Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Linguine alla Vongole

I love linguine with clams. Sadly I do not get to make it very often as it is shellfish, and shellfish is filed under Things The Hubs Won't Eat.
Too bad.
Cuz I make a pretty tasty version.
And it only take about 20 minutes. (Extra points for speed of food to mouth.)

This time around I had just under a dozen littleneck clams, and to cook them I used the following:
1 medium shallot, 3 cloves of garlic, 2 teaspoons of dried oregano, equal parts white wine and clam juice, lemon zest from half a lemon, the juice of half a lemon, 1 tsp of anchovy paste, butter to finish the sauce, and optional red pepper flakes for heat.

Normally if you find a broken clam, an open clam, or one that doesn't open after cooking, you throw them away. The clam pictured above was an exception.
It was very fresh, had been broken within the last hour or so, and when I went to remove the shard of shell, the muscle clamped down on it and pulled it back into its body.
In other words the clam was alive and pissed to have lost a piece of its protection.
But if you're worried, by all means THROW IT OUT!

You should always place your live clams into a cold water bath with salt for about 30 minutes before cooking. This will make them expel some of the grit they accumulate inside them. 
(Grit = Sand = Unpleasant Mouthfeel) 
Clearly Keats was intrigued by their behavior as well as their presence in the kitchen.
Tough luck, kitty. These clams be mine!

(Forgive the practice with my new camera that goes into Macro Mode automatically. 
It's my new toy.)
I grated the cloves of garlic on a "coarse" microplane.
Otherwise chop it finely.

Lemon zest
 Zested on a "fine" microplane.

Minced with my chef's knife.

Non-macro shot of the ingredients ready to go.
Set your water to boil, salt it, and drop your linguine.
In a separate pan heat a bit of olive oil and sauté the shallots until they begin to soften.

Ubiquitous shot of shallot and garlic sautéing
Once they soften add the garlic, a pinch of salt, the oregano, and anchovy paste. If you wish to use red pepper flakes, add them now as well.
Sauté another minute or two and then add the wine and clam juice.
You want the liquid to come close to halfway up the sides of the clams in the pan, so I just eyeball amounts until I like the level.
I was using an especially large pan for the quantity of clams, so the level looks a bit low, but they would have been cramped in my next-size-down pan. Remember: they get bigger when the open.
(Logic Lightbulb is Go!)

Bring the liquids up to a simmer and add the clams. Then place the lid on and cook for 6 1/2 minutes, giving the pan a shake once or twice along the way to assist the clams in opening.

True Grit. Ha!
You can see what the clams expelled in their salt water bath. You definitely do not want to bite into sand with your linguine. Blech!

Remove the clams and crank the sauce to boil and reduce.

(I prefer to remove the clams from their shells before plating when I'm eating at home for ease of cleanup, but most restaurants will serve them in their shells.)

Add the juice of half a lemon and the zest while the sauce is reducing.
When it's just about done add a tablespoon (or two) of butter to give the sauce a nice gloss and richness.

Make sure to remove your linguine a minute before al dente and finish it cooking in the reduced sauce so it can absorb as much flavor as possible.
Plate and serve while hot.

Do not add cheese or some angry Italian will come and smack you for adding cheese to a seafood dish. Instead garnish with a little fresh herbage (parsley or basil) if you have it and additional lemon zest.
The clams should be tender, not chewy, the pasta have bite, and the sauce rich with a bit of zing from the lemon. 
I hope you enjoy it since it's one of my favorites.

1 comment:

Ariana said...

Yum! I haven't tried making them this way but I definitely will. And your comment about the waiter in Italy being angry about cheese is dead on- Sean almost got smacked when he asked for parmesan to put on his vongole when we were in Venice. The waiter then ignored us for the rest of our meal.