The best part about living in a foreign country? Finding and trying new local, fresh food. I have decided that one of my favourite finds so far has been fresh clams. I have very fond memories of first trying them in Charleston at the Kinfolk Dinner last year. I also adored them paired with pappardelle at Vinegar Hill House in Brooklyn, NY. In Australia it's all about oysters, mussels, sometimes cockles and pipis. Very rarely will you find a clam dish on the menu. I'm not sure about the West Coast of the USA, but on the East Coast, clams are all the rage. The further north you go, the more 'soupy' they become - Maine Clam Chowder for example. Down here in the south, they are mostly found in big ol' Low Country boils, or just simply steamed or raw and served on the half shell with a nice vinaigrette.
I'm hoping that before the time comes for us to leave this southern state that we currently call home, I will find the opportunity to go clamming. It sounds so adventurous doesn't it? Out on a boat, through the marsh canals, digging up the mud to find buckets of fresh, free clams. I'm ready Florida. Take me out. But for now, it is off to the local fish market I go (twice - the first time I was left with stinky, dead clams - a little present I found in my fridge after suffocating them in a plastic bag overnight. Lesson learnt).
Once I made the emergency bike ride trip to the fish market and made it home with my round two of fresh clams, I decided to steam them à la moules marinière with a bit of a twist.
Here is the recipe:
prep time: 5 minutes
cook time: 15 minutes
total time: 20 minutes
yields: 2 as an appetizer, 1 as a main course
1 tbs olive oil
1/2 small fennel bulb finely chopped
2 cloves garlic finely chopped or grated
5 fresh sage leaves shredded
1 tsp fresh thyme chopped
1 dried chili chopped
good pinch of salt and cracked pepper
1/2 cup good white wine
200 ml/7 oz thickened cream
600g/1.3lbs of fresh, live little neck clams (about 20 pieces)
crusty bread, to serve
Rinse clams under cold running water and remove any blemishes.
Heat oil in a large heavy based saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic, fennel, chili, sage, thyme, salt and pepper and allow to sweat for around 10 minutes. Turn up the heat to high. Once the pan is really sizzling, add the wine, cream and clams. Give the clams a quick stir to coat them in the sauce, then cover and allow to steam for 4 - 5 minutes. Be careful not to over cook - this will result in chewy clams. Once steamed, remove the lid to check that all of the clams have opened. Remove the already opened ones and place in a bowl. You may need to allow the remaining closed ones to cook for a further minute or two. If they remain unopened, throw them away.
Test the sauce and adjust with salt, pepper and wine if needed. Once you are happy with the taste, pour over the clams. Garnish with fennel fronds and serve with fresh crusty bread and the remainder of the white wine.