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Friday, June 13, 2008

Bivalves Reign Supreme During Father's Day Week

I have a Father's Day recommendation: visit One for the Table, a web site devoted to "Food, Politics, and Love"--a good mix of interests in my book--and read the Father's Day essays.

For these dozen writers the memory of their fathers and grandfathers is forever tied to food: eggs over easy, mackerel, crustaceans, deli food, apple pie and caviar... Amy Ephron, who created this beautifully written site, was kind enough to include the post I published in February with Frank and Michael's remembrance of my cooking their favorite dishes: rosemary chickens and flourless chocolate cakes.

If my sons write another essay and talk about my favorite food, I'm certain they'd focus on my love of shellfish. I would eat lobster, crab, oysters, scallops, clams and mussels regularly if anyone else in the family liked them. Since I prefer to cook what my family wants to eat, I stick with beef, chicken, and pork.

When I went to the Wednesday Santa Monica Farmers' Market, I hadn't intended to buy any shellfish, but talking with Rob at Carlsbad Aquafarm, I couldn't resist. Michelle was at Sundance for the month. Frank has his own apartment. Michael was working late. I was going to be eating dinner alone anyway. Besides which, this was Father's Day-week, so a little shellfish indulgence could be tolerated.

I bought clams and mussels and had one of those exceptionally agreeable Home Alone evenings. They were deliciously tender and sweet. I was very happy.

For those of you who don't care for clams or mussels, please indulge me and read the recipes. There's always the off-chance that you didn't realize your father or grandfather loves bivavles and now you'll know how to prepare them.

If you get the urge to cook bivalves for Father's Day, fresh shellfish is available at Santa Monica Seafood. Carlsbad Aquafarm will be at the Santa Monica Farmers' Market on Saturday. If you're in New York on the Upper West Side, stop by Fairway Market or Citarella.

Steamed Mussels

Yield 2 servings
Time 20 minutes


2 pounds live mussels (washed, "beards" removed)
2 slices bacon (finely chopped)
2 shallots (peeled, sliced)
2 garlic cloves (peeled, sliced)
1/4 cup Italian parsley (washed, stems removed, finely chopped)
2 tablespoons butter
Olive oil
Sea salt and pepper


In a large sauce pan sauté the bacon, shallots, garlic, and parsley with a little olive oil until lightly browned. Add 1/4 cup water and the mussels. Cover and cook on high heat for 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium for 5 minutes. Discard any mussels that haven't opened.

Serve the mussels and broth in bowls with a fresh baguette.

The mussels can be removed from their shells and served with the broth as a soup, topped with croutons.

Clams with Pasta

Any pasta goes well with clams. Usually I like spaghetti, ziti, or shells, but for this meal I used a small pasta called tubetti. The effect was very good. The pasta was so small, the clam flavor dominated each bite.

Yield 2 servings
Time 30 minutes


2 pounds live clams (washed)
1/4 cup Italian parsley (washed, leaves only, finely chopped)
2 bacon slices (finely chopped)
1/4 cup corn kernels (fresh not canned)
3 garlic cloves (peeled, finely chopped)
2 mushrooms, brown or shiitake (washed, dried, sliced thin)
2 tablespoons onion or shallot (peeled, finely chopped)
1/2 box De Cecco pasta (tubetti, ziti, spaghetti, or shells)
1 cup pasta water
1/2 cup chicken stock (homemade) or water
1 tablespoon sweet butter
Freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
Olive oil
Sea salt and pepper


Put the clams in a large saucepan with 1/4 cup of water, cover, boil on high heat for 5 minutes, remove all the clams that have opened, continue cooking another 5 minutes, discard any clams that have not opened, and reserve the clam juice. Strain the juice to remove any grit or shell fragments.

The clams are delicious by themselves and no one would blame you for eating them all at this point. If you have the discipline to continue on, you'll be rewarded with a superlative pasta dish.

Boil 4 quarts of salted water, add the pasta, stir frequently, taste after 8 minutes, and drain. Remember to capture 1 cup of pasta water to use in the sauce.

Drizzle olive oil in the saucepan and sauté the parsley, bacon, corn, garlic, mushrooms, and shallots until lightly browned, add the butter, pasta water, and chicken stock--if you don't have stock, use plain water--season with pepper. Hold off adding sea salt until the very end. The clams are salty, as is the pasta water.

Reduce the sauce by half, add the pasta, toss to coat well, taste and adjust the seasoning (for more sweetness add butter and chicken stock; sea salt and pepper if needed) remove to a bowl and top with freshly grated Parmesan or Romano.


For more heat add pepper flakes or a dusting of cayenne.

Substitute cilantro for parsley and add grated fresh ginger.

Add quartered cherry tomatoes and roughly chopped spinach leaves to the sauté.

1 comment:

Melissa said...

Made the mussels tonight - really good! I used pancetta for the bacon since I had it in the house, and I served it over pasta. I will definitely make this again! Thanks for the great recipe, David.