This is a simple preparation that in only infrequently cooked in homes. Demonstrating just how easy it is to achieve restaurant quality at home with minimal effort will encourage others to try it. I let my “student” do all the steps. This is more memorable than if you do it.
3 Pounds live clams (or 50-50 Clams and Mussels), washed & cleaned
3 Tablespoons sweet butter and 2 Tablespoons good olive oil
1 Cup white wine (Pinot Gris or Sauvignon Blanc)
3 Garlic cloves, minced
¾ Cup minced shallots
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 Cup Italian parsley, finely chopped
Start by rinsing the clams in water. If you also using mussels, clean these and remove any beards with a sharp pairing knife. Discard those that are open (dead) or broken shells. Then let clams stand covered in a bowl water for two hours to which you add a tablespoon of corn meal. Do not touch the bowl or the clams will “clam up”. You want them to open and drop any excess sand they might have, and additionally, they may be full of salt water which otherwise will make the dish too salty. Do not skip this step. After two hours, rinse with cold water twice.
Preheat the oven to 170 F and put your serving platter in it.
Heat a large heavy-bottomed pot with plenty of surface area2. Add and heat the oil, when smoking add the clams and half the parsley. Season generously with pepper (Use some red pepper too, if it pleases you.) Flip, then cover, and cook until all the shells steam open. (Discard any that stay closed.) Remove the clams with a slotted spoon to a heated serving platter. Stick in warm oven to stay warm. Filter the broth through a very fine strainer (need to be able to filter sand) and pour the strained liquid back into the pot. Add the wine, garlic, shallots and reduce liquid on high to concentrate the flavor. Remove from heat, add remaining parsley, the shellfish and swirl in the butter. Taste and correct seasoning.
If serving a pasta (spaghetti or linguini), cook a pound of it "al dente" then toss the clams and pasta in a serving bowl.
1. Farmed mussels and clams generally do not contain sand but it does not hurt to soak in cold water. Additionally, since these are raised in salt water, their opening will rid some of the undesirable salt.
2. I use a 14-inch cast-iron skillet with three-inch lip. Its thickness allows a lot of heat to be stored in a preheated pan allowing the chef to flash cook a large bunch of cold clams/mussels quickly so they remain tender.
3. The smaller the mussels and clams, the sweeter and the tenderer these will be. So if you have the chance to pick these out of the pile, cull the small ones.