July 9, 2014

The Clam Experience

Now, I have eaten many a steamed clam in my day.
 I have always loved clams; 
raw in the half shell,  
chopped and tossed in garlic and herbs, 
loaded into soups and stews,
stuffed with sausage and breadcrumbs...
I could go on forever.
 As a matter of fact, Bill used to tell a story that I ate two dozen of his steamers when he brought me to the Bowling Alley one night...I was around 4 years old.

However, I may never, ever, ever look at clams the same way again. 
Here, I have been eating and enjoying them forever, however I had never actually cut into one.
I have steamed a million, but I never physically took a knife and cut through the center of a clam.

Have you!?

Well, this brings me to the main point of my story;
 Our friend Johnny spent the 4th of July weekend clamming with his family and brought us back a cooler filled with giant-sized clams.
I thought; I'll make linguine with a spicy clam sauce!
I scrubbed the clams.
I steamed the clams.
I took my favorite cooking knife and cut into one....

What I got was not what I imagined.
I didn't think it was going to be pretty, but I didn't expect the layers of disgustingness I found.

Now, apparently the sauce turned out delicious, but I spared you the imagery of the gruesome process.
I'll trust that you will try it on your own before you ever eat another clam...

Look at these monsters! 

After scrubbing them clean, I steamed the life out of them.

Don't they look delicious!?
This image doesn't justify their size.
Steamed, these puppies were each about the size of my palm...


They look so nice, chopped, sprinkled with crushed red pepper...

Homemade spicy clam sauce!

You would never know...

This photo gallery is a lame demonstration of the slaughter that took place in my kitchen Monday afternoon.
I may never eat clams again...
But the men at Shooting Club said it was delicious and gobbled the plate clean
 (even the old school Italian man)!

Serves 10 hungry shooters (adjust accordingly)

Ingredients & Gear:
About 30 large clams, scrubbed and rinsed
A large pot (with a steamer attachment) to steam clams and cook pasta 
A large colander to drain both clams and pasta
A large pot to make sauce
A large serving bowl + additional bowls for serving 
The obvious cooking and eating utensils

Approximately 6 cups of fresh garden tomatoes, blanched and peeled (or San Marzano canned if you can't find good tomatoes..very important ingredient;)

1 cup of oil
6 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
2 carrots, finely diced
1 small can of tomato paste
A handful of lightly torn basil
salt and pepper to taste
3 tablespoons of crushed red pepper, pulsed into a finer dust

2 boxes of linguine


First, make your sauce in a large pot by sauteing your carrots in oil with a tsp of salt and a pinch of pepper until slightly tender, add garlic and cook for about two minutes. Do not allow your garlic to brown or it will add a bitter flavor. 
Add your tomatoes and cook down on low heat, smooshing with the back side of your spoon. 
Optional: Pulse with an immersion blender to remove the majority of large chunks. If you don't have an immersion blender, allow the sauce to cool and blend in batches in a blender until smooth.
Add tomato paste. 
Add basil. 
Add crushed red pepper.
Stir and taste. Note that it will get spicier as it simmers and sits. But, if you want to blow the socks off your guests, feel free to add more crushed red pepper.
Don't let the sauce boil. This whole process should be low and slow, and can be made well ahead of time. In fact, the sauce I used today was the last of my batch in the freezer from last summer's bounty.

Second, while the sauce is simmering steam clams in batches until they pop open. 
Drain and allow them to cool. 
Try not to barf.
*Don't toss any part of the clam...apparently it adds to the flavors of the dish...
Try not to barf.
Repeat until all clams are steamed and chopped.

Sprinkle with a pinch of crushed red pepper and mix them with the sauce.

Third, boil water, salt and cook pasta to package directions. Drain, reserving about one cup of the pasta water. In a large family-style bowl, toss the pasta with about two cups of sauce and the pasta water. Drizzle the rest of the sauce over the top. Serve family style with garlic bread and Romano cheese (optional...some seafood snobs disagree with the cheese/seafood combination...don't ask me, the more cheese the better!).

Fourth, allow your diners to finish their meal before revealing how absolutely disgusting it is to chop clams...

Let me know how you did!

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