Linguine with Clams and Fresh Herbs

Do you ever walk past a certain food item at the market and think, “what in the world would I do with that?”  Is there an ingredient that you refuse to work with because it just plain frightens you?   I think most cooks (home cooks, anyway) have a food or two that they’re afraid of tackling…in fact, maybe the title of this post should have been “Facing Your Fears in the Kitchen”!

I had lunch with a girlfriend this past week who told me she’s afraid of cornmeal.  CORNMEAL, for goodness sakes!   I didn’t want to hurt her feelings so I stifled my snicker, but seriously….cornmeal?  It’s not that much different that oatmeal.  It’s harmless, right?

I’m not here today to go about mocking my friend, not only because she’s one of my favorite people ever, but also because I have my own set of ingredients that intimidate me.  A short list is as follows:  yeast, celery root, certain squashes, stone fruits, whole chicken on the bone, and …wait for it….fresh clams.

Yep, clams in their shell freak me out.  Every fresh clam recipe I’ve ever read seems to contain a laundry list of hoops you have to jump through in order to dine on them at home (soak them, rinse them, repeat, repeat – throw away the ones that don’t open, blah, blah, blah).  This week’s sale ad inspired me though.  I thought I would “get my feet wet” (I know, sorry) with the clams that are on special.

You’ll find them in the seafood section, naturally.  They’re shrink wrapped in a 2-pound package, and they’re fully cooked, which is a beautiful thing, because it takes the soaking, rinsing, and fear of steaming them properly out of the equation.

This recipe was a hit with the DamFam!  We all loved it and I would definitely make it again.  The end result with the clams in their shells atop the linguine and fresh herbs was quite impressive, I have to say!   I would even serve it to company – especially my parents, who both love clam sauce.

It didn’t exactly conquer my fear of fresh clams, but the recipe gave me confidence that clams in the shell can taste good at home.  Maybe next time I’ll attempt the recipe with raw clams, just for ha-ha’s.

What about you guys? Which ingredients make you shudder with fright?  Call me curious (or call me nosy, I sure don’t mind), but I would love to know what foods intimidate all of you cooks out there.  And please say you’ve got something more terrifying than cornmeal and clams on your list!

Leave your fearful foods in the comment section here, or comment on Facebook!  If we get a big list of scary foods going, we’ll enlist the chefs at Sendiks to help us face our food phobias.

For now, don’t be scared … just enjoy the linguine!

LINGUINE AND CLAMS WITH FRESH HERBS

Serves:  4-5

Source:  adapted from Epicurious.com

  • 1 pound linguine
  • 2 – 6 oz. cans chopped clams, drained (reserve juices in a glass measuring cup)
  • ¼ c. half and half (or, gild the lily and use whipping cream, they’re your thighs)
  • ¼ c. white wine
  • ¼ c. bottled clam juice (find this on the top shelf above the canned tuna)
  • Squeeze of fresh lemon juice (about a tablespoon)
  • 3 T. olive oil
  • 4 large cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ t. crushed red pepper (add more if you like a bigger kick)
  • 2 T. chopped fresh basil, divided
  • 2 T. chopped fresh Italian parsley, divided
  • 1 – 2 lb. package fully cooked clams (on sale), drained of any liquid from their package

Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally.  Drain pasta but do not rinse it.

Add the half and half, white wine, clam juice, and lemon juice to the reserved clam juice in the glass measuring cup.  You should have roughly 1 ¾ c. liquid.  Set aside.

Heat the oil in a very large skillet (or large saucepan) over medium high heat.  Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Add the clam juice mixture and half of the fresh herbs and simmer for about 5 minutes.  Add the clams in their shells; cover pot and simmer (this is just to heat the clams through) for about 5 minutes.  Use tongs to remove clams to a plate, cover to keep warm.  Add the cooked pasta and the canned clams to the sauce in the skillet.  Toss over medium-high heat until sauce thickens and coats pasta (about 7 – 10 minutes; the starch from the pasta will help to thicken the sauce).  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Add reserved fresh herbs, toss.  Divide pasta between serving bowls; top with clams in shells.  Garnish with fresh herb sprigs if desired.

Featured, Fresh, Frugal, Fabulous | October 5th, 2009