Having grown up in a college town in north-central Indiana, my exposure to seafood in my youth consisted only of catfish and popcorn shrimp from Red Lobster. Being a poor college student when I lived in South Carolina, I didn’t give myself many opportunities to broaden those horizons.
I have made a point over the last 5 years to make up for all of that lost time, trying new foods, trying to cook new foods, and it has been great. Honestly, I just learned how amazing lobster is on my honeymoon 3.5 years ago. But there’s a lot out there to try and it’s tempting to just settle in with the things I know are good.
Tonight I decided to try making a Linguini with White Clam Sauce dish from the Joy of Cooking (one of nearly a dozen cookbooks I’ve acquired in the last 5 years). Adventurous for me considering a) I’ve never eaten anything with white clam sauce and b) I’ve never cooked/seen anyone cook clams (except for over a giant fire pit at a clam bake, where I didn’t eat clams).
So… I was surprised when the guy at the seafood counter at Hy-Vee told me that he poked a hole in the bag so the clams wouldn’t suffocate on the way home (they’re still ALIVE??).
TIP: Store fresh clams either in a mesh bag or in a shallow bowl with a damp towel over them in your refrigerator. Don’t suffocate them and kill them – you’re supposed to do that on your stove or with your teeth.
One basic truth about cooking is that sauteed onion and garlic is always a good, delicious-smelling thing. So we got off to a great start. Throw in some parsley and chardonnay, and – X – things are looking good and like nothing to be afraid of.
The sadistic part of the process was discovering that the clams had opened (in the pot, like they’re supposed to, over high heat in one cup of chardonnay), experiencing joy that the little buggers had yielded and opened their yaps to let me at their tasty meat (or at least that’s what I thought I was supposed to expect).
I was confused at the point in the shucking instructions on p. 374 that explained you’re supposed to scrape something out of the clam’s stomach. There was no illustration for that part, and I couldn’t find anything about it on the web. And, quite frankly, it grossed me out a little to think of clam meat as a stomach. Without any experience or clear instruction, we just decided to roll with what we found.
End result: deliciousness – though not worth a regular spend on the clams. However, I’m definitely now curious to try this dish at a restaurant with a chef who happens to know something about preparing clams. Perhaps I should try a dish by someone who knows what they’re doing before I go all Iron Chef on my family…. any recommendations for places to try this in Omaha?