Shortcuts aside, clams are still a classic

Originally appeared in the April 19, 2012 edition of the Southside Times.

Okay—so I slightly missed the window for in-season clams.  I had been so looking forward to sharing the recipe linguine alle vongole.  What can I say?  I got busy.  And the notion of being busy (along with all its hectic trappings) makes a nice segue.

Sometimes when you become overwhelmed by the lack of time in your day, you come understand that being spread so thin involves a certain amount of compromise.  Whether it’s your career or your craft or both, culinary shortcuts are, from time to time, not only a reality but a way of survival.  Substituting canned clams for the fresh, in-shell variety may not be a cardinal sin, but I like treating the classics like classics.  So we’ll call this an ersatz vongole.  This way, I can give an earnest nod toward the noble dish without feeling too awful deviant.

The ingredients are pretty straightforward, and the dish itself is relatively easy to execute—something that, in a restaurant, could certainly be prepared a la minute, meaning all components (sauce, starch, protein) are cooked to order, and typically in the same pan.

Maybe your conscience is clean.  Maybe I just need to stop wringing my hands about this and start cooking my own batch of linguine and clams.


Linguine with spicy white wine clam sauce

Serves 3 – 4

  • 6 ounces dry linguine (Barilla is nice)
  • As needed, extra virgin olive oil (plus more to garnish)
  • 1, 10-ounce can sweet clams, drained (juice is saved for the end)
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • To taste, crushed red pepper
  • ¼ cup white wine
  • 1 ½ tablespoons unsalted butter
  • To taste, kosher salt and cracked black pepper
  • As needed, chopped fresh Italian parsley

1.  In a large pot of salted, boiling water, cooked linguine until al dente (or just cooked enough to have some bite).  Meanwhile, in a sauté pan over medium heat, warm your olive oil.  Add in clams and sauté briefly.  Add garlic and stir, cooking until aromatic; add crushed red pepper.  Pour in white wine and gently scrape bottom of pan with wooden spoon.  Allow wine to reduce until the bottom of the pan is almost (that’s almost) dry.  Add a small amount of reserved clam juice and bring to a simmer.

2.  Briefly drain linguine and pour into clam sauce.  Toss pasta and adjust seasonings.  Lower heat and add butter, swirling into sauce until mixture thickens and butter melts.  Adjust consistency with any remaining clam juice.  Garnish plates with chopped Italian parsley.

Published in: on April 19, 2012 at 9:09 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Linguine puttanesca

Pasta patois

Originally appeared in the November 3, 2011 edition of the Southside Times.

There’s something to be said for using your intuition in the kitchen.  But, more to the point, while there’s a need for precision in many culinary cases, what most cooks rely on when actually preparing food is eyeball accuracy—you have to cook with all your senses, and it’s perfectly fine to tinker as you go.  Read more after the jump: (more…)