Friday, July 7, 2017

Clamming It Up
What’s cooking? Linguine with Herb Broth and Clams

The Kitchen Goddess is back in heaven – that is to say, I’m once again hitting my favorite farmers’ market on a regular basis. The fridge is filling up with lettuce – washed and layered with paper towels – and the hubby is filling up with fresh berries on his cereal. I wander the stalls like Goldilocks shopping for chairs, trying to decide which of the vendors has the fattest blueberries or the best looking zucchini, and noting the appearance of new items like the fava beans I’ve never cooked before. [Check back next week for a report on those.]

In the fall and winter, my menus are largely centered on chicken or pork or beef as a protein source. Once spring arrives, and the season for Gulf shrimp shifts into high gear, I start cooking more seafood, but I don’t really focus on it until summer, when I can get such fresh fish and shellfish at the market that I truly feel like binging.

So when one of my sons called to say that he’d be stopping by for dinner, I had a moment of panic until I realized I had a big bag of clams in the fridge. It’s easy to keep clams for several days, as long as they’re really fresh when you buy them. Just put them in a bowl in the fridge and cover it with a damp cloth. The main thing – aside from keeping them cold – is to keep them from drying out. But no plastic bags, please, or they’ll suffocate.

One of the things I love most about this recipe is that the pasta cooks in the broth from the clams. No separate giant pot of salted water – just move the cooked clams to a bowl and cover them with foil to keep the heat in. So that wonderful mix of flavors from the wine and the butter and the tomatoes and the clams and the herbs gets thoroughly cooked right into the noodles.

And while I’m talking about the wine, let me just say this: Do not obsess about which wine to use. Any decent white will do. The KG used the remains of 3 different bottles: a South African Chenin Blanc, a French Sauvignon Blanc, and a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. This probably means the KG and her hubby are not finishing enough wine, but the mix had no deleterious effect on the dish. What did come through – in spite of the onion, the garlic, the tomato, and the herbs – were the overall nuances of the wines. Lightly grassy and zesty fruit. And while they weren’t a strong factor, the flavors did make their way into the pasta, and the nose knew.

Kitchen Goddess do-ahead note: If you are one of those people who can plan 24 hours ahead of time, you can make the broth the day before serving, and refrigerate it, covered, until time to cook the clams. When you’re ready for the clams, bring the broth back to a boil before adding them. The raw clams should be added to broth that is actually boiling.

Linguine with Herb Broth and Clams

Adapted from Sara Foster in Bon Appétit, June 2008

Serves 4.

5-6 garlic cloves, minced
4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced (about 1½ cups)
2 medium tomatoes, cored and chopped in ½-inch dice, or about 1½ cups canned diced tomatoes
3 cups dry white wine (see note above)
1 cup (or more) water
3 pounds Manila clams or small littleneck clams, scrubbed
⅓ cup thinly sliced fresh basil leaves
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
¼ cup chopped fresh oregano (If you don’t have oregano, add more parsley and basil)
½ teaspoon Aleppo pepper, or ¼ teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
8 ounces linguine pasta

Mince the garlic and set aside. Put the clams to soak in a bowl of fresh water to cover, for about 20 minutes.

Kitchen Goddess note: Remember just over a month ago, when I told you about the garlic secret I had learned? Hmmm. Fine. Here it is again: Garlic’s considerable health benefits are only released when it is sliced or mashed, and it takes about 10 minutes for the relevant enzyme to develop. So, keeping that in mind, for at least the time being, and until we get used to chopping the garlic in advance, the KG will be listing garlic at the very beginning of the recipe, even though, logically, it should go farther down. I’ll get back to standard garlic listing soon, I promise. 

In a large pot over medium heat, melt the butter with the olive oil. Add the onions and stir occasionally for 4-5 minutes, until they are soft and translucent. Add the garlic and stir constantly for another minute, so as not to burn the garlic. Add the tomatoes and stir often for 2 minutes, or until they begin to get soft.

Stir in the white wine plus a cup of water and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to keep the mixture at a simmer, then cover the pot and simmer 20 minutes. [This is where you stop if you’re making the broth ahead. Let it cool, then refrigerate it in a well-sealed container. On the day of the meal, when it’s time to cook the clams, first bring the broth to a boil.]

While the broth simmers, scrub the clams to remove any sand or grit on the shells. Discard any clams with broken shells.

Bring the broth to a boil, and add the clams. Cover the pot, and cook until clams open, 4-5 minutes (discard any clams that do not open). With a slotted spoon, transfer the clams to a large bowl, and cover it with foil to keep the clams warm.

Add the herbs – basil, parsley, oregano (if using), and Aleppo pepper (or red pepper) to the broth  and bring it to a boil. Add 2-3 tablespoons of water if the broth seems thick. Add the linguine and cover again. Boil the pasta until it’s very al dente – i.e., almost tender but still firm to bite – while stirring the mixture often.

Once the pasta is almost ready, add back the cooked clams, along with any broth that has accumulated in the bowl. Cover the pot again, and bring the clams/pasta mixture to a simmer. Continue to cook 3-4 minutes, until the clams are heated through and the pasta is al dente.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve the clams and pasta with broth immediately, in large shallow bowls. I like to add garlic bread and a green salad.

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