Almejas a la Francesa When it comes to clams, the smaller the better …

When it comes to clams, the smaller the better …

October 5, 2007

Unless you’re making chowder, I’d say the smaller the better for any dish calling for clams. In Italy we used vongoli veraci about as big as a thumb, and they have little horns, so maybe they were cuckolds! but whatever they were, they were scrumptious and alive—discard any clam that’s partially open … ALWAYS! Sometimes we’d even use tellini about the size of a thumbnail. (May use cherrystones, if that’s all you’ve got.)

So here’s the new recipe I got from Barcelona—tasting it only and making it once. I’m sure if you hunt and peck around Google, you’ll find an official recipe somewhere.

Almejas a la Francesa.
Ingredients: clams, clam juice, white wine—(whatever you’re drinking! I used Pinot Grigio), onions, heavy cream, ground red pepper, paprika, garlic powder (if desired).

No babying here … or molly-coddling. This is for people who know what they’re doing with seafood. Stop reading now if this intimidates you. Two dishes—either with pasta or as a zuppa served with brushcetta (no tomatoes!) or fresh Italian bread. If you’re going to use this recipe as a sauce for pasta—put the salted water on to boil the minute you start to cook. If not, mox nix.

Clams. (Already soaked in cold water and rinsed several times.) Open them very quickly over high heat without water or oil. Quickly as in FASTER than FAST, and remove immediately from the heat. Set the sea-animals aside, and strain the juice. Rinse the pan if it’s sandy. Then add more clam juice if needed (store bought in a bottle) to the liquid the clams have already kicked out. Reduce, but not by half. I never salt clams and here’s why: there’s plenty in them already. Reserve the liquid.

Into the same huge and especially deep fry pan, I cook with Bialetti—simply because it’s the best, and has a glass cover (Hi-Base System, 12 in./ 30 cm)—place about ½ stick of unsalted butter (not margarine) and adjust if you need more or less, depending on the amount of clams. See what I mean about knowing what you’re doing? One huge sweet onion chopped coarsely. Less clams, less onion! When the onions are golden—fling in white wine—how much? Are you kidding?

Over a high flame, burn off the alcohol. Add the reserved clam liquid. Add heavy cream … that’s heavy whipping cream—no substitute will do. I use 8 fl. ounces (1/4 liter) of organic from Organic Valley—naturally you’re going to have to judge how much sauce you’re going to need if doing pasta, vero? (Use ½ a liter or more if you need it.) Thicken on high heat, stirring constantly. Toss in the clams and serve in pasta bowls for antipasto. Serves as many as you want, depending on the quantities you use. I’m not being a smarty pants here, this is a recipe for 2 or 20! (If it’s for 20, guess what? Use a bigger pot.)

For pasta use a huge serving dish—oval or round, ceramic or porcelain—pour in the pasta first and then cover and toss with the calm sauce. Linguine or spaghetti go nicely—or fresh fettuccine—but you’ll need more sauce for this pasta as it’s fresh and absorbs more sauce. One thing you never want is dried out fettuccine. You may sprinkle with ground red pepper and a dash of paprika for color—this dish doesn’t takes parsley, which usually is a great with seafood—no garlic either—I use a hint of it (in the sauce when I add the clams, I sprinkle with granulated garlic or garlic powder—neither with salt!). If you’re a purist, then you should smoosh a garlic clove around the bottom and sides of the pot after you rinse it of sand and before you add the liquids. Throw out the smooshed clove, or chew it and save on garlic capsules, or give it to the dog.

And there you go! Buen provecho!

I assume no responsibility for the success or failure or this dish, nor for misspelled words or grammatical errors. I wrote this under duress—it was now or never. Felipe is on the Utah express heading home and I have to cook my new “Colors of the Fall Soup” (Recipe soon to make it’s debutante appearance on this self-same blog. Weight Watchers, this one’s for you!)