Sunday, April 8, 2012

Blueberry Hand Pies and Shellfish Foraging

I've been so excited all month, just waiting for Saturday, April 7. Why you ask?  It's Shellfish Foraging time with Langdon Cook-forager extraordinaire and author of Fat of the Land:Adventures of a 21st Century Forager.  I signed J and I up for the class through Bainbridge Island Parks and Recreation and had been looking forward to it for over a month now. And when I received the email with directions and instructions on what to bring I felt that same excitement you feel just before opening Christmas presents !
 Please bring the following:
- rubber boots
- bucket
- digging tool such as a short-handled garden cultivator
- rain gear and sunglasses (you never know!)
- bowl, cup, fork, spoon (we're asking you to bring your own to cut down on paper waste)
- water/snack
Gloves are also recommended. Wear clothes you don't mind getting dirty (an extra set is a good idea). We'll be preparing a shellfish feast in the afternoon; feel free to bring adult beverages to complement the food and/or an appetizer such as cheese or salami.

Forget the salami bring on the oysters ! I kept thinking what could I bring that would be as good as freshly harvested oysters and clams-NOTHING !!  So I opted for dessert,something that would travel well,could be made ahead of time and would be a simple compliment to what I anticipated would be excellent food in the great Pacific Northwest Outdoors . I'm cup caked out so I thought pie. Pie would be good,not too heavy,easy to transport,wouldn't need to worry about refrigeration and if I made little hand pies I could forget about the whole mess of cutting into a pie.  I had squirreled away Smitten Kitchen's pie crust recipe a while back and thought why not try it now. It sounded heavenly and looked beautiful, all brown and flaky.

Smitten Kitchen's recipe did not disappoint.  This and Kate McDermott's are now officially my only go to recipes for pies.  I haven't made hand pies with Kate's recipe yet , but that is a blog saved for another day. I knew this crust was going to be outstanding when I saw all the little checkerboard pieces of butter showing through as I rolled it out.  All I could think of was flaky flaky flaky . And watching them puff up in the oven and take on that beautiful golden brown color,well it was all I could do to restrain myself from stealing one out of the oven and biting in to it.  But I did. Almost. I made sure it was completely baked ,then carefully broke of a piece,watched the steam rise from the blueberries,then  bit into the hot filling .  Oh so worth the little burn on the tongue,the crust was exactly what I anticipated, flaky,crisp and not too sweet-perfection.

The blueberry filling I made was 2 cups of fresh blueberries with enough blueberry jam to just coat the berries.  I used a 3 1/2 inch fluted tart cutter , then placed a mounded scoop of the blueberry mixture in the center of the dough. I used the egg glaze and gently dotted the edges of the dough to aid in sealing the top to the bottom. I glazed the hand pies with the egg mixture from Smitten Kitchen's recipe,sprinkled on some crystal sugar and baked at 400F for 10 minutes and reduced the oven to 350F and baked for an additional 25 minutes or until golden brown.  I also made the strawberry rhubarb filling included with Smitten Kitchen's recipe and it was delicious.

 I carefully wrapped my little sweetie pies in brown baking paper and tucked them into their carriers for the trip over to the Hood Canal.  Little did I know when wrapping these,  that they would pale in comparison to the perfection of the day we experienced with Langdon Cook and the rest of the group during the shellfish foraging class.

The day started out just beautifully,blue blue skies and sunshine-two things that have been in short supply in the Pacific Northwest.

We met the rest of the group, a serendipitous group of people who came from as far as British Columbia for this experience; our instructor- Langdon Cook; our shellfish expert-John Adams from Taylor Shellfish (p.s thank you John Adams for your generosity in sharing the bounty from Taylor Shellfish and even more thank you for sharing your extraordinary knowledge !) and the organizer of this class- the incredible Jeff Ozimek from Bainbridge Parks and Recreation.(Check out the Bainbridge Parks link-Jeff did a wonderful job of organizing and keeping this group in high spirits !) We gathered up our shell fishing "tools' and headed to the tide flats.

