Welcome to week 13 of Fifty States of New Recipe Tuesday. This week we focus on Rhode Island, who joined the union on May 29, 1790. When Italian navigator Giovanni Verrazzano arrived at what is now Block Island in 1524, he described it as approximately the size of the Greek Island of Rhodes. Thus, the state got its name. But even before that, this was a land of native Americans, its largest tribe being the Narrangansett, of which the bay is named.
The smallest state in area, it actually has the longest name of all the states, the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. The full name was actually challenged in 2009, with a referendum held to remove the “and Providence Plantation” from their title. It was thought that the word plantation was in reference to the British colonization practice of excising the native population and also of the slave trades, which interestingly, was abolished in 1652 but not enforced until the 1700s. Yes, Rhode Island was once referred to as the “epicenter of the North American slave trade”. Who knew? But the referendum was overwhelming voted down, so the little state with the big name stays as it always has been.
Now, Rhode Island is also a much bigger food state than I thought it would be. Being that it is New England coastal, seafood plays a big part in their identity, but I also discovered some other things too. So this week, I focus on two recipes, one seafood and the other a drink.
I will start with the drink. Rhode Island is the creator (and apparently the whole consumer) of a beverage called Coffee Milk, with a variation called the Coffee Cabinet. Basically, this is a drink similar to chocolate milk, but it uses coffee syrup instead of chocolate. There are several brands of coffee syrup with Autocrat and Eclipse being the two most popular. It is sold widely within the state, but nearly impossible to find anywhere else unless you buy it online. But no fear, I set about finding a suitable recipe to make my own, and found that it really is quite simple. Like 3 ingredient simple. Once prepared and cooled, you mix it into a glass of cold milk. That’s it. And if you add a scoop of vanilla ice cream, you get a cabinet. I have no idea why they call it that, but if you like sweet coffee, you will like this.
Recipe for Coffee Milk:
Ingredients for coffee syrup
- 1 Cup strong brewed coffee
- 2 Cups sugar
- ½ vanilla bean
- Split vanilla bean with a sharp knife.
- Bring coffee to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.
- Add in sugar and vanilla bean, stir until sugar is well dissolved.
- Reduce heat, and allow to simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Be careful not to let it get too hot; the burnt coffee flavor will transfer to your syrup.
- Let cool completely
Combine 2 tablespoons of syrup with 8 oz of cold milk. Stir to combine.
So now that we have had our refreshing beverage, how about a tasty starter. I discovered that Rhode Island is famous for a dish called the Quahog Stuffie, which is a twist on clam casino, using Portuguese Chorizo sausage. Portuguese Americans make up a significant population of Rhode Island, and their spices and seasonings have influenced some of the dishes that are well integrated into the food culture of the state. This particular dish takes clams and combines them with the spiciness of the chorizo, and the result is a delicious and easy appetizer.
The recipe that I found uses whole clams, and like traditional clams casino, you use the shell as your serving vessel. I wasn’t seeing any good large clams today (that weren’t through the roof expensive!), so I did a twist on the original recipe and used canned clams instead. Since I didn’t have shells, I baked the dish in small muffin tins, with the result being a sort of meatball. Presentation wise, I would definitely do the clam shell thing for company, but these were really tasty as is and I would make them again. What is also interesting about this recipe is that it uses a stuffing mix instead of bread cubes and spices. It cuts down on a lot of the preparation, and the taste was still great. Honestly, people will compliment you on all your efforts to make this seemingly complicated dish, but it comes together quickly and tastes like you slaved all day on it. Dare I say that this would make a nice Christmas Eve dish?!
Recipe for Quahog Stuffies:
- 3 cups water (I used the clam juice from the canned clams with water to make 3 cups)
- 1 (12 ounce) package (4 links) Portuguese chorizo sausage links
- 12 quahogs, or 4 cans of chopped clams
- 1 large onion, coarsely chopped
- 1 (12 ounce) package chicken-flavored bread stuffing mix (such as Stove Top)
- 1/2 cup butter
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
- Bring water to a boil over high heat. Add sausage links; reduce heat to medium and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove links from broth; reserve the broth. Remove casings from the sausage.
- If using fresh clams: bring the broth back to a simmer and add the quahogs; cook until they open, 5 to 10 minutes. Remove the quahogs; reserve the broth. Remove the cooked quahogs from the shells. Separate the shell halves. If necessary wash the shells.
- Place the sausage and quahog meat into the bowl of a food processor; process until chopped, about 12 seconds, depending on your processor. Scrape mixture into a bowl. Add chopped onion to the processor; chop about 5 seconds. Stir in to the meat mixture.
- Make the full container of stuffing according to package directions, using the butter, and substituting the sausage/clam broth for water. There may be more broth than you need.
- Mix together the stuffing and sausage/clam/onion mixture. Spoon filling into empty clam shell halves. If using canned clams, spoon the mixture into small muffin tins which have been sprayed with cooking spray.
- Place the shells on a baking pan; bake in the preheated oven until toasty brown on top, 15 to 20 minutes.
I give both of these recipes an A+. Thanks Rhode Island. You take me into the Christmas Holiday with some tasty dishes. See you all next week in Vermont.