It’s a sad thing when bad clams happen to good people- to good fish mongers to be more specific. Sweets and I went to our nearby fish mongers for halibut to curry up, and wound up with steamer clams for dinner too. I unfortunatley ignored my spidey sense as we had our clams fetched for us from the case (and Sweets confirmed he had the same tingles). Upon inspection at home it turns out we were right, and 1/3 of our clams were dead.
Not all was lost, we pulled out an excellent dinner and had a wonderful wine (Reserve des Vignerons, Saumur 2003) suggested for us at our neighborhood Sundance Wine Cellars. Since the dinner gods looked favorably on our clam experience afterall, I thought I’d repay them with this service announcement.
Guide to Good Clams
- AB’s advice from Send in the Clams, augmented with our “we should have known better” experience.
- Before cooking, your clams should be able to shut tight.
- Though they tend to lie about with bits hanging out of their shell (vulgur things they are), a good tap on a healthy clam with cause them to pull all their danglies back in and shut up.
- If it looks like you will be buying the last of your fish shop’s clams for the day, have them go through and check the clams for a closing response before you buy them.
- Ahh, this was where I should have spoken up and didn’t. Though the lesson will be passed on. When we requested our steamer clams from our little locally owned shop, they reached right into the case and just scooped everything they had up onto the scale and then bagged it. What made this senario so particularly sad, is that we go out of our way to not shop at corporate grocery stores, hence our visit to this particular fish shop. However, the last time I did shop at a megastore (Albertsons), and bought steamer clams, the counter help tapped every single clam before weighing them for me. I was impressed! Maybe I’m cute or maybe that was service, but this was the touch we missed at our trip to Newman’s fish market. Small and local doesn’t guarentee the best of service at all times.
- If not immediately cooking your clams that night, store them in an open container or bag covered by a towel.
- If a clam doesn’t open when cooking, toss it out.
Cooking steamer clams is quick and easy, and offers such high flavor returns! There is a reason this meal is so popularly offered in restaurants- cheap ingredients, cooks fast, elegant and tasty. Simple is good and as such the following recipe is more a technique rather than a listing of measurements.
In a saucepan bring about a cup of broth to a simmer with a pinch of saffron. Turn down the heat and allow the saffron to steep, brightening up your broth’s color.
In a saucepan of ample size to hold your clams, saute diced onion in a dab of butter. Sprinkle with salt. When the onions have turned translucent, add a clove of garlic, minced. briefly cook the garlic, and bathe your garlic and onions in a cup of good white wine. Swirl and add to this pan your checked through clams with the saffron broth and a handful of chopped red bell pepper. Lid the pan, and over med-low heat, allow the steam of the hot broth and wine mixture to open your clams approximately 5-8 minutes. If you are feeling obsessive, you can pick out your clams as they open up. If you have ones that fail to yield to the heat, toss them out.
When the clams have opened, turn off the heat and taste to season (more wine? splash of lemon juice? Dusting of ground pepper?).
We like to serve this with grilled or toasted bread that has been rubbed with raw garlic. We also enjoy making this a full meal by drowning pasta in the clam broth.
Udon Variation: Using sake in the place of white wine and finishing the meal with udon noodles is wonderful.
Thai Variation: Build even more flavor in with a tbs of curry paste added to the onion saute. Use coconut milk in the place of wine, and finish with basil leaves.