When I was little and spending the summer in Spain we would scamper down the hillside, passing the goats next door on our way to the beach. On sections of rock steps we would avoid the giant snails crawling down the wall, they loved the heat and humidity like we did. I'd cross the sand a quickly as possible and smash my toes in the ocean. When I found my courage I'd dive into the breakers. I'd swim and swim, feet hitting the seaweed, and when I ducked my head under water, I could see the sardines swimming. They'd flash silver underwater, trying to avoid a break in their school.
Later we'd walk down the bay and buy a huge net bag of clams from the fishermen and walk them back to the house. The clams would steam with broth, garlic, a touch of tomato, bay leaf, smoky paprika, and saffron (almejas al estilo marinero.) We'd eat ourselves silly on the briny taste.
My hypothetical last meal always includes a bowl of clams in a white broth, sometimes with linguine, sometimes with baguette. Nothing comes close to scooping out the clams and slurping the broth, dribbling down, down, down your chin, your elbows.
On a regular milk run to Costco I spied a tray of live, wild cockles. I tapped one on his head, maybe it was his back (what if it was his arm?) and he closed with a snap. I couldn't help it, we had to have clams tonight.
After you've scooped out every clam, and put their shells in another bowl, you can take the empty shells and move them back, one by one, into your very own bowl. Must let them go with a satisfying clink.
Clams in White Sauce
1-2 pounds of Clams
1/4 cup cornmeal
1 large shallot, minced
1 cup chicken broth, white wine, or a mixture of both
1/4 c. olive oil
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1 cup loosely packed minced flat leaf parsley, give or take, chopped
Half a box of linguine pasta (about 8 ounces)
Lemon slices (optional)
1 hour before cooking clean the clams. Rinse them off, scrub if necessary. Fill a wide container with cold water and place clams inside, trying not to have more than 2 layers. Sprinkle cornmeal over the water and give it a stir. Set the clams aside in the fridge for at least 1/2 an hour, you can leave them for longer, even 8 hours. The clams ingest the cornmeal and spit it out, carrying any grit or dirt with it. Lift each clam out of the water and put in a colander. Discard the water and cornmeal. As you go, tap any open clams with your finger nail. If they don't close, toss the clam, it's dead. Rinse the clams under cool water.
Cook the linguine in plenty of salted water until al dente. Drain, reserve some of the pasta liquid.
Put a saucepan on the stove over medium heat. Add oil, then shallots. Saute the shallots until translucent. Add the broth to pan and add the clams. Cover and steam for 5 minutes. The clams will open and release their juices. Remove the pan from the heat, discard any clams that didn't open, and add more than half the parsley and the flakes. Add a little pasta water as needed.
Put the linguine in the bowls, spoon the clams and broth on the pasta, and then sprinkle with remaining parsley. DIG IN.
By the way, if anyone ever tries to serve you clams in a white sauce that is actually white, like a gravy or a soup, and put it over pasta, RUN AWAY. They don't know what they're doing. If you have business dealings with them, re-evaluate. If they watch your children, be afraid.