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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Clam Sauce: Red Or White?

I typically make Linguini Alle Vongole, pasta with  white clam sauce. The white wine, garlic, and red pepper flake infused sauce accentuates the clams and linguini without masking their beautiful flavors. My pantry is usually always  stocked with ingredients for white clam sauce.  Last night, I had imported San Marzano tomatoes in the cupboard and thought I'd take the white sauce version one step further with Linguinu Alle Vongole con Pomadora, pasta with red clam sauce.  The method for the red sauce is actually an extension of the white sauce method and is very simple.

I purchased fresh Littleneck clams from a local seafood source and let them rest on a bed of ice until bath time.  I sliced green peppers, Vidalia onions, and garlic to reserve while I prepped the lemons, fresh basil, fresh oregano, and fresh parsley.  Mise en place.

After heating a large saute pan until screaming hot, I added a few butter pats with a few tablespoons of olive oil (butter for the flavor, olive oil for the smoking point).  When the end of a wooden spoon sizzled when touched into the combined fats, I tossed in the peppers and onions to soften and caramelize.  Once they had wilted, I  added 5 cloves of thinly slliced garlc to toast without burning. The nose knows.  Once the aromatics were soft and tender, I deglazed the pan with a cup of white wine  and fish stock. When the stock had reduced by half, I added  sweet San Marzano tomatoes,  fresh basil leaves, fresh oregano, salt, and pepper. Partially covered, I let the sauce simmer for an hour while I enjoed a few glasses of wine.

After an hour, the sauce had thickened and reduced to almost a pulp consistency.  Not wanting to waste any of the tomato left in the can, I swirled a bit more stock in the can, releasing the stuck-to-side-of-the-can tomatoes, and added it to the sauce to loosen .  I let it come back to a simmer, tossed in two dozen clams, covered the pan, and let the clams steam open.

I boiled linguini in heavily salted water until al dente and mounded the wide strands in large pasta bowls.  Using tongs, I plucked the clams out of the sauce and placed them around the pasta.  I  poured the steaming sauce over the clams, squeezed fresh lemon over the sauce, and sprinkled unsliced  individual parsley, basil, and oregano leaves over everything.  A dusting of fleur de sel for crunch and flavor finished it off.  With no artisinal bread in stock, simple toasted and buttered Baby Bunny sliced white bread had to do for a sopper.

The  sauce had an enormous layered  depth of flavor!  The usual white wine and garlic white  sauce was transforrmed by the sweet acidity of the tomatoes.  The fresh basil and oregano infused the sauce with  subtle anise notes while the juice released from an army of clams gave it briny mineral undertones. Drinkable.

The clams were sweet, tender and plump. Perfect vehicles for such an assertive sauce as thier juicy mouth pops sweetened the tomato brine. The cheap white bread side sopper turned into savoury summer bread pudding when swiped into the swimming sauce and the linguini was cheek smacking slurpable.  Wonderful drippy and  messy  finger food with face painting!  What could be better?

Steamed hot napkins for clean up, maybe.

So, red or white clam sauce?  Both are good,
but red has both.

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