I'm going to let you in on a little secret: Sautéed clams are one of easiest and most rewarding quick meals that you can make. I think that lots of people are under the assumption that clams, mussels, and oysters are best left to the experts. I am certainly not going to ask any of you to start shucking dozens of oysters at home, but clams and mussels are another story. They are inexpensive and infinitely versatile—simply heat up a pan with some sort of fat (olive oil or butter seem to work the best), add some aromatics such as onions, garlic, leeks, scallions, and fresh herbs, and steam with a flavorful liquid, white wine, stock, beer, or vermouth. Serve with a loaf of crusty bread, maybe a salad, and you are finished. Between rinsing and scrubbing, and chopping a few herbs, you are looking at less than 10 or 15 minutes to the table, and impressive to boot.
This recipe for almejas con chorizo from The Barcelona Cookbook by Sasa Mahr-Batuz and Andy Pforzheimer is a classically Spanish version of steamed clams. It's a wonderful summer dinner, especially if you are feeling a bit too warm to turn on the stove. Chop and sear the chorizo, add the garlic, thyme, wine, and clams. The best part about cooking with shellfish is that come equipped with their own timer—when the shells open, they're done.
- 24 littleneck or Manilla clams
- Two 4-inch-long links smoked Spanish chorizo sausage
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, very thinly sliced (preferably with a madoline)
- 2 cups dry white wine
- Leaves from 5 sprigs fresh thyme, coarsely chopped
Scrub the clams under cold running water. Drain and dry the clams.
Slice the sausage links lengthwise into 3 pieces and then slice across the sausage pieces into strips about 1/2 inch wide.
Heat a large saute pan over medium-high heat and, when hot, add the olive oil. Add the chorizo slices and sear for about 3 minutes, or until nicely browned. Add the garlic and cook for about 2 minutes, or until browned.
Add the clams, wine, and thyme, shake the pan carefully, and cover with a lid, aluminum foil, or a plate and cook for 7 to 8 minutes, or until the clams have opened. (Discard any do not open.) Using tongs or a slotted spoon, remove the clams from the pan and divide evenly among 4 shallow serving bowls or put in one large bowl.
Turn the heat to high and cook the sauce for 4 to 5 minutes, or until slightly reduced and thickened. Pour the sauce and the sausage slices over the clams and serve.