Andrew and I returned last night from a ten day "road trip" up the northeast coast, with stops in Maine, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. We obviously did a lot of driving (about 2,500 miles all in). Before we left, I brooded over our driving itinerary, searching for shortcuts, stops we could possibly take out, anything to cut back on all that driving. But, as it turns out, the driving ended up being one of my most favorite parts of the trip. Once we got past Portland, Maine, we never once hit traffic and we mainly traveled on beautiful coastal roads.
Another highlight and focus of the trip was, of course, the food. We did have some killer fish n' chips, but for the most part we dined on fresh shellfish. Oysters, clams, mussels and of course, lobster. We did run into a few overcooked lobsters and a few "meh" oysters, but for the most part, we were not disappointed. And it was always fresh. Sometimes extraordinarily fresh. One of our favorite meals was at Carr's Oyster Bar in the tiny little fishing town of Stanley Bridge, Prince Edward Island. We sat outside on the deck overlooking the harbor and indulged in a lunch consisting of PEI mussels steamed in white wine and garlic (Andrew proclaimed them the best mussels he's ever had) and local oysters on the half shell (I proclaimed them the best raw oysters I've ever had). And when I say local, I mean the oysters were picked that morning from a spot in the harbor 200 yards from where we were sitting. Not bad, huh?
Another culinary highlight of the trip was in St. Andrews, New Brunswick. Upon discovering that our room at the lovely Harris Hatch Inn had a kitchenette and a private patio overlooking a garden, we made the quick decision to cook dinner and enjoy it al fresco. We took a walk into town and found a fish market on the water where we picked up a couple of local lobsters and steamers. On the way back we stopped by the town grocery store and picked up a few other things to make the meal complete. Since we didn't want to buy much more than we were going to use that night (we couldn't take anything with us), we took a minimalist approach. The meal was extremely simple and straightforward but wonderful none the less. And I can take almost no credit for its deliciousness, the outcome was almost solely dependent of the quality of the ingredients.
Our St. Andrews Simple Supper
2 lbs soft shelled steamer clams
pat of butter or splash of olive oil
a couple of garlic cloves, sliced
1/2 bottle of beer or 1/2 cup white white
bay leaf if you have 'em (we didn't)
1/2 stick melted butter
Heat the butter or olive oil in a pot and saute the garlic until fragrant. Add in the optional bay leaf, beer or white wine, and a few cups of water (no need to measure or be precise-- we're on vacation!) and bring to a boil. Add the clams, cover and steam until the clams have opened (it should take about 5-10 minutes). Serve with melted butter and lemon wedges.
2 1 1/2 lb lobsters
a few tablespoons salt
1/2 stick butter
a few lemon wedges
Bring a large pot of water and salt to a boil. Add the lobsters and cook for about 14 minutes (you want to figure 10 minutes for a 1 lb lobster and 2 minutes extra for every additional 1/4 lb). Serve with melted butter and the lemon wedges.
Garlicky String Beans
The grocery store we visited was carrying local New Brunswick string beans, which we thought would be a nice veggie component to the meal.
1/3 lb string beans, trimmed
2 tablespoons butter
a few garlic cloves, minced
salt & pepper to taste
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Blanch the string beans for 2-3 minutes (they should still be crisp). Drain the beans and run under cold water to stop the cooking process. Heat the butter in a skillet and saute the garlic until just fragrant. Add the sting beans and cook for another minute or so until they are heated. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Quick & Easy Orzo Salad
1/2 c. orzo
2 tablespoons butter
a couple of garlic cloves, minced
1/2 c. white wine
fresh herbs, chopped (we used basil)
salt & pepper to taste
Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Add the orzo and cook until al dente (reserving 1 cup of the starchy cooking liquid before draining). In the meantime, heat the butter in a large skillet and saute the garlic until fragrant. Add the white wine and reduce by 3/4. Add the cooked orzo, fresh herbs and some of the reserved pasta water if it looks a little dry (just be sure to add only a splash at a time). Season to taste with salt and pepper.
As you've probably already guessed, grated parmesan cheese would be fantastic on this pasta dish. We didn't use it because the store only had big chunks of parm (and we didn't even have a grater for that matter), but if you've got it, use it!