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Linguine and Clams

September 14, 2009
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Back in June the boyf and I made linguine with canned clams.  It was….lacking.  Lacking in flavor, primarily.  When we went to the fish market on Saturday we picked up 50 cherry stone clams, planning on giving linguine and clams another shot.


We brought the clams home and I put them in ice water to get rid of the sand inside the clams.  They sat in the water bath for a good couple of hours, and then we placed them in a dry bowl, covered them with a damp cloth and then they spent the night in the refrigerator.  I’m guessing we did okay by the clams, since none of them died over night (!).  Plus there was only a few grains of sand in the final product.  It was pretty much inevitable; clams live in sand (which means they are full of sand) and regardless of how many water baths you do you’re not gonna get rid of all of it. 


After you cook the clams, you want to save all the liquid at the bottom of the pan because that is 100% clammy goodness (and the secret to making the best linguine and clams you’ve ever had).  I poured the liquid into a bowl and I just let it sit on the counter for several hours.  Be prepared because it looks horrifying.  It’s a muddy greyish black and it makes the whole kitchen smell like bivalves.  They boyf and I were both quite skeptical of it.   


These guys make a lot of liquid.  I actually didn’t even use all of it in the sauce because I had about 3 cups worth.  As the sauce was coming together and I was adding the pasta I had one of those “Oh my god!  What if this is bland?” moments.  Usually it’s just a fleeting thought and I know that if it is bland, I can just add some spices and go on my merry way.  But fresh clams, my friends, are not cheap.  And if this turned out bland, then I did wrong with a very expensive ingredient, which, for me, is pretty much unforgivable.  I’m not being melodramatic: if this had been bland I would have hemmed and hawed for days over what I could have done to make it better.  Yeah, the boyf probably would have liked it, but I would have felt like a total and complete failure.

I grated some fresh parmesan and sat down to take my first bite.  It was SOOOO good!  So good, in fact, that if I opened a restaurant I would put this on the menu.  There was so much clam flavor and spicyness from the red pepers, and the clams were perfectly cooked and the pasta absorbed the clam juice for more flavor… it was the first time that I went back for seconds and the boyf didn’t.  He probably would have if he hadn’t eaten chips with half a jar of queso before dinner.  I packed it in my lunch for today, and I can’t wait until it’s time to eat it again.  It really was that good.

DSC_0003Linguine with Clams

50 small clams, soaked and cleaned

clam juice (from cooking the clams)

splash of white wine (about 1/2 a cup)

red pepper flakes

6 or 7 cloves of garlic, minced

medium tomato, chopped

12 oz pasta cooked al dente

Steam cleaned clams in white wine in a big pot on high heat for 5 minutes, periodically shaking the pot to encourage them to open (or die, depending on your point of view).  After they’ve been on the heat for 5 or 6 minutes, open the pot and see if they’ve opened.  If they’re not all open yet, let them go for another couple of minutes.  Once they are all open, remove from the pot, leaving the liquid at the bottom of the pot.  Pour the liquid into a bowl and remove the clams from their shells (you don’t have to do this, and the presentation would probably be prettier if you didn’t, but this dish is a lot easier to eat if you’re not prying clams out of the shells with your fingers as you go).

Put some olive oil in a pan and add the red pepper flakes.  Heat the oil with the pepper for a couple of minutes to infuse the flavor of the pepper into the oil.  Add in the garlic and sautee until it starts to get a little brown and then add in your tomatoes and some salt.  Once the tomatoes start to release their liquid and it starts getting sauce-like, slowly pour the clam juice into the pan, leaving about 2 tbsp of juice in bowl.  Do NOT dump it all in (!!!) because sand and other particulate matter has settled into the bottom of the bowl.  So, if you pour slowly you get the yummy flavorful juice and none of the bad stuff, which stays at the bottom of the bowl.  Get the sauce bubbling so it starts to reduce and when it’s mostly reduced to a sauce consistency, add in the clams, just long enough to heat them up.  Let the sauce go for another minute or two and then add in your pasta. 

Top with some grated parmesan and off you go!

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