I found this recipe over the summer on Food52, and it immediately appealed to me: succulent clams, steamed in a slurry of tomatoes, chorizo sausage, and white wine. Smoked paprika and garlic make the mixture extra aromatic and enticing. I have only been waiting for the right opportunity, as a big bowl of steamed clams isn’t a typical home-cooked meal for me on a random Tuesday night. Usually, when I wait a while to make a recipe, it eventually gets overlooked for more compelling prospects. Fortunately, this gem did not fall by the wayside. Last Thursday night seemed the perfect evening to stay in and enjoy this slightly celebratory meal with good company, and the weekend lingering around the corner.
This is a simple dish that is equally fun to prepare as it is to eat. It you are looking for a low-stress cooking experience that results in a meal with a little flair, look no further. Seafood always brings a certain level of festivity with it, probably because it is a bit more expensive than most land-abiding animal proteins, and it is definitely more fragile. However, these clams are a pretty affordable indulgence, at about $8 a pound.
As usual, I took a few artistic liberties with this dish. I opted for fresh, juicy flavor of raw cherry tomatoes over canned tomatoes; I also increased the quantity of wine because more sauce is always better; I also added some crushed red pepper flakes to give final product a touch of lingering heat. The original recipe called for little neck clams, but I wanted to go with something a little bit smaller, and thus sweeter. My hope was to find manila clams at the seafood market, but instead I was presented with wild cockles from New Zealand, which are even smaller than manila clams. I briefly hesitated because I was concerned that the bold flavors of the sauce would overwhelm the little darlings. I ended up taking the risk, and they worked out beautifully: so sweet and tender, and they certainly did not get lost in the smoky, sausage-laden sauce. This recipe is nearly fool-proof, as long as you go easy on the salt (there’s already plenty in the chorizo), and check on your clams frequently to make sure you don’t over cook them. They are done as soon as they open. Another note on clams: you will want to give them about a 20-minute soak in salt water prior to cooking. This will help them dispel any grit or sand they have been harboring in their little homes. They spewed out a noteworthy amount of debris that certainly wouldn’t have been tasty in my dinner. Serve this with some crusty bread and a bottle of wine, and you have an impromptu little party.
Makes two very generous servings
- 1 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/4 pound cured chorizo sausage, diced
- 2-3 shallots, sliced
- 3 clove garlic, sliced
- 8 sprigs fresh thyme
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 1/4 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 1/4 to 1/2 crushed red pepper (optional)
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 package of cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 cup white wine
- 2 1/2 pounds littleneck clams, scrubbed
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, for garnish (optional)
- Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat and cook the sausage until starting to brown (about 5-8 minutes).
- Add in the shallot, garlic, and thyme and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add salt (sparingly) and pepper. Add in the paprika, bay leaf, and crushed red pepper (if using) and toss the contents of the pan with the spices to coat. Cook for 1 minute.
- Add in the tomatoes, and saute until they start to soften, about 5 minutes.
- Add the wine and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 5 minutes.
- Add in the clams, cover with a lid, and cook until opened, about 8 to 10 minutes, stirring every so often. Garnish with parsley, and serve warm with some bread.
November 4, 2015