Clams make a sim­ple sup­per un­beat­able

Serve clam, tomato and ba­con stew with grilled gar­lic bread

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - FOOD - BY SARA MOUL­TON

Cooked hard-shell clams are an un­beat­able two-for-the price-of-one de­light.

You get the clams them­selves and the clam liq­uid they give off as they cook, which cre­ates an in­stant sauce with as­ton­ish­ing depth of flavour.

And it’s sim­ple. You just com­bine the clams with some liq­uid (and aro­mat­ics, if you want — here I’ve added scal­lions, gar­lic and toma­toes), cover them and let them steam un­til the shells open.

The only tricky part is that all clams don’t cook at the same pace. The first spec­i­men might open af­ter just five min­utes while the last one lux­u­ri­ates for three times as long. If you al­low that first clam to hang out un­til the last clam opens, it’ll end up rub­bery.

Ac­cord­ingly, it takes a tough cook to make a ten­der clam. Check the steam­ing clams fre­quently and pull each one out of the pot the sec­ond its shell opens.

This very same recipe also works us­ing a different kind of bi­valve mol­lusk, namely mus­sels. You’ll need about four pounds of th­ese crit­ters. Method-wise, pro­ceed as with the clams, re­mov­ing each mus­sel as it opens.

Clam or mus­sel, this sea crea­ture must be well-cleaned be­fore it’s steamed. Start by fill­ing a large bowl with cold wa­ter. Add the mol­lusks and swirl them around, then lift them out of the bowl. Dump out the sand on the bot­tom of the bowl, re­fill the bowl with clean wa­ter and re­peat the pro­ce­dure un­til the bathed clams leave no sand.

Cana­dian ba­con adds some meat and smoke to the fin­ished dish. (Also, it’s leaner than tra­di­tional ba­con.) Of course, the pescatar­i­ans among us are wel­come to leave out the ba­con. Like­wise, folks who aren’t into al­co­hol can sub­sti­tute wa­ter for the wine. Fi­nally, those who dis­like basil can use cilantro in­stead.

But please don’t skip the gar­lic bread. It’s easy to make and key to the recipe. And there’s no bet­ter way to sop up all that lus­cious clam broth.

Clam, Tomato and Ba­con Stew with Grilled Gar­lic Bread

Start to fin­ish: 1 hour

Serv­ings: 6

1/4 cup ex­tra-vir­gin olive oil

1 cup chopped Cana­dian ba­con

1 cup sliced white part of scal­lions and 1/2 cup sliced green part of scal­lions

1 cup medium chopped green bell pep­per

2 tea­spoons minced gar­lic

2 cups medium chopped ripe toma­toes

1 cup dry white wine

4 dozen cher­ry­stone clams, cleaned well

1/2 cup packed basil leaves, coarsely chopped

1 recipe Grilled Gar­lic Bread (recipe be­low)

In a large saucepan or Dutch oven large enough to hold all the clams, heat the oil over medium-high heat, add the ba­con, re­duce the heat to medium and cook, stir­ring oc­ca­sion­ally, un­til the ba­con starts to brown around the edges. Add the sliced white part of scal­lions and the bell pep­per. Cook, stir­ring oc­ca­sion­ally, for 5 min­utes. Add the gar­lic and cook for 1 minute. Add the toma­toes and cook, stir­ring oc­ca­sion­ally, for 5 min­utes. Add the white wine and the clams, cover the pot and steam, trans­fer­ring the clams as they open to a bowl. Dis­card any clams that do not open. Re­move all the clams from their shells and re­turn them to the pot with the tomato mix­ture. Re­heat over medium-low heat un­til just hot. Stir in the basil and scal­lion greens.

To serve: Put 2 pieces of the grilled bread into each of 6 soup plates and spoon one-sixth of the clam mix­ture on top.

Grilled Gar­lic Bread

6 (1/2-inch thick) slices coun­try bread

Ex­tra-vir­gin olive oil for brush­ing the bread

1 gar­lic clove, halved

Pre­heat a grill or grill pan over medium heat. Brush both sides of the bread slices with the oil. Add the bread to the pre­heated grill and grill un­til it’s nicely marked and crispy on both sides (about 2 min­utes a side). Re­move the bread from the grill and while it’s still hot, rub one side of each slice with the cut side of the gar­lic. Nu­tri­tion in­for­ma­tion per serv­ing: 393 calo­ries; 145 calo­ries from fat; 16 g fat (2 g sat­u­rated; 0 g trans fats); 75 mg choles­terol; 1,020 mg sodium; 33 g car­bo­hy­drate; 4 g fi­bre; 4 g sugar; 21 g pro­tein.

ED­I­TOR’S NOTE - Sara Moul­ton is host of pub­lic tele­vi­sion’s “Sara’s Weeknight Meals.” She was ex­ec­u­tive chef at Gourmet mag­a­zine for nearly 25 years and spent a decade host­ing sev­eral Food Net­work shows, in­clud­ing “Cook­ing Live.” Her lat­est cook­book is “HomeCook­ing 101.”

AP PHOTO

Clam, tomato and ba­con stew with grilled gar­lic bread in New York is a recipe by Sara Moul­ton. Be sure to check the steam­ing clams fre­quently and pull each one out of the pot the sec­ond its shell opens.

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