Steamed Littleneck Clams with Chorizo

MVOysters_KatamaBaySeaWater©JustinWalker Turbulent Sea or Angry Ocean; the Nor’easter off of Martha’s Vineyard.

130312_Neptune_Littlenecks_©JustinWalkerSteamed Littleneck clams w/ Chorizo from Neptune Oyster in Boston, MA. From Chef Michael Serpa.

MVOysters_OldOakTree©JustinWalkerThe Historic Old Oak tree is one of the oldest trees on Martha’s Vineyard.

MVOysters_JackBlake©JustinWalker(Above) Oysterman and owner of Sweet Neck Farm, Jack Blake.  He runs Sweet Neck Farm with his wife Sue Blake. 

(Below) Sweet Neck Farm Oysters after being cleaned of their barnacle growth. The oysters are put in a cylindrical cage and then turned to chip away the small amount of the newest growth to the shell. Somewhat like pruning trees, this process helps promote healthy shell growth, and stylize a ideal cup shape. These oyster shells are then put back in their cages, and dropped back into the ocean to continue to grow long after the process.


Justin Walker, photographer, and contributor to my blog, is a beautiful fine art photographer, but he’s not slouch in the commercial arena either, having just completed the wildly successful food campaign.

Here, he writes about his recent trip to Maine.

They call Jack Blake “The Godfather” in Martha’s Vineyard.  Fifteen years ago he brought some of the first oysters to Katama Bay, and has since perfected and helped revolutionize one of the newest industries on the sea: farming. Though an oyster needs an estuary to reproduce naturally, they can be grown from seeds on small farms off-shore. “People call all the time trying to sell me farm equipment, and such,” says Jack, “…its not what most people are used to calling a farm.”

Jack Blake’s Sweet Neck Farm produces such a high quality of product that it rarely leaves the island of Martha’s Vineyard, with the exception of some of the finest oyster bars up the East Coast. Neptune Oyster in Boston, MA is one of those establishments where Chef Michael Serpa serves up Katama Bay’s best. Neptune Oyster works closely with many seafood producers and sources Striped Bass , Monk Fish and Littleneck clams, almost entirely on a local level.


This recipe is courtesy of Chef Michael Serpa at Neptune Oyster in Boston, MA. The recipe is really simple, and minus the garlic paste, it takes just 5 minutes to make. 

12 littleneck or countneck clams
( 2 inches across)
Sliced hot Spanish chorizo, about 12 thin slices
1 TB Roasted garlic purée
(slow roast garlic cloves in a little bit of oil for about 3 hours in a 325 degree oven, then when browned and tender, purée with the oil)
2TB butter
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup clam stock or water
Pinch of parsley in julienne 

 In a sauté pan, add chorizo and butter, when the chorizo starts to release oils and toast a bit, add garlic purée, cook for about 15 to 20 seconds then add clams, wine, and stock.  Cover. As the clams open take them out.  When all clams are done, add parsley.  Pour broth on top.  Eat, preferably with bread. 


JUSTIN WALKER: is a commercial and fine-art photographer based in Brooklyn, NY. He specializes in food, travel, and still-life photography. A native to Durango, Colorado, he grew up camping, rock climbing, snowboarding, and spending most waking hours outside. His childhood always involved some family adventure in the making; from commercial salmon and halibut fishing in Alaska, to ranching and hunting in southwestern Colorado. A background in graphic design, his work encompasses the same clean cut, graphic aesthetic that is typical of his photographic style. Check out his website here. 

CHEF MICHAEL SERPA: Was born in Reading, PA into a family of Cuban chefs. He started young (12 years old) at his dad’s restaurant in Miami in the Summers. He has been at the restaurant Neptune Oyster the last 4 1/2 as Executive Chef, which is a tiny 37 seat French Bistro that mated with a New England Clam Shack. His favorite dishes to eat are simple things like oysters, whole fish, classic steak tartare, frisée aux lardons, and roasted duck. He loves Colombian food (his wife is Colombian), as well as Chilled Spicy pigs ears and anything with broth in Chinatown. He likes to cook striped bass when he has it on the menu, it cooks so well in a heavy black steel pan. Check out Neptune Oyster here. 




A (Pre-Hurricane) Fall Dinner, in the Country

Cheese, and Pickled Garlic Scapes

Tucked under the eve of the house, light fading, and amid swirling winds from the on-coming Hurricane, we set up our Fall feast.

