Monday, May 11, 2009

Red, White & Clams

The word "clam" is typically used to describe edible bivalve mollusks known as hard clams or quahog. In the culinary world, hard clams are named according to their sizes. The smallest ones are known as countnecks and as the sizes get larger and larger, they come to be called littlenecks, topnecks, cherrystones and finally, the largest ones are called quahogs. Littlenecks and cherrystones are usually available as raw bar fare, served raw on the half-shell and eaten with tabasco, horseradish or cocktail sauce. The quahogs are usually not as tender and is commonly minced and used in New England clam chowder and are also served as stuffed clams. As a side note, soft-shelled clams, also known as "steamer clams" is popularly steamed (of course) and served with butter.

Littlenecks are also used in dishes like clams casino, in stews or soups and pasta dishes. Here, I am outlining the popular Clams with Linguine or Linguine with Clam Sauce pasta dish. For good measure, I've made two versions of this dish, White and Red Linguine with Clam Sauce (the latter comes with the addition of tomato products).

I started off with approximately 1.5 - 2 lb. of littleneck clams. The clams need to be washed before cooking in order to remove any sand or sediment that might still be clinging on to the shells. Also, start a pot of boiling water (with plenty of salt) for cooking the linguine. As usual cook the pasta until al dente. Mince some garlic and onions and cook them in bacon fat. Add some minced clams, dry white wine, butter, red pepper flakes and some store-bought clam broth to the pot. Bring to a boil and add the littlenecks. Cover the pot and simmer until the littlenecks open up (which means that they are cooked). Add more water if the liquid level goes down too low. For the red version, add a can of peeled tomatoes when you add the littlenecks.

After the clams open up, toss the linguine into the delicious mix and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. To serve, remove the clams and plate the linguine first. Now, arrange the clams around the plate and sprinkle with chopped parsley. And there you have it, two versions of Linguine with Clam Sauce, a New England favorite.

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