The Brown Kitchen has been rocking through the holidays, with lots of food, fun and friends. I just haven’t had time to get it all down yet to share with you so here’s one of my blog posts from saxophotography.com (yeah, I know, it has nothing to do with photography) to get you through the holidays.
Cooking is like photography in a lot of ways, and very different in at least one important way. I’ll explain that in more detail in my next blog post. Let’s just say I like to cook. I love to cook pasta. I LOVE linguine with clam sauce. White clam sauce. Not the red version. Don’t know who ever thought that up but ..... never mind. I give Italian restaurants the Clam Sauce Test. Whenever I try a new Italian restaurant I order linguine with clam sauce (if they have it on the menu - most do). If it’s good, I might go back and try other dishes (maybe ... maybe I just keep on ordering the clam sauce). If they can’t make something as simple as linguine with clam sauce properly, well, no use going back and trying anything else. Worst I ever had was at Original Joe’s in San Jose California. Best I ever had - in a restaurant - was at Mama Riso’s in Lake George NY. I had to clarify that last statement a bit because the absolute best clam sauce I ever tasted was cooked in my own kitchen by my own hands. I don’t mean to be immodest but I’ve got this down cold. People who wouldn’t touch a clam with a ten foot pole rave about my clam sauce. The picture above is the stove at the beach house in OBX we go to each year. I cook Lw/CS every year. This past year it was “only” six pounds. Didn’t want too many leftovers! Many have asked for the recipe so here goes:
I base this on 1 lb of pasta. If you need more or less, you can do the math. Also, I don’t really measure anything when I cook so you’ll have to experiment a bit to get it to your own individual liking.
1 lb linguine - my favorite for this dish is Barilla Linguine Fini, if I can find it.
Garlic, lots and lots of garlic, chopped up
Olive Oil - use extra virgin, always
Crushed red pepper
Fresh Basil (I use a whole bunch) - see step 7
Lemon juice - please squeeze it fresh, don’t use the stuff from concentrate
White wine, something dry - Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc.
4 6-7 oz cans of minced or chopped clams, unless you can find a big can of them - open them, drain and save the clam juice in a bowl before you start cooking.
1 bottle of clam juice.
Fresh Clams - I prefer Golden Necks. They are a little bigger and beefier than little necks and add a little color to the dish, but any are fine as long as they are not too big and chewy. Rinse them before adding to the sauce at the end.
- boil your water and cook your pasta however you like it. I’m not a huge fan of al dente - I like my pasta a little softer. Just bear in mind that as the pasta sits in the sauce after it’s cooked it will absorb the sauce and become softer. Okay, that’s the easy part.
- While all that is going on, or even prior, in a big pan saute garlic in olive oil with some crushed red pepper (use your judgement there, just a few flakes or a lot more, depends on how much heat you like, I like a little kick in mine). Here’s a little trick I use - I buy peeled garlic, but not that shit you get in the supermarket. I get it at the farmer’s market and then freeze it. When I need it, I take out some frozen cloves and chop them up with a nut chopper - the kind with the zig-zag blade that you pound on the handle. Since the garlic is frozen before cooking it takes a lot longer to burn and gives you a little leeway there. Add a little butter after a few minutes.
- Once the garlic is nice and sautéed (in other words, before it burns) add lemon juice (about one lemon’s worth) and some white wine - maybe the equivalent of what you would pour for a glass. Preferably the wine you’re drinking while you cook, unless you are like me and have a martini while slaving over the stove.
- Let that simmer down and reduce for a bit. Once it starts to get a little thicker add the minced clams, which you should have already drained all the clam juice from. At this point add some salt to the dish - preferably sea salt from a grinder (you never want to add all your salt at the finish of cooking - add some salt at each step and taste to make sure you don’t over salt. You know why restaurant food from great chefs usually tastes better then your food? Because they know how to use salt. It’s a skill worth learning). Cover and let it go for a while. Have a drink.
- After about 5 minutes or so, add the bottle of clam juice and all the juice you drained from the cans of minced clams. Let that bubble away. Maybe add a little more salt (taste, always taste while you’re cooking). Drink some more.
- So now you’re pasta is cooking and your sauce is bubbling away. You now want to add your rinsed clams to your sauce and cover. Eventually the clams will open and all the wonderful liquor from the clams will mix in with the sauce. Once the clams all open your sauce is done. Hopefully this is about the time your pasta is cooked. Timing is key is here. You don’t want the pasta to get too soft waiting for all the clams to open so you are better off starting the sauce first, get that going and then start cooking the linguine. You can add the clams when there us about 5 minutes left for the pasta to cook.
- Once your sauce is done and the clams have all opened and your pasta is done we’re almost there. Drain the pasta and pour into a big bowl. At this point you want to add the basil. I haven’t talked about the basil yet but it is the one ingredient that will make the dish. You want to use fresh basil. You can rough chop it or julienne it. What I like to do is get a fresh bunch - you can find it in just about any supermarket these days or at your local farmer’s market. I pick all the leaves and put them in a ziploc baggie, squeeze the air out and then throw it in the freezer. After the basil leaves have frozen, take the bag and mash it up with your hands. The frozen basil leaves will break into a million little pieces, which when added to a dish will diffuse throughout your dish. Put it back into the freezer until you’re ready to use. After you dump the pasta into a bowl add the fresh basil (it’s okay if it is still frozen if you’ve taken my advice) then pour the sauce on top. Mix good and you’re ready to go.
Good white wine and fresh baguette bread are essential accompaniments. Don’t forget to drink some wine or have a cocktail while you’re cooking. Too many people stress about cooking, especially when cooking for friends or a dinner party. Don’t be that person. Cooking should be fun and relaxing. Always have some music paying when you cook too. It relaxes and sets the tone. I prefer either Tony Bennett or John Coltrane but play whatever gets you in a creative groove.
Well, now you’e done. Enjoy you’re meal with family or friends. Relax and have fun .... and enjoy the compliments on you’re fabulous cooking!