Sunday, October 24, 2010

Finally, A House Specialty

When people find out you like to cook they always want to know what you cook or your "specialty." I went years without having an answer. "Dinner" I'd say, or something like, "I make a lot of Italian." Living with James has changed all that -- just tonight at dinner we confirmed that clams, clams are my specialty.
Clams are easy, cheap, quick and delicious. Mostly delicious. I didn't grow up cooking or eating clams -- unless you count my Dad's white clam sauce spaghetti that relied heavily on canned clams and an olive oil based garlicky sauce. But, since James and I had our first batch of Manilla clams for dinner, my version of spaghetti and clam sauce (I first made it for a birthday dinner for James and he has been requesting it ever since), clams have made a regular appearance at our dinner table. I like to try new recipes so instead of spaghetti every time I am building a repertoire of steamed clam specialties. Tonight I started with lardons of slab bacon rendered over medium low heat until just crisp. To the bacon I aded a couple TB of butter, 3 leeks (white and light green parts only) cut into strips, 2 chopped shallots, a pinch of crushed red chili peppers, 1 sprig of fresh thyme, 1 sprig of fresh oregano, 1 bay leaf and let that mixture cook until the shallots and leeks were soft but not colored -- about 10 minutes. I poured in a cup of clam juice, 1/2 cup of Marsala wine (that's all we had handy -- I would have used more if we'd had white wine) and 1/2 cup of water. I brought the liquid to a boil over high heat and added the nearly 3 lbs of mussels and clams (along with another knob of butter for good measure) which I had purged in the fridge (I put the shellfish in a bowl of water -- about 2 quarts -- with 2 tsp of salt and a handful of cornmeal and let them sit in the fridge for an hour). The cover went on the pot and in about 7 minutes the shells were open and dinner was served. Steamed clams and mussels with sourdough garlic toasts.
"Next time someone comes to dinner I am going to make clams, " I declared as James was scooping some cooking liquid with one last piece of toast. Could be you, Ron.

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