Thursday, September 10, 2009

How to Eat Almejas

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.

And if you're going to have once-in-a-blue moon clams, you have to use the beautiful china.
We really liked clams. And the linguine. Did you know that you can use the shells to catch and sip the broth? Toys and food, it's better than a happy meal. I use one half of the shell to dig out the clam from the other side for the little one, placing it back into the linguine and slightly touching the broth.
You can use your clam to catch your brother's fork. Maybe even give your brother a nip.

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.


rookie cookie said...

Bless Costco for bringing seafood to the mountain-surrounded masses. This meal makes me want to go to Seattle and wear chunky sweaters and eat good seafood.

BTW, your littlest looks like you.

dalene said...

i am completely distrustful of seafood in our landlocked state. someday, however, i may get brave enough to try these. but only if you're cooking.


Fig said...

How much trouble am I in if my only frame of reference for clams is the ones that come in a can?

Also, can I add butter to this? Or is that one of the Things You Just Don't Do?

Azúcar said...

Fig, you can add butter, but I prefer the olive oil, I think it's cleaner and allows the briny flavor shine more. This recipe is super flexible, add more clams, add more or less broth, etc. The main thing is if it tastes good to you.

CW, I find that Costco is a great place to buy seafood, they fly in fresh fish constantly and have a high turnover rate.

Rookie, it's true, he's my little clone, only he has the most beautiful blue eyes.

Azúcar said...

Oh, and while fresh clams are delicious, I think canned chopped clams are just fine in chowder. I use them.

Fig said...

Me too. *sighs in relief*

girlsmama said...

Looks scrumptious! Isn't book club at your house in October? I can't wait to see what you come up with for munchies. -Jessica

Michelle said...

my Boston-bred father raised me with love of clams. I'll follow your recipe next time he visits.

xoxo, m

Lisha said...

We have LOT'S of clams here...and salmon...and lobster...and gross bright pink perch. All waiting for you to come and eat them.

And is that Spain story true? Mom and Dad shelling out for clams? I don't buy it.

Azúcar said...

Rosita shelled out.

thedoodlegirl said...

What a fabulous mama you are to make such fun, gourmet meals for your kids! I LOVE these pics. Looks like the boys had a great time. You are amazing.

Petit Elefant said...

you had me at *when i was little and spending the summer in Spain*. you pretentious thing, you.

Azúcar said...

You say that like it's a bad thing. I don't grok.

Anonymous said...


And I love the kitchen table, too! Vintage?

Rynell said...

I love seafood. I've wondered about buying it at Costco. Now I'm game. Love your recipes. ALWAYS.

Sarah said...

Mmm! I can't wait to try this. I am going to costco today - will have to see if their clams look good.
Did you husband like this? :)
Why aren't we eating stuff like THIS at cooking club?

Azúcar said...

My husband was cordially invited not to participate on account of his picky tendencies.

Azúcar said...

And YES, highlyirritable, the table and chairs are vintage. I got them at a tag sale.