Clay-pot rice with drunken clams, sablefish and barrel-aged Avling beer
MY FAMILY BRINGS OUT THE CLAY POT OFTEN DURING HOLIDAYS AND ALL THROUGH THE WINTER. Some days, to accommodate all the different preferences of our family and friends, we make several versions of clay-pot rice at one time. It’s a nostalgic dish for me, both easy and challenging to make — easy because it’s a one-pot meal; challenging because you have to cook with instinct, without lifting the lid of the pot. You need to keep the steam and wonderful aromas trapped inside, right until you open the pot in front of your guests.
- 3 green onions, green part only, sliced thin
- 2 stalks Chinese celery, julienned
- 1 Fresno chili, seeded and julienned
- 4 dried shiitake mushrooms
- 350 ml (1½ cups) jasmine rice
- 1 piece kombu, about 5-by-5 cm (2-by-2 inches)
- 2 tbsp seafood soy sauce*
- 50 ml (¼ cup) Avling Spinning Yarn (or other quality beer with floral notes)
- 2 tbsp seasoned soy sauce for steamed fish*
- 2 tbsp Red Boat (or other top-quality) fish sauce
- 1 tbsp abalone sauce
- ½ tsp white peppercorns, ground
- 350 g (12 oz) cold-smoked sablefish, pin bones removed
- 5-cm (2-inch) knob ginger, peeled and julienned
- 3 slender Asian leeks (or 1 traditional leek), white part only, thinly sliced
- 8 cherrystone clams, scrubbed and flushed
- 6 leaves Thai basil, torn
*Seafood soy sauce and seasoned soy sauce are available at Asian specialty stores. Light Japanese soy is a good substitute for both.
Combine onion, celery and chili in a bowl, cover with iced water and set aside. Combine mushrooms and 250 ml (1 cup) warm water in a bowl for 1 hour. Strain liquid through a finemesh sieve lined with cheesecloth into a medium-sized Chinese clay pot. Rinse mushrooms, slice each in half and set aside. Add rice to pot, stir and leave to soak for 1 hour.
Transfer kombu to a plate or shallow bowl and drizzle with the seafood soy sauce and half the beer. In a bowl, combine the remaining beer with the seasoned soy sauce, the fish sauce and the abalone sauce. Add pepper, whisk and set aside.
Stud the soaked rice evenly with the shiitake halves, cover and place clay pot on medium heat. Bring to a boil and cook for 6 minutes. Remove lid, place sablefish on top of rice; scatter the ginger and leeks around it. Cover fish with the rehydrated kombu (discard liquid). Replace lid, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes, rotating pot periodically to ensure even cooking.
Add clams to the pot and swiftly replace lid. Raise heat to medium. When rice begins to emit a nutty aroma, drizzle the reserved mixture over the periphery of the lid and lift slightly, so the liquid seeps into the pot. Swirl to distribute sauce evenly and cook until rice caramelizes, about 4 minutes. Remove pot from heat to rest for 10 minutes. Drain and pat dry the green onions, celery and chili. Add as garnish to the uncovered rice and finish with basil.
PAIRING NOTES: Try Tornatore Etna Bianco to bring out the nuances of the smoked sablefish and clams. Fresh hints of grapefruit, white peach and herbs mark the nose of this wine which shows its true identity on the palate.