte couched fermented foods in the context of a huge — and hugely popular — Korean grocer in Rancho Cordova, Calif., that caters to its target customers’ penchant for all things funky, sour, pungent and awash in beneficial microbes.

The story included recipes using the Korean version of sauerkraut, kimchi, and a food rarely identified by the masses as fermented: chocolate. But while a tangy crème fraiche topping was suggested for decadent chocolate pots de crème, the actual recipe assumes cooks would simply purchase somewhat costly crème fraiche.

Tribune News Service photo

As this blog pointed out in 2008, crème fraiche is simply a matter of stirring together buttermilk and cream in the correct proportions and leaving it to ferment at temperatures hospitable to the all-too-important bacterial culture. Here are more in-depth instructions, courtesy of the Detroit Free Press.

In a glass jar, stir together 1 cup heavy whipping cream (not ultra-pasteurized) and 2 tablespoons buttermilk. Cover with a lid and shake it. (If you want sweetened cream, add 1 to 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar and shake it.) Set aside at room temperature for 8 to 24 hours or until thickened.

There’s no concern leaving it out at room temperature because bacteria in the buttermilk has a pH level that prevents it from developing any bad bacteria. Once mixture is thickened similar to sour cream, give it a stir, cover with a lid again and refrigerate. You can keep it for about 10 days in the refrigerator.

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2016: These recipes review the year in my kitchen

The past year’s progress came both in huge leaps and literal baby steps.

Once my younger son, now 19 months, could feed himself, I found myself each day with an extra hour, some of which I used to experiment in the kitchen and to plan more frugal, healthful meals. Dispatching our holiday leftovers engendered a new dish this week that’s bound to become a family favorite: white lasagna with ham, spinach and mushrooms.

Planning in my own kitchen gave me the confidence to construct a cooking class in partnership with ACCESS for subscribers to local community-supported agriculture programs, explained in a previous post. Offering the monthly sessions for five months during the growing season wasn’t without its challenges. But the food never suffered despite some equipment failures and fatigue from heavy lifting.

One of the class dishes, zucchini fritters, was an 11th-hour substitution after plans A and B both fell through. And it was a surprise hit, albeit adapted from the recipe posted earlier that day to this blog. Lacking feta cheese and fresh dill and mint, we substituted Monterey jack and red-pepper flakes and cumin seeds.

Although recipes are this blog’s stock in trade, adaptations are my way of navigating the practicalities of seasonality, budget-wise cooking and abundance — or shortfalls — in my pantry. It’s how real cooks cook. And while I prepared about a dozen new recipes before or after blogging about them, only one or two were followed to the letter.

So here is my look back at 2016 in recipes, some with additional commentary and photos.

Coriander-Coconut Braised Ribs: It’s cold enough to revisit this sweet, savory, spicy recipe that warmed us last February. My adaptations already have been explained at length in the original post. The next substitution is lamb ribs from my freezer.

Ultimate ‘Heart Smart’ Chocolate Chip Cookie: The holidays left us with a half-pound of cream cheese and several sizes and colors of chocolate chips. Having some key ingredients for this recipe on hand may prompt me to mix up a batch of dough and stash them in the freezer for our next cookie craving. The “heart smart” reputation of these cookies comes from transfat-free margarine. As I explained in the original post, stick with butter and increase the baking time by a couple of minutes.

Sarah Lemon photo

Ginger-Scallion Sauce: This recipe is my new addiction. When my garden had a surplus of scallions, cucumbers and chilies, I was preparing this sauce for fresh Chinese-style wheat noodles at least once a week. Ultimately, I beefed it up into a hearty main dish with toasted cashews and a Chinese-style omelet sliced into spirals, all seasoned with lots of fish sauce. Now that the scallion harvest has tapered off, I’m loathe to leave the dish out of my repertoire but can’t wait for spring’s fresh inspiration.

Sarah Lemon photo

Egg-topped cornmeal waffles: Spring was the impetus for topping savory waffles with poached eggs. Just as the original post suggested several variations, I tried them with bacon and homemade tomato chutney and smoked salmon and sautéed asparagus. I’m anticipating adding fresh, grilled corn this summer and garden tomatoes.

Muesli: Eggs most often factor into my dinnertime dishes. A boon to this year’s breakfast lineup was muesli. I’ve enjoyed this cereal many times over the years but had never seen fit to mix up a batch and portion it out each night with milk for the next morning. My personal favorite combination is rolled oats and barley, chia seeds, dried cherries, toasted almonds and coconut. It replaced my beloved steel-cut oats, which I lack time these days to make fresh each morning and just can’t conscience par-cooking.

