Lucky me! Yesterday I came across Cherrystone Aqua Farms little neck clams. They’re based out of Virginia and have been clamming since 1895. These were the most tender, sweet, fresh clams I’ve had in a shucking long time. They tasted like the sea, as anything that comes from the sea should. When you have something this good, you don’t want to screw it up with an OTT recipe, so I kept is simple – garlic, shallots, white wine, olive oil, parsley and lemon juice – classic ingredients.
The only difficult/tricky thing about this is to make sure you get all the grit off and out of the clams. Here’s a link from thekitchn.com on how to clean clams. I’d add that you should rinse and change the water more than once, at least two times.
As far as the quantity of clams per person? That’s up to you. Some recipes suggest one dozen per person, which I think is on the very stingy side, for sure. Obviously it depends on the clam size. I’d go with at least two dozen – maybe three - per person for a main course. Okay, make it four then and call me shellfish.
6-8 cloves garlic, smashed
Extra virgin olive oil
Lots of fresh littleneck clams, soaked, scrubbed & cleaned
1 cup white wine
1/2 cup water
1 medium shallot, minced
Crushed red pepper flakes to taste
½ lb linguine (1/4 pound per person)
2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley leaves
A couple teaspoons of fresh lemon juice
Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat, add garlic and cook until aromatic and golden brown, remove and discard. Put half the clams in skillet pour in wine and water. Cover and cook until clams open, about 10 minutes. As the clam open, remove them from pan. Do not let them over cook, or they’ll be rubbery and tough. Add the rest of the clams and remove as they open. When cool enough to handle, remove clams from shells and set aside, discard shells. Pour cooking liquid into a measuring cup. Let settle, there will still be a bit of grit at the bottom.
Heat a few tablespoons of oil in the skillet. Add shallots and red pepper flakes, cook until the shallots are translucent and softened. Slowly add the reserved cooking liquid, making sure you don’t add the grit from the bottom (a ladle helps with this). Bring to a boil and reduce my half.
While the clam stock is reducing boil a large pot of salted water for the pasta. Cook the pasta to just under al dente. Drain, and add pasta and clams to skillet, and continue cooking until sauce clings to pasta. Add parsley, lemon juice and toss to combine. Serve with baguette slices on side to mop up the delicious sauce.