The beauty of our surroundings matched the excitement of slurping that first oyster fresh from the water. Just before we started our hunt for oysters,as if on cue, a bald eagle and osprey appeared above us.  The eagle was chasing the osprey, trying to get it to release it's catch of the morning.  We all stood awestruck just watching the dance of the battle they performed in the skies above us, and then one of those once in a lifetime things happened. The eagle knocked the fish out of the talons of the osprey, the eagle dove and triumphantly capturing the loosened fish in one gorgeous swoop. We just couldn't believe our good luck in witnessing that-what a blessing and what a way to start foraging in the wild .

I can't begin to tell you how incredibly sweet and salty and tasty this first oyster was. Just a little squeeze of lime , slurp and chew-no restaurant or chef could recreate that moment or that taste.

We took our treasures and headed back to the picnic area to enjoy our harvest.  All I could think of was how incredibly fortunate and blessed I was to be in these beautiful surroundings, with a group of such warm and friendly people,eating something so delicious and fresh from Nature.  And yet there was more to come-how could that be ?  How could this day be improved upon ? Could it really get any better than it already was ?

Everyone brought something to add to the table; we had smoked salmon, salami, fresh strawberries,a variety of cheeses,good crusty bread, olives,wine,beer and champagne.  Add that to the oysters and clams and food that was being cooked for dinner-a 5 star picnic indeed !

Lang preparing his version of Tom Douglas's Mignonette Sauce for the oysters-a must have for the oysters.  J, who had an intense dislike for oysters, started slurping oysters practically non-stop after adding this Mignonette sauce to the oysters !

Ahh, the magic mignonette. And here is Tom Douglas's recipe for the magic sauce.  Lang suggests adding a little Togarashi (Japanese chili spice) for a little kick if you like.
1/4 cup Champagne vinegar
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
Fresh ground pepper ,season to taste

Mix everything in a glass jar-great to prepare ahead of time,put on ice, and take with you to the beach-enjoy slurping those oysters.

 John's:How to shuck an oyster without stabbing yourself class.  I fell in love with the wooden slab he uses for shucking.

John watching over one of his shucking students !

Nom,nom,nom...Pacifics,Olympias aka Olys (my personal favorite) and Kumamoto oysters

Like they say, a picture is worth a thousand words-everyone was so intent on savoring every bite of this meal.

Clams with Italian Sausage, Tomato & Wine

Langdon's recipe for Clams with Italian Sausage,Tomato & Wine can be found here on his blog, Fat of the Land.  This is a keeper recipe for me and it's how I will be preparing my clam bounty for dinner tonight.  That broth was so clam juicy and made a delicious dipping sauce for the crusty bread we had on hand. ( We also had some Thai Red Curry Clams, but I was so enamored with the Italian version I never got to try that recipe. J assured me it was just as delicious as the Italian version.)

Good bye Hood Canal and Dosewallips State Park, until the next time,and there will definitely be a next time.

Our absolutely incredible view from the ferry back to Seattle-what a way to end a perfect day !

As I finish writing this, J is at Uwajimaya buying us some oyster shucking tools and I'm getting ready to make up some Mignonette sauce for the oysters that are chilling in the refrigerator.  More pie dough is also chilling in the refrigerator.  We will be spending the rest of the day slurping oysters at my sister's and eating blueberry hand pies !  I suggest you get over to Lang's blog and the Bainbridge Parks and Recreation site and see if you can still get into one of these classes.  If it's full,there will be more during the Summer and into the Fall. If you can't make it, well so sad for you, but Taylor Shellfish has an online store-enjoy and Bon Appetit !


Click here for Smitten Kitchen's recipe and enjoy her beautiful blog,it's another one I find myself spending hours on !


bellini said...

I could have used an expert forager when I was out and about this weekend in search of fiddleheads.

Langdon Cook said...

Thanks for your contributions to a stunning day at Dosewallips! So glad I managed to wangle a bite of a hand pie before they all got vacuumed up. See you out on the tide flats again.


Trae C said...

Oh, I am so jealous! I wish we had a shellfish foraging class nearby. I really can't imagine a better way to spend a day!