Sarah Lemon photo

Crisp Endive: Another substitute for yet another beloved dish arose from searing and braising Belgian endive like fennel. The original post explained my additions.

Sarah Lemon photo

Lamb and Phyllo Cigars: File this one under “awesome.” My mom spearheaded their manufacture with ground lamb she had on hand after I mentioned the recipe. The ingredients yield 21 cigars, of which I easily could have eaten half. Their appeal was confirmed, surprisingly, by my dad, who isn’t particularly keen on lamb and also suspicious of sweet spices in savory dishes. We’re already allotting some of this year’s pasture-raised lamb to another batch and should expand that to several, including some to freeze.

Sarah Lemon photo

Raspberry Cheesecake Bars: Backyard blackberries constituted my first foray with this recipe, adapted to a tart pan with removable bottom. I was such a fan of the crust that my mind started spinning into all the other directions I could take it. A pecan version became the base for a salted caramel-pumpkin tart for Thanksgiving. And I vowed the holidays wouldn’t pass before I shifted the recipe once more in a savory direction: walnut-black pepper crust with blue cheese filling and cranberry or huckleberry coulis.

Chana Masala: This is another foundational dish with infinite variations. To the chickpeas, I added butternut squash and curry paste (not powder) this past month and wowed dinner guests on more than one occasion. I flavored my basmati rice with orange rind, bay leaf, cloves and cinnamon. On the side, I served braised, vinegary collard greens.

Sarah Lemon photo

Pot Stickers: The original post called for turkey in this dumpling’s filling. But I made them with leftover Christmas duck, fried them in duck fat and braised them in duck stock. As my husband and I tucked in, we agreed that we’d be very pleased with this plate of food in a restaurant setting. Even more so at home before a roaring fire.

Best wishes for 2017 and bon appetit.

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Wrap up holiday leftovers in dumpling dough

Another holiday has past, and another pot of stock is simmering on the stove.

This time it’s duck, the remnants of one of two birds prepared on our pellet smoker for the Christmas feast. Our Thanksgiving turkey received the same treatment to our family’s very vocal appreciation.

Like the turkey, and just about any bundle of bones picked not-quite-clean in our kitchen, the duck will be stretched over another few meals. Soup of some variety is an obvious end point, particularly because the bits of meat, while tasty, aren’t so suited texturally for a dish that doesn’t rely on lots of liquid or sauce. Don’t get me wrong: I love little bits of boiled meat with the chewy cartilage still clinging to them. But my family doesn’t so much. Adapting one of our typical meals — tacos, chef salads, pasta, quiche — to my culinary salvage would warrant a lukewarm response.

Then I saw this Detroit Free Press recipe for pan-fried pot stickers, where the stringiness of poached poultry would be overlooked in a fine dice, mingled with some crunchy elements and encapsulated in tender dough. I often keep commercially prepared wonton skins on hand, using them for ravioli, too. But I’ve never thought to consign some of our holiday leftovers to the filling.

Duck would be an effortless substitution for the turkey and should yield a more delicate dumpling.

Tribune News Service photo

Pan-Fried Turkey Pot Stickers With Asian Dipping Sauce

1/2 pound finely chopped leftover cooked turkey

2 tablespoons finely minced carrots

2 tablespoons finely minced scallions, plus more for garnish

1 teaspoon peeled and minced, fresh ginger

1 egg white beaten

2 tablespoons oyster sauce

1/4 teaspoon sesame oil

36 wonton skins

1/2 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce (at least 50 percent less sodium)

1 tablespoon rice vinegar or white vinegar

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon chili paste (sambal oelek), or to taste

1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon fish sauce

1 to 2 tablespoons of canola oil

1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth or water, divided

Chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish

In a medium bowl, combine the turkey, carrots, scallions, ginger, egg white, oyster sauce and sesame oil.

Have ready a small bowl of water and a brush. Working with 6 wontons at a time, set out squares on a work surface.

Place about 2 teaspoons turkey mixture just slightly above center of wonton. Moisten corners. Fold over in a triangle, sealing edges. Grab 2 corners at long edge and bottom and turn them toward center to meet. Alternatively, place a wonton wrapper in palm of your hand, add filling and moisten edges. Bring sides up over filling and twist, forming a little pouch.

