Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Guest Post: Linguine with Clams by Chef Dennis

It is with great pleasure to introduce you to Chef Dennis of More Than A Mouthful, he is the sweetest person and a very talented Chef. I have a feeling his blog will be huge, so hop on over and follow you will really enjoy....

I’d like to start by saying hello to all of Rebecca’s followers on Chow and Chatter, for those of you that don’t know me, I am a former restaurant chef who made the leap into school foodservice five years ago.  When I made the change it was a quality of life decision, but what I didn’t know was how the change would so positively affect my life.  I love my job, I love my girls and I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else.
So when my new friend Rebecca asked me to do a guest blog on her site, I was not only flattered but inspired. 
My classes at the Mount are limited to what can be successfully made in an hour, so I try to teach my girls how to make simple but incredible dishes that they can easily duplicate at home.  One of my favorites is Clams and Linguine. 

 My love of clams and linguine came from a trip to Italy, my wife and I were in Venice at the end of trip.  During one of our walks around that incredible ancient city, we found this out of the way restaurant that was full of locals simply enjoying life.  So later that night we came back for dinner….  We were served so many wonderful simple dishes that night, real food for real people, but what changed our lives for the better was seeing how clams should be made.
To say that those tender little morsels, in that sweet garlicky broth influenced my way of thinking would be an understatement……..clams with linguine would never be the same.

Upon returning home I found that most of the area supermarkets were carrying Mahogany clams, a thin shelled brown version of their cousin the littleneck.
I remembered Mahogany's as a throwaway clam, or a clam the clammers would eat at home, a cheap alternative for a home clam bake.  Not at all a bad clam and we enjoyed many a dinner using them, but then a new supermarket opened in our area that carried bags of farm raised little necks.  Things were definitely looking up, there shells were thicker and their flavor far superior and here’s the kicker, they were sustainable.  (For more information on sustainable seafood check out the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch).
So let’s get on with my recipe!!

Linguine with Clams
1 lb of good quality Linguine (De Cecco, Del Verde, or Barilla)
Little Neck Clams or small Mahogany Clams ( bag of 50, or at least 15 clams per person)
2 cloves of Garlic sliced 
1 Tablespoon of Pesto or Fresh chopped Basil
Pinch of Crushed Red Pepper
Sprinkle of grated Romano Cheese
2-3 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil

esto Recipe
2 bunches of Basil
1/2 bunch of Italian Parsley
1/4 cup of grated Romano Cheese
2 cloves of Garlic
1/4 cup of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/4 cup of Toasted Pine nuts, or walnuts (optional)

Now timing is everything with this dish. First of all start your pot of water for the pasta heating up, while the water is coming to a boil get out your clams and wash them off in cold water. This is the time for you to inspect your clams, an open clam is a dead clam, (if you tap it and it closes its just trying to fool you) so discard any open clams.

 If a clam gets broken by miss handling it will die and it will smell.....this does not mean all the clams are bad but it will impart an odor to the rest of the clams....this will occur in supermarket clams from time to time. One very important thing to remember about clams is that they come in a mesh bag for a reason, so they can breathe. If you place them in a plastic bag to get them home, remove them from the bag immediately when you get home and place them in a bowl uncovered in the refrigerator. Cold will open clams, but they will close if they are not dead when you move them around. 

So while our water is getting ready and our clams are washing in cold running water, peel and slice your garlic into thin slices, and while I usually use fresh chopped basil in this dish, I had recently been given a box of fresh basil and rather then let it go bad I had made it all into pesto sauce, so for this recipe I used pesto instead of just plain chopped Basil (which is still my wife’s favorite).  I actually liked how the pasta came out with the pesto, but for an overall fresh simple dish I think I will stay with just chopped basil. (Although I may mix my pasta with pesto before serving the clams)

So by now y
our water is boiling and now you throw in a dash of sea salt, to help season the pasta...well actually you throw the salt in so that the water is like the Mediterranean. …sigh.....stir your pasta, set the timer for 11 minutes (or the recommended time for your brand), we want the pasta Al Dente, you have teeth, use them. Pasta should be chewed. Now get your large skillet or Sauté pan, and pour in the Olive oil, over a high heat place your garlic, clams, pesto or basil, and crushed red pepper into the pan and cover. 
As the clams cook they will steam open, as they open all the wonderful natural juices will mix with the olive oil and spices turning your kitchen into an aromatic wonderland. Keep an eye on your clams, they may be done opening a minute or two before the pasta and that's ok, just turn off the heat and let them sit covered in the pan. Drain your pasta, place into pasta bowls, divide up your clams and then the broth from the pan. Now sprinkle with some good grated Romano cheese ( don't ever ask for cheese for your clams in Italy, they will think you have no idea how to eat), sprinkle some parsley over top to make it look pretty, ( if you have a very good bottle of extra virgin olive oil, drizzle a little over the top, the flavor and aroma from the fresh Olive oil will just add to the experience)
Serve immediately with a nice crusty bread (and extra grated cheese if your like me) and just enjoy this culinary masterpiece, completely in less than 30 minutes.

Now wasn't that a treat, thanks again Chef Dennis :-)

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