When Tala and I were planning Secret Wine Club: Loire a few weeks ago, we had very little idea of what we were going to drink or serve up until a few days before the event. The one thing that was certain, however, was that we would pour a Muscadet, and we’d pair it with clams. This pairing is off-the-charts successful, and we both recommend you try it – but the recipe and the wine do stand on their own as well. More of a technique than a recipe, I’ll tell you what you need and what to do.
Clams – the smaller the better, cherrystone, manila, and littleneck are three types that come to mind. You’ll want around 1lb per person for an entrée, or somewhat less as a snack or an appetizer. (I would not be lying if I said I could eat 2lbs by myself if you let me. Just sayin’.)
Shallot – 1 or 2, depending on how many clams you’re preparing, chopped
Garlic – 2 cloves, minced
Butter – 2 tablespoons
Olive Oil – 1-2 tablespoons
White Wine – about 1 cup (anything dry will work, I used what I had open, which was a Chardonnay, but if you’re pairing the dish with a Muscadet, and you can stand to give some up, use that!)
Water – about 1 cup
Parsley – about 2 tablespoons, chopped
Crusty Bread, sliced
Rinse your clams under cold water just to make sure there’s no debris on the outside. If you’ve bought them from a high-quality seafood shop like Hog Island, you won’t have to worry about sand on the inside, either! Start by drizzling the olive oil and melting the butter over medium heat in a saute pan with a tight-fitting lid. Once the butter is melted, add in the chopped shallot and stir with a wooden spoon or spatula until softened. You don’t want to color the shallots. When the shallots are softened, about 3-5 minutes, add in the garlic and saute for about 30 seconds. Turn the heat up to medium high, and add the wine and the water. Once the liquid is simmering in the pan, add the clams, spread in the pan evenly, and cover with the lid. Wait about 2-3 minutes, and check on the contents to see if the clams are starting to open. Give ’em a shake to redistribute. Cover and wait another 1-2 minutes. After about 5 minutes, most of the clams should have opened. If most are still closed, give them a bit more time. After 5-7 minutes total, turn off the heat, first transfer the clams to a serving bowl with tongs or a spoon, and then pour the pot liquor (all that delicious stuff with clam juice, wine, water, garlic, shallot, butter, and olive oil in it!) over the clams. This helps distribute the good stuff into each little clamshell, so that when you’re eating them, you don’t need to dig at the bottom of the serving bowl!
Make sure you serve the clams with an empty bowl at the table for the shells, and several slices of warm, crusty bread. Sourdough is great for this, as the tang and the sweetness and the fragrance of the clams all go together quite nicely. You can dip your bread in the pot liquor. That, my friends, is heaven.
Variations: This recipe is very flexible, and very forgiving. You can use a sweet onion, or even leeks instead of shallots. You can add some cubed bacon or pancetta or crumbled chorizo to the shallots and saute until cooked through. You can swap the white wine for a nice light, crisp beer. You can use a vegetable or chicken broth instead of water, for richer flavor.
Ever since I learned how easy it is, I almost never order them in restaurants, because I can make them at home in 15 minutes or less! This is one of my favorite things to eat when I’m alone, because it’s easy, fast, and delicious. Have you ever prepared clams? Maybe you were too nervous until now? Let us know!