Friday, August 13, 2010

Aug 7th - Spaghetti Vongole (with Clams)

Spaghetti with Clams
On our holiday, D read a book called Heat.  It is not a cookbook per se but a novel written by someone who worked with Mario Batalli.  He travelled extensively in Italy investigating the history and authenticity of Italian cuisine.  D earmarked a few pages including a chapter on a sort of compromise on the best and authentic way to do Spaghetti Vongole or Spaghetti and Clams.

D led me to believe that I would open to those pages to find rough recipes at the very least.  No such luck.  It was all prose on someone pontificating on how to make it properly.  There were no proportions, measurements or photographs.  Still, it sounded good, except for the Pancetta.  This dish required Pancetta and Pancetta Fat in Heat.  I did not use Pancetta and when I told D I was leaving out the Pancetta, he cheekily suggested using Bacon. :^P.  (I do not eat Pork.).  I also made slight changes such as leaving the Garlic in after frying.  The book suggested pulling the Garlic out after it perfumed the Oil in the pan.  I added some balcony Basil in with the Parsley because I had it.  This dish turned out beautifully and if TnT were still on my way home, I'd make this my quick busy work night meal default.
Oh, and yes, the classic 'western' use of this dish is Linguine but the thing is that it is so difficult to find good Linguine here that I find it to be my least favourite pasta.  The dry stuff is so stiff that when it's cooked, it is still wants to be straight.  I like ordering it in restaurants when the pasta is handmade or fresh. But most of the craft pasta here is Spaghetti and that is what we used.  A great 1 m long tri colour Spaghetti we bought on Commercial that we've waited for the right dish to use.

Spaghetti Vongole - Spaghetti with Clams
 (Serves 2)

1 lb Manila Clams
1/4 c Onion, sliced
2-3 cloves Garlic, chopped
2-3 T Olive Oil
1-2 T Butter
1t Chili Peppers Flakes
1/2 c Dry White Wine
250g Spaghetti
1/2 c (+1T in case) Pasta cooking Water reserved

Salt and Pepper to taste but the Pasta Water is salted!
1/4 c fresh Parsley, chopped (1/2 T if using dry)

1/4 c fresh Basil, chiffonade (ribbons)

250 g good quality Spaghetti

Put a large Pot of Water on to Boil with a good 1-2 T of Sea Salt.  The bigger the pot the better then the recovery time to boil after you add the pasta will be shorter.  You should start this before you start the sauce.  The rest of the sauce will only take as long as the Spaghetti takes to cook. ~7 minutes.  Cook it more al dente than you like as it will continue to cook for another 1-2 minutes in the sauce.

Wash the clams thoroughly.  Most Clams from fish mongers nowadays are pretty clean of beards and barnacles.  Throw any away that are open or don't close when you tap them.  

 In a large skillet (straight sides) with a lid, heat 2 T Olive Oil on Medium heat.  Add the Garlic and Onions  for 1-2 minutes until the Onions are softened.  Add the Butter.  When the Butter is melted and mixed throughout, add the Chili Flakes and the Wine turn up to HIGH heat. As the mixture starts to come to a boil, throw in the Clams and Cover.  Holding the lid, you can shimmy the pan around.

The Clams will begin to open at around 3-4 minutes.  When they are all opened, turn the heat down to Medium Low.  Open the lid and add the Pasta directly into the skillet without shaking or draining.  Add 1/4 of Pasta Cooking water.  Using Tongs, swirl the pasta around, swirl and swirl.  If it is too dry on the bottom add 1-2 T more of Pasta Water.  Add a teaspoons of Olive Oil as well.  Add the Herbs toward the end but while you still have the dish on the heat. Season to taste.

Serve with a few drops of Olive Oil and Parsley.  Serve with Parmesan if you fancy since we've already transgressed the Dairy and Seafood rule with the Butter.  We didn't.


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