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Zox Kitchen

Zox Kitchen: March 20, 2014

Linguini And Clam Sauce:

A Winter Secret

Clams and other shellfish are too delicious not to appreciate this time to year, even if you prefer not digging them in knuckle biting cold weather. Your local fishmonger will accommodate you and you will enjoy the many culinary pleasures of clams in cold weather.

These bivalve mollusks are still eatable and delicious year-round in various forms, but are best when the weather is cooler. The irony is that they are susceptible to bacteria in summer months when many of us think about the enjoyment of clam bakes. The good news is that they are inexpensive year round.

It’s also important to remember that they should be eaten or cooked as soon as you get them because they are so perishable. But you will know if they have turned sour because they will have a fishy smell. In contrast, fresh clams, like other shellfish and flat fish alike, will only have a briny smell of the sea when they are fresh. Clams will also tell you how fresh they are if unshucked by whether they open when you are cooking them. They only open when they are alive.

Too many of us ignore these simple indicators of seafood freshness and become a casualty of Montezuma’s revenge. It’s such a shame because the sea brings us a healthy bounty that isgood for us, low in calories and virtually incomparable in taste. The rule of thumb is that if they look or smell odd, just don’t eat them.

Here’s a list of some of my favorite clams found in the waters of New England and the Northeast:

• Quahogs — Found in the waters of Cape Cod, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Maine and Canada: 3.5” wide. Best known as a chowder clam, stuffed clam or clam sauce.

• Cherrystones — Also found in Cape Cod, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Maine and Canada: 3.0” wide. Often eaten on the half shell, roasted, steamed, grilled, or in chowders. Their meats are firm with an intense flavor.

• Little Necks — Caught in Cape Cod, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Maine and Canada: 1” – 2” Wide. Known for its texture and sweet, buttery flavor. Served on the half shell, grilled or steamed and excellent for clam sauces.

• Soft Shell Steamer Clams — Found in Cape Cod, Essex, Ipswich, Maine and Canada. Often called “steamers” or “Ipswich Clams.” Best served steamed with melted butter on the side. And ideal for a Clam and Lobster Bake.

• Shucked Frying Clams — Easily found in Cape Cod, Rhode Island, Essex, Ipswich, Maine, Canada. Freshly shucked, whole belly clams are sold by the gallon or half gallon.

• Razor Clams — Common and delicious in waters of Cape Cod, Essex, and Maine. They look like a straight razor. Their meats are firm with a moderate brine and clam flavor. And they are growing in popularity.

My favorite way of cooking clams of all kinds is with linguini. Otherwise I enjoy eating them raw on the half shell with a squeeze of lemon juice, red sauce or Mignonette Sauce with or without blended cucumbers. Some times i just enjoy them alone with its own briny juice. So fresh and extraordinary.

Mignonette Sauce

Yield: 1 cup

Ingredients:

• 1/2 cup rice wine vinegar or lemon juice

• 1/2 cup red wine vinegar

• 1 shallot, minced

• 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated

• Black pepper and sea salt to taste

• 1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves, chopped

In a small bowl, combine the vinegar, shallots, ginger, black pepper, and parsley; mixing with a fork. Cover and chill for at least 1 hour or up to the day before you plan to serve, to allow the flavors to come together. Serve with clams or raw oysters.

Linguine With Clam Sauce

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

• 2 dozen Little Necks or cherry stone clams

• 1 cup finely chopped Quohog clams

• 2 cups bottled clam juice

• 1/2 tsp saffron threads

• 1/4 cup unsalted butter

• yellow onions, 1/2 cup thinly sliced

• linguine, 12 -16 ounces dried linguine

• 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

• 1/2 cup dry white wine

• 1 tsp, grated ginger

• 2 tbsp garlic, diced

• 1 cup diced (1/2-inch) fresh cherry tomatoes

• 1 tablespoon chopped Italian parsley

Preparation:

1. Heat 1/2 cup wine in a large saute pan over high heat. Add the clams, cover, and steam until opened, shaking the pan a few times. Remove the clams with a slotted spoon and let stand until cool enough to handle. Strain the cooking liquid through cheesecloth.

2. Heat a large pot of boiling salted water

3. Heat remaining clam juice in a small sauce pan; add the saffron and let steep turning heat off.

4. Heat the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent. Stir in the saffron infusion until just hot.

5. Add the linguine pasta to a large pot of boiling water and cook until al dente.

6. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a medium saute pan over medium heat. Add the ginger, chopped clams, garlic and cook 2-3 minutes at medium heat. Stir in the clams with their liquid, onions, and tomatoes. Stir in the parsley.

7. Drain the pasta and transfer to a warm pasta bowl. Add the sauce and quickly toss to combine. Garnish with two lemon slices per plate. Serve hot. Mangia!

Please send comments, questions or observations of interest to Chef Alan at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it