Black Kale (Cavalo Nero) in Anchovy Sauce with Crunchy Breadcrumbs

Cheeses, Pickled Garlic Scapes, Cocoa Pears Chips, Whole Cracked Walnuts.

Dry-Brined Roast Chicken with Lemon, Garlic and Shallots

Scott Peacock’s Classic Buttermilk Biscuits

Luscious Walnut Caramel Tart and (below) Rustic Apple Tart

Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson


The day before Hurricane Sandy, we all went up to the country, and we brought along gifts.

The countryside’s haunting, unassuming beauty always surprises me, and while there is nothing wrong with the city, in the country I can breathe easier, there’s a slower pace, and I can stop, take a moment, and not rush at all.

Kaitlyn Du Ross brought up a stack of beautiful linens, some knitted throws, and her squat, fawn-colored dishes, overflowed. Anna Helm Baxter and I drove up with the food. Her lemon-y, crunchy, roasted chicken was perfect, my sweet potato anna set the oven on fire.

I’d pickled some eggs, too, in ruby-red beet juice, and Anna had made us two pies; a tart, choc-full of walnuts buried deep in a hot caramel sauce and an apple pie, rustic-style, with a free-from dough.

I made biscuits using Scott Peacock’s recipe from Kim Severson. The dough was flaky, light. The secret is stabbing it with a flour-dipped fork, repeatedly. Funnily enough that’s what makes it rise. In my first batch, I didn’t do it, and they were flat, and tough, like circular hockey pucks.

Photographer Justin Walker bought his camera and his axe, and proceeded to make light work of the boughs, and tree limbs that ended up in short stacked little logs. As the winds started to swirl, from the much-to-close Hurricane, Kaitlyn donned a wintery sweater, Justin pulled out a deck of cards and Anna emerged with her feast, and we hunkered down, to eat, almost holding our breaths, waiting for what surely was to come…


Cheeses, Pickled Garlic Scapes, Cocoa Pears Chips, Whole Cracked Walnuts.
Dry-Brined Roast Chicken with Lemon, Garlic and Shallots
Sweet Potato Anna with Port-Soaked Prunes
Black Kale (Cavalo Nero) in Anchovy Sauce with Crunchy Breadcrumbs
Scott Peacock’s Classic Buttermilk Biscuits
Rustic Apple Tart
Walnut Caramel Tart.

From Rivka, at, click here to get recipe

From MRSP, at, click here to get recipe

From Kim Severson, click here to get the recipe.

An ingenious idea: “Dry-brining” gives the chicken maximum flavor. From Anna Helm Baxter

“The chicken I added kosher salt (maybe 4 TBSP) and rubbed all over placed in a ziplock for 24 hours. I then dry off the chicken with paper towel and rubbed with softenened butter all over. I re-seasoned, stuffed it with rosemary, thyme, lemon and garlic cloves cut in half through the equator and cooked at 425F for 1 hour, until golden and the juices run clear when a skewer pokes into the thigh.”

Originally from Mary Cadogan at BBC’s Good Food, adapted by Anna Helm Baxter.

6oz plain flour
3oz butter, cut into small cubes
2oz caster sugar
1 egg yolk
7oz caster sugar
4oz butter, cut into small pieces
7fl oz whipping cream
7oz shelled walnut halves

Heat oven to 375F. Put the flour in a food processor with the butter and sugar and mix until it forms fine breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolk and 1-2 Tbsp cold water and pulse to make a firm dough. Refrigerate for a minimum of 30 minutes.

Have ready a pie dish. Briefly knead the pastry on a lightly floured surface, then roll out to a round about 2 inches larger than your pie pan. Lift on to the pan with the help of your rolling pin, then press into the corners using your finger. Trim and shape dough. Chill for 30 minutes

Fill the pastry case with a round of parchment and baking beans. Blind-bake for 10 minutes, remove the paper and beans and bake for a further 5-10 minutes until the crust looks dry and is very slightly golden.

To make the filling, put the sugar in a large pan with 3 Tbsp cold water. Heat gently, stirring to dissolve the sugar. When the sugar is completely dissolved, increase heat and bubble until the syrup has turned a rich caramel color. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter until it has dissolved, then stir in the cream. Return to the heat and boil hard, stirring until the sauce is thick enough to leave a gap on the base of the pan when you draw your spoon across it. Stir in the walnuts.

