“What is more tedious for us than an early supper? It thrusts itself into the gathering speed of a day’s life like a stick into the spokes of a turning wheel.” –M.F.K. Fisher–
I concur, and I keep on hand a mental stack of simple menus that call not for a recipe, but rather a stroll through the store, or if you live in a city with a market life – a visit to your local purveyor of fish, fowl or viande.
To this late night a la carte pursuit, may I suggest the ubiquitous bivalve? It makes for an easy, not-costly, and nearly-always grown up meal, namely because I have never been able to sell the chewiness of clams to my kids. If you have better luck than I, power to you. But I offer this minimal preparation, adapted from our friends at Epicurious and ultimately customizable, best enjoyed late at night with a glass of red or white, and a loved one – or not. Because cooking is one of those tactile activities that pleases the body and the soul, whether practiced in the company of others or alone.
You can savor this dish with a twirl or spoonful of your favorite pasta, or sopped up in the crust of a fresh baguette, Littlenecks are probably your clam of choice, but for reasons I have never quite understood, New Zealand cockles always seem to be in abundance at the local fishmonger’s. I feel like I should be guilty that they have consumed renewable resources to journey so far, but based on the fair market price, they must travel economy.
Linguini with Fresh Clam Sauce
• 1 dozen Little Neck clams or New Zealand cockles
• 1/2 lb. linguini
• 2-3 cloves of fresh garlic
• 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
• 2 tbsp butter
• 1 cup dry white wine
• 1 tbsp red pepper flakes
• Salt and pepper to taste
Put your large pasta pot to boil with several large pinches of salt. Keep it at a rolling boil, ready to add the linguini.
Add olive oil to a large frying pan and heat to medium.
Thinly slice the garlic and add to the oil. Sauté for about a minute until translucent, not burned.
Lay in the clams or cockles and sprinkle in the pepper flakes. Pour in the white wine and adjust the heat until the liquid is simmering just short of a boil.
Put 1/2 lb. (half the box) of pasta into the boiling water. Stir a few times so it does not stick.
Uncovered, cook the clams for about 8 minutes, shaking the pan slightly while you watch them open and release their juices. After 8-10 minutes, discard any clams that did not open. Do not eat unopened clams!
Remove opened clams in the shell to a bowl.
Lower heat on the clam juices and drain the pasta, reserving about half a cup of water.
Add 2 tbsp of butter to the clam sauce in the frying pan. Once melted, add the pasta and weave it thoroughly into the mix. If too thick, add a bit of the reserved pasta water. Add salt and pepper to taste, stirring frequently for about a minute
Plate the pasta along with the juices in a wide bowl or dinner plate.
Add the clams in shell atop the pasta and dig in.