Sunday, September 28, 2008

Linguini Clam and Asparagus Mush

Linguini with white clam sauce:  I actually have 2 basic versions.  The other one has a chowdery profile with some kind of cured pork- bacon or pancetta- sauteed onions, and a touch of cream.  This is the summery, traditional one.  Clams, garlic, olive oil, white wine, parsley.  I also use lemon zest, tomato, and mount it with butter (sounds dirty, eh?) for unctuousness.  I know you want to say it out loud: Unctuousness.

There was a time I wouldn't dream of using canned clams for anything.  It's really not that much harder to cook with fresh, but you have to make sure they're really fresh, and scrubbing them is a drag, not to mention clam shells in the garbage are raccoon bait.
I'm not really a fan of discernable bivalve guts, so I really love the little cockles that are the size of a quarter.  Hard to find, though.  

In any case, it's canned clams these days.  The dish couldn't be simpler.  The most important thing with liquidy brothy sauces, though- salt that pasta water well.  It really makes a difference and if you've ever had unsalted bread, you know what I mean.  Also dip out a little of the cooking water once the pasta is done.  You may need it if the sauce needs more juice.  The pasta water is the preferred extra liquid because it's already hot, it's salty, and the starch from the pasta gives it a little body.

Heat the garlic with a good bit of oil, then add some wine and boil the alcohol off.  Add the clams, tomatoes, and cooked pasta.  Allow to absorb for a minute or two, then add as much butter as you dare and work it into the sauce.  Add some parsley and zest right before serving.  This bowl is topped with some garlicky toasted bread crumbs, too.  Yum.

I try to serve some vegetables every night.  Tonight it was roasted asparagus and cremini mushrooms with those garlic bread crumbs and parmesan.  Notice I didn't say "freshly grated paragiano reggiano"- though that truly would have elevated the dish. 

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