In a small saucepan, combine the soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, chili paste, garlic and fish sauce; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and keep warm. Taste sauce and adjust seasonings to your desired level of spiciness.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat a small amount of the canola oil over medium heat. Working in batches, add half of wontons and cook until bottoms are slightly browned. Add 1/2 cup of the chicken broth, cover with a lid and cook for 8 minutes. Remove pot stickers to a platter; cover to keep them warm. Repeat with remaining wontons.

Using a shallow bowl or serving plate, pool desired amount of sauce on bottom and place wontons in sauce. Garnish with more chopped scallions and cilantro.

Makes about 36 (4 servings).

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Sip spiced turmeric lattes for a trendy health tonic

The lull between Christmas and New Year’s celebrations ideally is a time to rest and reflect.

There’s also no better time to set aside some of the season’s excesses, for a few days at least. Caffeine to keep us going through all the shopping and decorating, along with alcohol as a feasting companion, takes the inevitable toll after a month.

Some of us attempt to ward off illness and fatigue with more dietary supplements, including the turmeric pills that one of my friends touts. Trading tips for surviving cold and flu season with school-age kids, I told him about fresh turmeric root I recently purchased at Shop’n Kart in Ashland.

Similar in appearance to fresh ginger, only with a bright-orange color, fresh turmeric can be used much like the former. Prescribed for millennia in India as a panacea for practically any ailment, turmeric imparts an astringently bitter note similar to ginger’s. I recently added a few slices to my duck stock simmering with whole cloves, allspice and star anise.

The trend of fresh turmeric in juices and smoothies has even been co-opted by the coffee craze. Popular in Australia, London and in some parts of the West Coast, turmeric lattes are replacing gingerbread lattes and peppermint mochas as the season’s must-have drink. For a caffeine-free version, skip the espresso in this recipe and add two more ounces of almond milk.

If you don’t have a juicer, suggested by Tribune News Service, grate whole, peeled turmeric root into a cheesecloth or thin dishtowel; squeeze to extract the juice.

Tribune News Service

Turmeric Latte

10 ounces almond milk

1 1/2 ounces fresh turmeric juice

1 teaspoon honey, or more for desired sweetness

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Pinch black pepper

Pinch nutmeg

2 shots espresso

Steam the almond milk using a milk frothing wand, or heat in a small saucepan.

Add the turmeric juice, honey and spices; gently stir to combine. Pour over two shots of hot espresso.

Makes 1 serving.

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Simple flavors, less cooking de-stresses holiday

“Simplify, simplify, simplify.” I’ve tried to adopt as a holiday mantra this sentiment of American sage Henry David Thoreau.

The enthusiasm of young children, admittedly, quickly turns to expectations, not all of them realistic. The official word from the North Pole, according to our family, is that Santa’s sleigh has space for just one gift per child.

As we’ve made more space for guests around our holiday table, I’ve resisted the urge to pile on effort in the kitchen. I chose one more vegetable and fruit for each of the side salads. I plucked another duck from the freezer section. Cooking just one bird, after all, is practically wasted in an outdoor pellet smoker.

Regarding recipes, there are none. A basic menu of uncomplicated flavors is harder to mess up than ambitious dishes prepared just once or twice a year. A flavor profile has yet to emerge for the duck, but 5 pounds of mandarin oranges laid in for stocking stuffers are bound to play a role.

Similarly, my husband had vague notions of what to serve for an appetizer. “Something delicious I can do on the smoker” is pretty open-ended. Jalapeno poppers already made an appearance for Thanksgiving. And we don’t really need a bacon-laden starter if we transfer a ham from freezer to Crock Pot for a main dish.

Homemade pesto already had popped up on my radar as a good candidate for gift-giving. And we certainly have enough in the freezer to impart a pop of color and flavor to practically any appetizer. Combined with some cream cheese and stuffed into mushroom caps roasted on the smoker, the pesto will cut our hands-on time to mere minutes.

Here’s another use for pesto gleaned from Tribune News Service’s recent “no-more-than-five-ingredient holiday finger foods.” The one also makes a fast, light meal.

Spread about a tablespoon of pesto on a tortilla. Sprinkle crumbled, cooked, hot Italian sausage on the pesto, then add a layer of mozzarella and thinly sliced red onion on top. Place the tortilla on a medium hot skillet or griddle; cook until the cheese is melted. Fold one side of the tortilla over, then transfer to a cutting board. After the quesadilla has cooled a minute or two, slice and serve hot with warmed marinara sauce.

