Spicy Clam Stew  - Diane Rossen Worthington Recipes
Spicy Clam Stew

Seafood stews cook quickly and are easy to put together. In this dish, fresh clams are served in a light tomato broth, accented with garlic and white wine. The garlic is first roasted, which provides a touch of creaminess and a nutty, tame hint of garlic flavor. Make the roasted garlic ahead since it can be refrigerated for up to a week ahead. As a variation, spoon the clams and steaming liquid over hot linguini. This also works well with fresh New Zealand mussels.

Choose from sweet Manila clams that are grown in the Pacific Northwest, or tender, plump Littleneck clams from the East Coast. When purchased, live clams should have tightly closed shells, or slightly open shells that spring shut quickly when tapped, indicating their freshness.

Clamped inside of those shells is the salty, grayish ocean water that could spill into your steaming broth when the clams cook and open. One way to prevent this from happening is to "feed" the clams cornmeal as they briefly sit in fresh water, encouraging them to open their shells, take in clean water and flush out the briny water. This quick process can make an enormous difference in the final flavor of the dish.

Make sure to have some crusty bread to soak up the juices. To drink, serve a bold Zinfandel or a Sauvingon Blanc.

Spicy Clam Stew with Roasted Garlic, Shallots, Tomatoes & White Wine

Serves 4 to 6.

4 pounds clams

1 tablespoon cornmeal

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 shallots, finely chopped

3 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded and finely diced, or 1 1/2 cups canned diced tomatoes with juice

1 cup dry white wine

2 tablespoons Roasted Garlic Puree (see below)

1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley

1 tablespoon finely chopped chives

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste

2 tablespoons finely chopped chives for garnish

1. Clean the clams by scrubbing them with a brush under cold water to remove any sand. Make sure that the clams are tightly closed (some may be slightly open, but should close right up when tapped lightly if they're still alive). Discard any clams that remain open or appear broken.

2. Place the clams in a large bowl of cold water and sprinkle the cornmeal over the water. Let the clams sit for about 30 minutes. Drain and rinse clams once again to remove any cornmeal.

3. Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the shallots and saute until they are just softened, 2-3 minutes. Add the tomatoes, white wine, garlic puree, parsley, chives, salt and pepper, and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 2 minutes and then stir in the red pepper flakes.

4. Add the clams to the simmering liquid and cover tightly. Steam until the clams open, shaking the pan around to evenly cook the clams, about 6-8 minutes.

5. Remove the clams from the pan with a slotted spoon and place in a large soup tureen or individual shallow soup bowls. Spoon the tomato liquid over the clams, garnish with chopped chives and serve immediately.

Roasted Garlic Puree

This is the simplest way to prepare this incredibly versatile flavoring agent. If you are able to find a market that sells peeled whole garlic, it's even easier. Simply take the peeled garlic cloves, cut off the root end and place the whole peeled cloves in the foil as below. I like to roast about 20 medium unpeeled cloves with the method below. When the cloves are roasted, place them in a small container and mash them up.

Makes about 2-3 tablespoons.

2 heads of garlic

Olive oil

1. Preheat the oven to 425 F. With a sharp knife, cut off the top quarter of the whole head of garlic, then score gently, just cutting through a few layers of the papery skin, all around the diameter. Pull off all the loose skin from the top half, trying not to remove every shred. (This will make it easier to squeeze the cooked cloves out later.) Sprinkle with a bit of olive oil.

2. Wrap each garlic head tightly in a piece of aluminum foil. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the garlic is soft when pierced with a knife. Remove from the oven and cool. Using your fingers, squeeze the soft garlic pulp into a small bowl.

Advance Preparation: Can be prepared a week ahead, covered and refrigerated.

Diane Rossen Worthington is an authority on new American cooking. She is the author of 18 cookbooks (click here), including "Seriously Simple Holidays: Recipes and Ideas to Celebrate the Season," and also a James Beard award-winning radio show host.

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Spicy Clam Stew - Diane Rossen Worthington Recipes

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