Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Clams Calabria

Henry David Thoreau once wrote, "We found some large clams ... which the storm had torn up from the bottom, and cast ashore.  I selected one of the largest ....  I kindled a fire with a match and some paper, and cooked my clam on the embers for my dinner."  Once cooked, Thoreau remarked, "I found it sweet and savory, and at the whole with a relish."

That is the ideal way of finding claims ... strolling along the beach and finding them just waiting to be collected and eaten.  Henry David Thoreau lived from 1817 to 1862, when that was perhaps one of the more common ways one could find a clam.  He also had the blessing of being near a beach where clams could be washed ashore.

Alas, for me (and you), it is not the nineteenth century and my proximity to a beach (and I am guessing that yours) is way beyond walking distance.  It is much closer and much easier to simply walk the aisles of the local grocery store and give thanks for the fact that about 150 years after Henry David Thoreau, the modern distribution system enables those stores to provide large clams.

Recently, the local grocery store had cherrystone clams, which are a relatively large clam.  As an aside, clams are categorized by name.  The smallest are referred to as "countnecks," increasing in size with names as "littlenecks," and "topnecks."  Larger clams are referred to as cherrystone clams and, if you still want to go bigger, then there are the quohog clams and chowder clams.  Most stores carry littleneck clams, and, everyone once in a while, they also carry cherrystones.

When I saw those clams sitting in ice, my mind immediately began thinking of recipes.  It has been a long time since I cooked with clams.  My thoughts immediately turned to chowder.  However, it is June.  The hot weather is not exactly chowder weather.  Then I thought about taking the ingredients in a chowder - potatoes, onions, and bacon - for a topping that could be put on the clams.  At that point, I saw a display with dried sausages, including a hot Calabrian-style sausage.  Substitute that sausage for the bacon and I had a recipe ready to be made.

This recipe is relatively simple ... borrowing from my days cooking in a seafood restaurant.  The clams are steamed in a pilsner beer, although white wine and even water will work fine.  I just happened to have a bottle of beer handy for this dish.  As the clams steam, which takes a while due to their large size, I sauteed the onions, potatoes and some garlic.  I added some paprika and oregano for flavoring.  Once the topping was cooked, I added the sausage.

This was an easy dish to make, and, the topping is quite good.  However, as much as I liked this recipe, I have to admit that nothing is better than a perfectly steamed cherrystone clam by itself.



CLAMS CALABRIA
A Chef Bolek Original
Serves 2

Ingredients:
6 cherrystone clams
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1/2 cup of potatoes, finely diced
1/2 cup of sweet onions, finely diced
1/4 cup of dry Calabrian sausage
2 cloves of garlic finely diced
1 teaspoon of paprika
1/2 teaspoon of dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 bottle of pilsner beer or 12 ounces of white wine

Directions:
1.  Prepare the topping.  Heat the olive oil over medium high heat.  Add the onions and potatoes.  Saute until the onions are soft, about 3 to 5 minutes.  Add the garlic, paprika, oregano, salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Saute for 1 to 2 minutes more.  Turn down heat to low.

2.  Steam the clams.  While the onions and potatoes are sauteing, heat the beer or white wine over high heat in a pot with a cover.  Once the beer or wine begins to boil, add the clams and cover.  Steam the clams for about 5 to 7 minutes or until all clams have opened.  

3.  Finish the dish.  Remove the clams from the beer and wine, remove the top part of the shell.  Add the sausage to the onion and potato mixture.  Spoon the mixture over each clam with a slotted spoon to ensure that the least amount of oil is added to the clams.  Serve immediately. 

ENJOY!

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