A few weeks ago, Jamie and I braved the wind chill and took a stroll through the Greenmarket at Union Square in New York City and I was drawn to one of the three fish stalls. I can't recall if it had a banner or a name, but what I remember specifically was being enticed by the buckets of live crabs, chowder clams, razor clams, cherrystone clams and littleneck clams on the ground, freshly plucked at low tide at the end of Long Island and put up for sale on Manhattan island, still alive and awaiting their fate. Jamie and I had just talked about how in New York City you sort of forget that the ocean is right there. Somehow the salty air and sandy shores seem distant and far away but the clams were a gentle reminder that clean waters and fresh seafood weren't far away at all. I couldn't resist the freshness and the vitamin B12 and so, I forked over $6 for a dozen littleneck clams.
Would I make chowder? Initially I thought this was a great idea but that went out the window when I remembered the flavors of a fabulous dish I had last February in Edinburgh, Scotland at one of my favorite restaurants - The Dogs. It was such a simple, humble dish - cockles with leeks, cream and bacon over toast. Served in a bowl, the bread was swimming in the sauce. It was heavenly and as the memories of this dish came surging back, I knew that I had to try my hand at recreating it with the little neck clams.
I am happy to boast that I was hugely successful! This was my first time making clams and it surely won't be my last. The flavors came together brilliantly and were a treat to consume. If tempted with equally fresh clams, I suggest you take the plunge and give this recipe a try. It's the perfect thing for a hot meal on a cold winter's day.
Serves 2 as a main course, 4 as an appetizer.
3 slices of bacon, sliced into 1/2 inch segments
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped (feel free to substitute leeks!)
1 clove of garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 cup of dry white wine
1/4 cup heavy cream
a dozen littleneck clams (soaked in a few changes of cold water with a sprinkle of cornmeal, then scrubbed clean)
a small handful of chopped fresh parsley
a few slices of toasted bread (stale bread works great too!)
Using a large frying pan over medium-low heat, cook the bacon until some fat has rendered and the bacon starts browning, about 3 minutes. Add the onions and garlic cook these gently for about 5 minutes until translucent. Bring the heat up to medium and pour in the white wine, scraping up bits of onion or garlic that stuck to the bottom and let the wine cook down to almost nothing. Add the heavy cream and a few splashes of water and mix everything up. When the mixture comes to a boil, tuck the clams in and cover with a lid. Check in on your clams occasionally, giving the mixture a stir. The clams are done when they've opened up. Turn off the heat and throw in the chopped parsley. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper if you think they are lacking. Put your toast in the bottom of your bowl and top with the clams and sauce.