This past weekend, my husband and I spent some time alone at my family bungalow on Long Island. Knowing we probably wouldn't be back there for some time, we made a special effort to enjoy the exquisite quiet (we don't even have a TV!) and just relax. Among our purposefully minimal accomplishments:
A trip to the local antique shops where we snatched up this bit of beach house kitsch that was obviously a must have.
A few extra competitive games of Trivial Pursuit.
And last but not least, we cooked a very nice and easy homemade dinner. Mr NK grilled up the most delicious entree of double cut Pork Chops on the Weber kettle while I was tasked with making an appetizer. With so much great seafood at our fingertips, my choice was a no-brainer. So off we went to our favorite seafood shop/clam bar to grab some Littlenecks.
Clams are my all time most favorite seafood. Today's dish is like the best Linguine with Clam Sauce you ever had, minus the pasta. It makes an ideal appetizer and when you serve it, the room goes silent for at least ten minutes. It's that good.
In my world, Clams simply must be served with broth. Here, copious amounts of fresh and canned clams sit atop a generous "crouton" of savory Bread flavored with Garlic and Pecorino Romano. The Crouton serves both as a base for the tender Littlenecks to perch on, but most importantly, as a sponge to soak up all that brothy goodness at the end.
Note - This recipe is easily doubled, but you may want to consider making it in two different pots so Clams have room to open. It's also very is adaptable to a pasta entree. Just skip the Crouton, prepare Clams as directed, and serve over Linguine!
NK's Clams Con Zuppa With Savory Crouton
|Scrubbed and Ready to Roll, Photo: NK|
2 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter plus more
3 Garlic Cloves, two finely sliced and then minced, the third, cut in half
1 Can Chopped Clams (5 oz)
4 Ounces Clam Juice (half a bottle)
18-20 Littleneck Clams, scrubbed thoroughly. Ask the fishmonger to pick out the smallest possible.
1 Cup Dry White Wine, divided - we've been enjoying using these boxed wines for cooking because they are resealable and come in small sizes - Bota Box
1/4 teaspoon Black Pepper
Crushed Red Pepper to taste
1/4 Cup Flat Leaf Italian Parsley, Chopped
1 Loaf of Crusty Bread - choose a wider sized baguette that is about 8 to 10 inches long
1/4 Cup Grated Pecorino Romano Cheese
Take out your serving bowls and cut 2 large hunks off the Baguette that are sized to fit nicely in the base of the bowl. Next, cut the tops off the Bread. Rub each piece with half of the Garlic Clove, spread on a bit of Butter, and sprinkle generously with Pecorino Romano. Toast Bread in the toaster oven or regular oven until golden. Place each flavored "Crouton" in the base of your serving bowls. Set aside.
|One big "crouton," Photo: NK|
In a large, heavy bottom pot, heat Oil and Butter over medium low heat.
Once the Butter is melted, add the minced Garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 or 2 minutes. Do not burn the garlic. If the garlic burns, it is not a bad idea to toss everything and start over.
Next, add the can of Chopped Clams with their juice to the pot. Turn up the flame to medium.
Add 1/2 a cup of the Dry White Wine
Heat until the liquids begin to bubble a bit.
Add 4 oz (half a bottle) of Clam Juice
Add the Black Pepper and Crushed Red Pepper to taste.
Bring to a light boil again and add all the Fresh Clams.
Add the remaining 1/2 Cup of Wine.
Cover pot and cook another 3-4 minutes.
Check the Clams now and as they should begin opening.
Pull clams out immediately with tongs the moment they open and set aside.
Give the pot a stir and continue to cook, removing Clams out one by one as the pop open. Discard any that do not after a reasonable period of time.
To assemble: Place Fresh Clams on and around the Crouton base as pictured below. Pour generous amounts of Broth and Chopped Clams from the pot over each bowl.
|Assembly, Photo: NK|
Sprinkle with a bit more Crushed Red Pepper if you like, and top with Chopped Parsley.
Serve right away.
|Zuppa di Vongole with Savory Crouton, Photo: NK|
|Delicious broth soaked bread - the final flourish! Photo: NK|