I spend a lot of time in domestic airports, a lot of time. The food situation is always distressing. As hard as I try to avoid it I am forced to eat at the airport due to timing, constant weather hiccups or whatever equipment happened to go awry (Delta fix your doors on the 757s). My criteria for airport food is something not too unhealthy and not too smelly. I worry about the smelly so I don't offend my fellow passengers. Note I didn't say tasty or enjoyable, because those items are rarely an option at the airport. Why? I don't know. I don't think people want bad food. I suspect there is a national airport food vendor mafia. There are a few exceptions. My top three, in order, starting with the best: SFO, SNA, IND. The worst, in order from crappiest to slightly less crappy: LGA, LAX, MIA. And there's a lot of in between. I didn't include my own airport, ATL, which given the landscape of airport dining, may actually be the best.
One day Jim and I found ourselves at BWI at lunchtime. There wasn't much to choose from, or rather, nothing except we found something called 'Chesapeake Landing' 'Maryland Landing' 'Maryland Crossing' or something like that. It was non-descript as airport restaurants are supposed to be. Of course there were crab cakes on the menu, that didn't surprise me but there staring at me was something I had not seen in 25 years and while I liked it fine as a kid suddenly seeing it on the menu made me very nostalgic. 'Jim, they have clam strips! Clam strips! I can't believe they have clam strips, I don't know the last time I saw one. We had clam strips every Friday in school. Clam strips and french fries. I'm having the clam strips.' We did, Maryland being a Catholic state we had clam strips every Friday. We'd sit in our Bertoia chairs with the royal blue seat pads eating clam strips and french fries and maybe some cole slaw swinging our feet. Clam strips the original chicken finger. Then I think all I said for the next 5 minutes while our food was prepared was 'Clam strips? Clam strips! Can you believe they have clam strips?' That restaurant in the airport did not let me down. I'm sure those clam strips came straight out of a plastic bag from the freezer but they were good, creamy on the inside, crunchy on the outside and they came with fries and cole slaw. They were better than I remembered them. I was swinging my feet at my bar stool with food happiness. Jim leaned it 'May I try one?' 'Of course, have as many as you like.' 'That's good, remind me next time I want the clam strips.'
Well next time came a few months later. It was lunchtime again. I said to Jim 'Let's find that place with the clam strips.' 'I think that's the only place.' I didn't even need a menu. 'I'll take the clam strips.' I think Jim ordered something extra lame, like a salad or soup. 'You don't want the clam strips?' Jim's memory isn't the best. 'I don't want clam strips. Who eats clam strips? We didn't have clam strips growing up in Ohio.' Well, the clams came and Jim had food envy. 'Remind me to have the clam strips next time.' You should too. Terminal C, the place with the seabird, the bay and some indigenous plants for a logo.
As often happens on this blog I tell a story about a certain food but don't have an exact recipe for it. Really, I'm not going to tell you how to bread something and chuck it in the deep fryer. I think, this week anyhow. A little research shows you can get a giant bag of clam strips at Costco for $5; my money says those are the ones near and dear to our hearts. epicurious.com also has a recipe for clam strips if you feel the need to shuck and fry a bushel of clams. I do have a recipe for clam chowder using items that are always in our larder. Surely we all have a positive memory associated with clam chowder. This is tasty, quick, inexpensive and totally satisfying on a cold night.
Clam Chowder - Serves 4
1 8 oz. jar of clam juice
1 cup milk
1 cup cream
1 cup water
1 10 oz. can clams
1/4 cup flour
1 carrot, chopped
5 mushrooms, sliced
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 small Yukon potatoes cubed
10 sprigs thyme, leaves stripped
1.5-2 tablespoons brandy
2 tablespoons butter
Combine clam juice, juice from clams and water in a pan and bring to a boil. Add in the potatoes and half of the thyme and cook for 3 minutes. Add in the mushrooms and cook for another 3 minutes. Add in the carrot and cook for another 3 minutes. Then remove the vegetables from the pot with a slotted spoon.
Meanwhile heat the butter in a pan and add the onions and saute until almost translucent, then add in the celery and remaining thyme and saute for another 2 minutes. Add the clams and saute for a minute.
Slowly add the flour to the pot with the clam juice, whisking to combine until thickened. Add in cream and milk, heat and add in all of the vegetables and clams. Simmer for 10-15 minutes, add brandy and cook for 3 more minutes. Serve.