For no-cook bites that can look and taste like they took all day, choose crostini. Start with a fresh baguette cut into 1/4- to 1/2-inch thick slices as ingredient number one; if you have a few extra minutes, toast the slices. Top with your favorite two- to four-ingredient combinations: cranberry chutney or fig jam with blue cheese; Manchego and Serrano ham; roast beef and brie; and butter topped with thinly sliced radishes and sea salt.

Because starches seem to pile up around the holidays, it’s nice to consider a gluten-free appetizer option, particularly prized by guests with special diets. Homemade cheese crisps are lovely with some roasted nuts, an elegance that belies the simplicity of their preparation. This version, courtesy of Tribune News Service, is less salty than Parmesan crisps (also known as “frico”) with a nice heat from the pepper jack.

Tribune News Service photo

Parmesan-Pepper Jack Cheese Crisps

1 cup shredded pepper jack cheese

1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Heat oven to 400 F. Combine the cheeses, then form into roughly 2-inch circles on 2 baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake in preheated oven for 6 to 8 minutes or until edges are golden-brown. Let cool to room temperature before serving.

Makes 20 to 24 crisps.

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Christmas Eve seafood stews are widely savored

Browsing photos recently posted on a friend’s Facebook page, I was transported straight back to childhood and holiday evenings around a steaming pot of clam chowder.

My family’s Christmas Eve tradition owed much to my grandpa’s penchant for digging clams around Coos Bay. So successful in this pastime, my grandpa pressure-canned whatever clams couldn’t be consumed fresh.

I still pine for those jars packed with painstakingly cleaned chunks of horseneck clams, sweet and meaty in a briny juice that imparted impeccable flavor to the chowder. They’ve become even more precious in my memory since my grandpa’s death two years ago. A 2007 post reminisced about chowder and our clam-digging days of yore.

The closest substitute, without returning to my grandpa’s favorite clamming beds, would be fresh butter clams I spied last summer at a Coos Bay fish market. Frozen razor clams from Alaska could be a close second. Commercially chopped and canned clams just don’t do my favorite chowder justice. Nor do steamers in the shell.

Easier to obtain in the Rogue Valley for Christmas Eve supper is flash-frozen white fish. Combining numerous aquatic species in seafood stew is traditional in counties that celebrate Christmas. A version is featured in this week’s A la Carte.

This one from the Chicago Tribune is a pared-down iteration of French bouillabaise, one of my husband’s favorites, particularly with aioli. A special occasion certainly warrants making the garlicky condiment from scratch, rather than with prepared mayonnaise, as I most often do.

Tribune News Service photo

Simple Fish Stew

1 pound rock fish fillet (or other firm white fish), skin and bones removed, sliced into 2-inch square chunks

1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided

1 fat pinch saffron threads

1 cup fish or chicken broth

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 leek, white and pale-green portion sliced into matchsticks

1 fennel bulb, halved and thinly sliced (chop and reserve 2 tablespoons fronds)

1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

1 cup canned tomatoes

1 cup dry white wine

Aioli, recipe follows

4 thick slices French bread, toasted

Toss fish ks with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper. Chill.

Crumble the saffron into the broth and set aside.

In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium. Add the leeks and fennel. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper and the cayenne. Cook until soft and fragrant, for about 12 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes. Cook until mixture thickens, for about 8 minutes. Stir in the broth and wine. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for 5 minutes.

Add the fish. Cook until just done, for about 5 minutes. Pull pan off heat. Stir in 1 to 2 tablespoons of the aioli.

Scoop stew into 2 bowls. Sprinkle with the fennel fronds. Serve with the toasted bread and more aioli.

Makes 2 servings.

AIOLI: Crack 1 egg into bowl of a food processor fitted with a plastic blade. Pull out any green shoots from 2 cloves garlic; mash with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Add to egg, along with 2 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice. Swirl for about 15 seconds. With machine running, slowly — at first drop by drop, then in a thin stream — drizzle in 1/2 cup canola oil and 1/4 cup olive oil. Scrape into a glass jar and chill.

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    Sarah Lemon

    Sarah Lemon covers the Rogue Valley’s food scene with an enthusiasm that rivals her love of cooking. Her blog mixes culinary musings and milestones with tips and recipes you won’t find in the Mail Tribune’s weekly A la Carte section. When ... Read Full
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