Fill the pastry case with the nut mixture, leveling it with a fork. Return to the oven for 8-10 minutes until the filling is bubbling. Allow to cool.


Photographs: Justin Walker
Prop Styling: Kaitlyn Du Ross
Food Stylng: Anna Helm Baxter
(Art Direction: Dimity Jones)

Who you calling a Samurai Mama?

From top: (1) Appetizers: Country style Kabocha (Japanese pumpkin and shitake mushrooms simmered in a vegetable dashi broth), Pork Belly Daikon (cooked pork belly with Mirin soy sauce), Tsukemono (assorted homemade pickles). (2) Chef Shige, (3) Ebi Tempura Udon (Udon with shrimp tempura), (4) Kitchen knives, etc. (5) Kinpira (cooked Burdock root, carrots with Sesame Oil and Soy Sauce, (6) Table setting, (7) Udon Sansai (Udon with edible Japanese wild plants and their housemade dashi (broth)). 


Chef and owner Makoto Suzuki is surprising. At first he’s a little wary. Then he arms burst open and gives you an bear-like hug, then he’s on the phone, checking in politely with a vendor to make sure everything will be delivered Ok, then his eyes light up as he tells you about his unique Japanese water system. (Kaiki Water), and how passionate he is about making his Dashi (soup broth), from scratch.

But let’s get back to the water system, because when you walk into Samurai Mama, on Grand Street in Williamsburg you suspect that there will be sushi, and possibly imported beer, but you do not suspect that the only water you will drink, and the only water that goes into his much coveted Udon soup comes from a filtration system imported from Japan, and is the purest, cleanest water you will ever try in New York.

The restaurant opened in 2010, which as Makoto points out is 150 years from when the Samurai first came to New York. To that end, he’s tried to keep the restaurant unaffected by Japanese paraphernalia. There are no typical Japanese screens, no fish tanks, waterfalls or walls that house any embroidered, ceremonial kimono’s. The space feels industrial. “Like the first samurai,” he says,”they brought nothing with them from Japan, so I wanted to emulate how they would have set up a restaurant 150 years ago, with just themselves.” The place is wonderfully low-lit, but if your capable of feeling your way around with some chopsticks you can dig into some of the best Udon around.

It’s his handmade dashi and the chemical-free filtered water that make the difference. Each region in Japan has a unique recipe for their Udon. Some prefer a thicker noodle, and each place has a different broth. Makoto’s wife Kanako went to udon school, and it’s her recipe that they make in the restaurant. She herself is a confessed udon lover. (“She had to have it, every day, so in the end I set up a restaurant to make her happy,” says Makoto). Their recipe is part Kushi (the region where his wife is from) and part Eastern Japan (where Makoto is from). His dashi is made by soaking dried shitake mushrooms and konbu (seaweed, imported from Japan) overnight in the Kaiki filtered water. Next day he brings the mixture to 150 degrees (never to the boil, he cautions) with bonita flakes, fish with wing (mackeral) and then they use it the next day. (They never let it sit longer.)

The other secret ingredient on top of the udon is yuzu zest, which they also import from Japan. It gives the soup an indefinable citrus tang. And it’s unlike anything I’ve ever eaten. Try the Udon Sansai which is dashi (broth), noodles, with Japanese edible wild plants (make sure you get a slow-poached egg as well) or pull up a bench at the long beautiful communal table and ask Morgan the manager to recommend something for you, which he will, happily, and it will transport you. But do try the water, regardless, it’s worth all the fuss.


Photo essay by Justin Walker
Prop styling by Kaitlyn du Ross


JUSTIN WALKER is a travel and food photographer based in Brooklyn. A native to Durango, Colorado, he grew up as a bystander to his families adventures; from commercial salmon and halibut fishing in Alaska, to big game hunting on a small ranch in Colorado. 

KAITLYN DU ROSS is Boston bred, Brooklyn made, from the South shore of Boston, Kaitlyn found her way out to Colorado— only to follow her love for the shuffle-and-jive back to the east coast. When she’s not jiving, she’s styling props.

Makoto Suzuki is the owner of Samurai Mama and also the owner of Bozu.