Palourdes Marinières au Soffritto
I’m beaming with pride as I write this post. I’ve learned from Bouchon that often, the most basic elements in a kitchen are the most time consuming to make, but are also the most rewarding to use. This Clams Marinères requires 3 building blocks I’ve explained previously: Soffritto, Garlic Confit, and Aïoli.
But first, let me tell you about what motivated me to make this dish. Mussels in white wine is a serious Vancouver specialty. Yes, we have plenty of mussels locally, and yes, it’s trendy and cool, but no, it’s not for me. From faux bistros, to seafood restaurants, tapas bars, pasta joints, to annoying restaurant chains, I cannot escape from this dish. I – just – don’t – like – it. I prefer my seafood raw and I am especially not fond of how most shellfish’s texture and flavor transforms when cooked. I don’t touch cooked oysters, and cooked mussels is a close second. Something about their dense, gooey belly and rubbery flesh doesn’t appeal to me. It’s also extremely rare to get them cooked to the right doneness, which is CRUCIAL for shellfish, so I’ve completely given up on ordering them.
So when I saw the Clams Marinères with Soffritto recipe, I was determined to kick some mussel butt. I felt more hopeful towards clams because they are more delicate and oceany, but I knew I must be attentive to ensure the result does not remind me of that dreaded Vancouver Special.
Here I go.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Kosher salt, ground white pepper
Dry white wine (I used Babich Sauvignon Blanc)
Chopped Italian parsley
Cracked black pepper
I purchased the clams from a live tank at Hmart (Korean Supermarket). They looked happy and plump and I enjoy being able to scoop them out myself. When I got home, I washed them and kept them in a sinkful of cold water for about an hour and changed the water to ensure they expelled as much sand as possible.
Keller instructs to cut a baguette into 9 inch long and 1/4 inch thick slices, brush with olive oil, season with salt, toast under the broiler and flip once. This is such a quick process that you can either 1. do this ahead of time (and have cold croutons) 2. have a friend be in charge or 3. panic as you smell smoke while scrambling to get the clams out of the pot. Your choice. As accounted previously, I have a terrible relationship with my temperamental smoke detector so I chose option 2.
oops… I accidentally added some parsley too early.
I added some oil to a big pot over medium heat, sweated the shallots, and added the thyme, Garlic Confit, Soffritto, and s&p. Oh my word. The smell was incredible. The deep, smoky aroma that arose from the Soffritto immediately filled the kitchen, followed by notes of slightly piquant shallots, the floral thyme, and the unmistakably sweet scent of the Garlic Confit. I could have just tossed in some spaghettini and called it a day but the plump little clams were awaiting their destiny.
After a minute or so, I turned the heat up to high and added the butter and the clams. I stirred them for about 30 seconds, added the wine, and popped on the lid to let them steam.
Here is what I did differently than Keller’s instructions to ensure I got the juiciest, most perfectly cooked clams possible. While the lid was on, I shook the pot around to distribute the heat evenly. After about 30-40 seconds, I removed the lid and fished out all the opened clams into a bowl. Using a pair of tongs, I continued to remove each clam as they opened. After a few minutes, only a few clams remained closed so I put the lid back on for about 30 more seconds until they all opened up. At that point, I returned all the clams back into the pot, added the parsley and cracked black pepper, gave them a stir, and that’s it.
This dish was simply amazing. From the moment I smelled the herby, garlicky Soffritto mixture sizzle in the pot, I knew it was a winner. Due to my fixation on removing each clam just as they opened, they were cooked to the perfect doneness; they were succulent, tender, and bursting with flavorful. Needless to say, the broth was equally delectable and I regret only making 4 croutons as instructed. (Aside: I made 4 full portions for 2 people because we’re pigs when it comes to seafood. I once ate 4 dozen raw oysters on my birthday). I enjoyed soaking up the well-balanced, oceany broth with the rest of the baguette just as much as slurping the clams out of their shells.
Clams Marinères with Soffritto knocked the Vancouver Special onto its butt in 0.5 seconds flat.
p.s. Leftover broth? Don’t you dare let it go to waste! Stay tuned for a yummy recipe on how to utilize this precious yum juice.