Steamed clams with garlic and basil

Steamed clams: this shell game’s a snap

Originally appeared in the September 29, 2011 edition of The Southside Times.

Recalling his days as an English teacher, and the workload that went along with the job, Stephen King wrote that by the end of the work week, his brain felt like it’d been hooked up to jumper cables.  No matter your personal vocation, I bet you can relate.  So here’s a recipe that’s just atypical enough to give a little variety to a hum-drum meal; and its labor-light execution invites you to sit down, relax, and do as little work as possible.  More after the jump:Common clams are grouped by their size—from smallest to largest you have littlenecks, middlenecks, top necks, and cherry stones.  Today I’m using mahogany clams, also known as golden clams, for their size and robust flavor.  Clams live in the mud, so make sure you rinse the shells and give them a brief dry-towel scrubbing.  When buying your mollusks, inspect the hinge; give them a tap to make sure they close—this is good (it means they’re alive).

And if you think clams are difficult to obtain, think again.  If you can’t spot the bivalves at your favorite market, don’t’ be shy: ask the clerk if they have some in the back.  Or just call around town to do some culinary investigating—just like this recipe, I guarantee success.

Steamed clams with garlic and basil

Serves 2

  • 20 mahogany clams, rinsed and scrubbed
  • As needed, olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped garlic
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 5 fresh basil leaves, chiffonade (thin, thin slice)
  • To taste, sea salt

1.  In a large pot over medium heat, add small amount of olive oil and warm; add garlic and sweat until aromatic (don’t burn).  Pour in white wine, increase heat to medium-high, and clams.  Place lid on pot and wait until liquid simmers.  Clam shells will begin popping open; give the pot a shake.  After roughly seven minutes, decrease heat, allowing clams to cook through.  Turn off heat, and with tongs, reserve clams.  Add butter to broth, stir until melted, and add basil.  Adjust seasonings and return clams to pot.  Serve clams with crusty toasted baguette slices.

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