Cedar Key Dining

clams

Recently, I visited the island of Cedar Key to experience its dining scene, specifically its famous clams.

One of the finer restaurants I visited on this trip is a place I have been before, The Island Room Restaurant at Cedar Cove, a place that's been around for 20 years and was recently awarded Florida Trend Magazine's "Top 250 Award" for the seventh consecutive year.

The first time was with my husband a few years ago. The elegant restaurant overlooks a small beach. That day, the weather was cool, and overcast, and the Island Room proved to be the perfect, romantic place to warm up with a cup of its house specialty crab bisque, baked clams casino and a crab special in a buttery garlic sauce -- all delicious. Needless to say, I couldn't wait to go back.

This time, it was a bright, sunny day and the water views from our table were beautiful. I sampled Chef-owner Peter Stefani's mouth-watering dish -- Florida Clams with Andouille Sausage and Plum Tomatoes. It featured Cedar Key clams from Stefani's own clam farm, and was served over spaghetti and with a huge chunk of crusty, homemade bread to soak up the delectable juices. Everything was so fresh - from the clams to the pasta to the tomatoes. Here's the recipe, in case you're interested.

Cedar Key Clams with Andouille Sausage and Plum Tomatoes

clam shell

Ingredients:
• 48 Cedar Key Clams washed and scrubbed 
• 1 lb. Andouille smoked sausage, sliced. 
• 1 Tbs chopped garlic 
• 1 Tbs olive oil 
• 3 cups chopped plum tomatoes 
• 2 cups stock or dry white wine 
• 3 Tbs chopped fresh herbs: basil, oregano and marjoram 
• 2 Tbs sliced scallions or chives

Heat pan large enough to hold clams without crowding over medium high heat. Add oil and garlic and cook garlic until soft, do not burn. Add clams, sausage, tomatoes, stock or wine, and herbs then cover. Cook until clams open. Divide between four bowls, top with scallions or chives and serve!

A tasty infusion of Italian and Southern cuisine, this dish can be served over pasta or rice. Always include a large piece of crusty bread to soak up the delicious juices.

Check out Some of Peter's Other Recipes:

Ingredients:
• 24 Cedar Key Littleneck Clams (rinsed well) 
• 1 lb. mustard greens (rinsed very well in several changes of water) 
• 2 cups fish stock 
• 2 tsp olive oil 
• 1 tsp of chopped garlic 
• 1 cup finely chopped onion 
• cup chopped red bell pepper 
• cup chopped celery 
• 1 cup sliced tasso 
• 1 Tbs fresh tarragon 
• 2 Tbs sliced scallions

Braise greens in stock until tender then drain, reserving stock and set aside. Over medium high heat, heat pan large enough to hold clams without crowding. Add oil, onion, bell pepper and celery. Saute until soft without browning. Add garlic and cook until soft. Add clams, greens, reserved stock, tasso and tarragon then cover and steam until open. Discard any clams that do not open. Divide between 2 bowls and garnish with scallions. Serve and Enjoy! Serve a crusty bread with this dish to sop up the juices.

Ingredients:
• 4 dozen Sunray Venus clams 
• 3 Tbs chopped garlic 
• cup heavy cream 
• 2 cups orange sections fresh from Florida 
• 1 cup fresh squeezed orange juice fresh from Florida 
• 2 Tbs chopped cilantro for garnish

Bring cream and garlic to simmer over low heat and poach until garlic softens, about 2 minutes. Add clams and O.J. and cover. Steam until open. Add fruit sections and heat through. Divide, top with cilantro to taste, and serve.

Ingredients:
• 2 dozen clams 
• 1 Tsp peanut oil 
• 1 Tbs chopped garlic 
• 1 Tbs chopped ginger 
• 1 Tbs chilies or chili garlic sauce 
• 1 can coconut milk 
• 2 cups broth 
• 1 Tbs basil or mint 
• 1 Tbs cilantro 
• 8 oz. cooked noodles

Soften garlic, ginger and chilies in oil. Add clams, broth and milk. Simmer until clams open and toss with remaining ingredients and serve!

Crust:
• 2 cups bread crumbs or cracker crumbs 
• cup Parmesan cheese 
• cup butter

Melt butter and mix with cheese and crumbs. Press into 10" Springform pan.

Filling:
• 24 oz Cream Cheese 
• 1 lb crawfish tail, shrimp, lobster or crab meat 
• 1 cup Asiago or Parmesan cheese, ground 
• 3 eggs 
• 1 cup sour cream 
• 1 Tbs olive oil 
• 2 Tbs Chopped Garlic
• cup chopped Onion 
• cup chopped Celery 
• cup chopped red bell pepper 
• cup Creole or Cajun seasoning 
• Salt and pepper

Soften Cream cheese to room temperature, place in bowl of mixer and whip until creamy. Add sour cream and eggs one at a time scraping down bowl after each addition. Saute onion, pepper and celery in olive oil until soft. Add garlic and cook. Add mixture slowly to cream cheese mixture. Add the rest of the ingredients and blend. Taste for seasonings.

Bake at 325 for about an hour or until set.