The first time I remember eating steamed clams was at Gladstone’s on the beach in Malibu on the California coast. The sun was sparkling off the blue pacific and the air was briny and clean. A galvanized pail arrived like I’d used as a kid to make sand castles on the beach. It was filled with fresh steamed clams and nothing more. With my face over the pail, I breathed in the heavenly aroma. It smelled like the ocean. I’ve been a fan of steamed clams ever since.
Recently I picked up a netted bag of beautiful little manila clams at the Santa Monica Famers Market. They were from Carlsbad Aquafarm in Carlsbad, CA. With a craving for linguine with clams I couldn’t wait to cook them for dinner.
Clams should have a fresh, clean ocean scent when you buy them, not a strong or fishy smell. The shells should be clean, unbroken and tightly closed or close when tapped (as they are alive). I purchase one pound per person.
In addition to tasting wonderful, cooking clams is fast and easy. You can have dinner on the table in just minutes with a few basic ingredients you probably have in your pantry. They are steamed in white wine with a little oil and herbs. As soon as they pop open they are ready to enjoy.
I poured our clams over a bowl of hand made spinach linguine and added garlic toast to soak up the flavorful juices. A fast and simple dinner so good, we had it again a few days later.
I often wing a recipe like this, but If you’ve never made it, a good recipe is on the Fine Cooking website. To start, it has a little extra step of making a tasty lemon-garlic oil.
The recipe calls for 2 pounds of clams for four people. I figure at least one pound of clams per person if I’m making this as an entree. My little bag of clams was almost two and a half pounds and we ate them all! For cooking, I use a stainless steel fry pan with a glass lid I can see through to watch the clams pop, and pop they do. I’m ready for more linguine with clams.
Linguine with Clams, A Fast Dinner
From Fine Cooking October, 2003 by Tony Rosenfeld (with my notes)
Servings: 4 (for me it was 2)
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil (I did not use it all. Refrigerate any extra)
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
3/4 lb. dried linguine (plan on 2 ounces of dried pasta per person, I weigh mine for accuracy and portion control)
1/4 tsp. crushed red chile flakes (I used just a sprinkle)
2 lb. small clams, rinsed and scrubbed to remove grit (he likes littlenecks; I like manilas)
1/3 cup dry white wine
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley; more for garnish (and try other fresh herbs too)
1) Put a large pot of salted water on to boil (for your pasta).
2) Peel five 1-inch-wide strips of zest from the lemon with a peeler. Cut the lemon in half for juicing later. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and lemon strips and cook, shaking the pan occasionally, until the garlic starts to brown around the edges, about 3 minutes. Be careful not to burn the garlic. Remove from the heat and use a fork to pick out and discard the lemon strips. Transfer a little more than 1/4 cup of the oil (without the garlic) to a small bowl.
3) Put the pasta in the water and set your timer. Raise the heat under the skillet to high and add the chile flakes and the clams. Cook the clams for 1 minute, shaking the pan. Pour in the wine and cook for 1 minute. Cover the pan and cook, shaking the pan occasionally, until all the clam shells open, 3 to 5 minutes.
Finish cooking the linguine until it’s just tender, about 10 minutes total. Drain and add to the clams. Raise the heat to high and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, tossing gently. Stir in the 1/2 cup parsley and a squeeze of lemon juice (about 1 Tbs.). Add more salt, pepper or lemon juice to taste. Serve immediatly, topped with a drizzle of the reserved lemon-garlic oil and more parsley.
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