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Eat This, It Will Bring You Closer to Oprah

By Caroline Clough in Food on Mar 21, 2007 3:39PM

When we received the new cookbook by Oprah Winfrey's personal chef, Art Smith, we were happy to look through it for inspiration or ideas for future Eating In posts. As we flipped through the glossy, photograph heavy, pages we saw a number of recipes to consider. Smith, originally from Florida, shares many traditional southern dishes like Pimento Cheese Spread or Jambalaya. But he doesn't limit his vision to his childhood region, there are recipes that range from the latin (ceviche), nouveau (quail egg and bacon pizza) and decadent (German chocolate cake). He also has recipes for Chicken and Waffles and Coq Au Vin, that slightly (or greatly) differ from our own past attempts (which is probably for the best). We weren't that interested by the large amounts of text included in the book, most dealing with Smith's personal philosophy on life, family and cooking. Smith's general stance of food can be summed up in his own words: "I have eaten every possible precious food ever created by famous and fashionable chefs. Even so, I still enjoy a great baked potato with all the trimmings." He praises Chicago's denizens for our hard-working nature and appreciation of both high and low cuisine and attributes our collective attitude for keeping him in the Windy City. But all the text seems a little unneccessary. The point, and strength, of the book is the food and though it's not so bad to learn about his theories about family and how to get children to eat vegetables, skipping the text won't change the quality of the recipes for better or worse. We finally settled on Smith's recipe for Steamed Clams with Chorizo and Fingerling Potatoes. In the introduction to this recipe Smith acknowledges that this recipe was not, actually, created by him. Instead the recipe was designed by Jason Handelman, the chef for Fox & Obel. It's no surprise, then, that Smith gives Fox & Obel market and cafe a shout out for fresh ingredients (which is the entire reason we went there).

We thought the clam and chorizo dish seemed kind of fancy and we felt like we needed a little fancy in our lives. So, after a trip to two grocery stores, we started cooking. We didn't realize that fancy can, on occasion, be easy and this was one of those times. Smith/Handelman's recipe has two simple steps and results in an incredibly satisfying dinner for four (and perhaps a half).

What You Need:

1 Dutch Oven
2 tabelspoons olive oil
4 cloves of garlic, mashed (we mashed and chopped a bit)
1 chile pepper, minced
2 cups bottled clam broth
2 cups white wine (we used a Chardonnay)
1 cup sliced fingerling potatoes
4 cups washed little clams
1 cup sliced, cooked chorizo
2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley plus extra for garnish
Sea salt to taste
Pepper to taste
Zest of one lemon
Bread (might we suggest this...perhaps with a little garlic and parmesan added in?) for soaking up all the brothy goodness.

What You Do:

1. Heat the olive oil in the Dutch Oven over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté until it's soft. Add the chile. Add the wine and broth. Bring to a simmer. Add the potatoes and cook until tender.

2. Add the clams until they open. Turn the heat off and add the chorizo, parsley, salt and pepper, stirring carefully. Put in a bowl and garnish with the lemon zest and parsley.

That's it. Two steps. And it's good too. Really good. We're tempted to say it was extra good due to the high quality of the clams and chorizo ... but we have a feeling that even with less expensive ingredients the result would still be pretty good.

Art Smith's new book, Back To The Family, though heavy on an idyllic sense of family, has a lot of great recipes (as well as wonderful food photographs by Stephen Hamilton) and if they're anything like the one above, then this book is worth adding to your collection.