Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Spicy Clams of Destiny!!!!

You know that movie Congo? The one with the animatronic albino cannibal gorillas and the lost city of King Solomon and Winston from Ghostbusters and Tim Curry? That movie is awesome. Mainly, because of it's underlying theme. The theme was that Crazy Stuff you Dream About Might Be True and It Might Lead You To Giant Diamonds*. If you haven't seen it, prepare for some major spoiler alerts, btw, but also prepare to never be able to watch the movie and satisfy your curiosity anyways, because I think the last copy of it available in the world was on BetaMax. So the regular colored, genetically altered super smart gorilla who could talk (with the assist of a robot Nintendo Power Glove) was having dreams of symbols that might lead to the lost diamond mines of King Solomon (the bible one. With the baby sword. ((the sword was for chopping a baby in half, it wasn't a "baby sword"......Read the bible if you are confused))). An elaborate exposition involving telecom super corporations, PETA, smugglers, corrupt African governments and killer hippos unfolds, and ultimately the Ape leads the rag tag bunch to the mines**, just like in the dream. So there you have it.

I bring all this up to say that sometimes, via tea leaf reading, inspection of the Mayan calendar, Divine inspiration, or interpretation of robot monkey dreams, fate draws you toward an inexorable*** destiny. This happened to me this weekend.

A few weeks ago, I was perusing the meat display at The Teet, and there was a VIC card special on a bag of Mahogany Clams. I have eye-balled these clams many times before, but I never gave them serious thought until I saw that they were on sale, so I snapped them up. I didn't buy anything additional to cook with them, but I wasn't bothered by that at all. You might say I was filled with an eerie calm about the whole situation, actually.

Almost in a trance, when we got home, I pilfered a few fresh ingredients from the actual meal I had planned for the evening, and I created an entire clam dish, right there on the spot. Here is the recipe.

Spicy Mahogany Clams of Destiny
1 bag fresh mahogany clams
2 lemons
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1 yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, smashed and minced
1 roma tomato, seeded and diced
1 tbsp sriracha chile sauce
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup dry white wine
1/2 box chicken stock
salt and pepper to taste

In a large deep skillet or pot, place bell pepper and onions in olive oil over medium heat for about 5 minutes, or until they start to get tender. Add garlic and sautee for 1 more minute. Add wine, chicken stock, red pepper flakes, juice and zest of one lemon, and sriracha sauce, and simmer for 5 minutes. Season broth with salt and pepper, then add clams and cover. Cook for about 5 minutes, or until all clams open. Remove any that don't open and throw them away. Add tomatos and gently stir for one more minute. Serve raging hot with a good crusty piece of bread for dunking.

Boom. It was clammy perfection. It was spicy enough that my lips were pleasantly burning, but there was still a lingering taste of seafoody goodness that powered through the spice and held its own. After eating the tender clams, I used the shells to scoop up more broth  and slurp it. And don't even get me started on dunking some good italian bread in it. It was like a little angel flew down out of heaven and squirted some nectar and ambrosia in a bowl, just for me. It had fate written all over it.....

I snapped out of my trance, and by the next morning, only a hazy memory of the clams remained, but it nagged at me thereafter....
Fast forward several weeks.

This week, I was burning some vacation days that I would have lost otherwise, and Amy said, "Let's take the boys to Dollywood!"
I am from East Tennessee, and I yearn for it all the time (Charlottesville just isn't the same), and my mind has been on it lately (foreshadowing...), so I heard destiny calling**** and I replied
"Yes. We shall take them to Dollywood. And it shall be good."

So we drove 6 hours and landed at the RedBird Cottage rental cabin in beautiful Pigeon Forge. Here is the view from our deck.

Gatlinburg is one of my favorite places in the world. See past the touristy, airbrush tshirt shops, and you will find a lot of fun, family friendly things to do, an absolutely perfect setting in the Smoky Mountains, some of the friendliest local people IN THE WORLD (pay attention Cvillians...) and some seriously good places to eat. My wife and I spent tons of time here in the formative years of our relationship, and we keep migrating back. It was a foregone conclusion where we were going to eat on our first night. Best Italian is a little Thai place tucked into a tiny shopping center at the end of the main drag in downtown Gburg. Just kidding, it's an Italian place, not Thai! Try and keep up...
Best Italian is Gatlinburg's best kept secret. It has a seventies decor, and it's tiny, but the fresh made pasta and sauces are completely unexpected and ridiculous. I have eaten at high end Italian places that don't even come close.
They are famous for their Garlic Rolls, which are super yeasty and swimming in butter and olive oil and covered with sauteed garlic chunks and parmesan cheese.

While looking at the menu, BANG! There it was. Chef Paul's Clams in Red Sauce. It was like King Solomon's mine opened up in my chimp-like head and spicy clams came flying out. I ordered those little babies with linguine, and when they came out and I slurped the first one out of the shell, it was like a vergeance in the Force. I knew that whoever put those mahoganies on sale weeks ago was actually an agent of Fate and that my Clam Journey had just come full circle. Perfectly delicious. I ate every one of what had to be ten thousand clams in the bowl, and drained the broth down to the bottom. In Gatlinburg, Tennessee. A zillion miles from the ocean. Who Knew? Destiny did, that's who.

So, when you get to one of those moments where time slows down and you get a little foggy in the head, and it seems like you just drank some Felix Felicis, and you stop Knowing the Path and start Walking the Path, just go by the hat store, get yourself a hat, and get ready to hold the heck onto it, because there are probably some wicked awesome clams in your future....or possibly a diamond mine.....filled with cannibal albino monkeys. Have a great day!

*The theme of Congo is actually the battle between nature and technology. The people battle the cannibal gorillas with hi tech weapons, but in the end, a volcano swallows everyone. Interesting that I am using our cabin's wi fi to blog about all this while sitting in a remote location where I am supposed to be enjoying the remoteness. Ironical. Also ironical is the fact that the normal colored gorilla in Congo's name is Amy. My wife's name is Amy....this is getting creepy.....

** "Ultimately" was misleading. Getting to the mines was not the end. After that, many of the adventurers are killed by cannibal gorillas, a volcano swallows the rest, the Power Glove gorilla, Amy, calls the cannibals "ugly monkeys" (Stupid Gorilla. They're gorillas, not monkeys), and the lady shoots a satellite from a hot air balloon with a laser beam made of King Solomon's diamonds as her boss screams "NOOOooooOOOOOOooo!!!"
I told you it's an awesome movie.

***I really don't know what inexorable means, and I am hoping that it is correctly used here.

****One time, Amy (my wife, not the power glove monkey) was getting her hair cut by a stylist named Destiny. They left us a hilarious answering machine message that said "We're calling to tell you that your appointment with Destiny has been cancelled. Please call Destiny at your convenience to reschedule."
I laughed for years....