by Kai Chan
In restaurants or in cookbook pictures of clam dishes the shells are almost always included. Clams in shells make the presentation more special, hence more enticing. Recently I have
adapted to steaming the clams and discarding the shells.
Wash the clams in cold water and then let them sit in the water for about half an hour. Put the clean clams in a deep dish and put it into a steamer. I don’t have a steamer, instead I boil about an inch of water in a cooking pot, put two disposable chopsticks at the bottom with the water and put the dish of clams on top, and cover the pot with a heavy lid and keep the heat on. Check out the clams from time to time and pick out the clams that are open. This way the clams will not be over-cooked. Over-cooked clams tend to be tough. Use a utility knife to remove the meat from the shells. At the end, there would be a dish full of clam juice. Let it sit for a few minutes and then carefully pour the juice into the dish with the clam meat; leave out any gritty particles. At this point the clams with the juice could be kept in the fridge for a few days.
One of my favourite dishes is Pasta alle Vongole, spaghetti with clams in chilli sauce. Cook chopped garlic and hot chilli in extra virgin olive oil, then add the prepared clam juice, when the sauce is warm, add the clam meat. Add the cooked spaghetti to the sauce with a handful of chopped parsley. Serve hot. For two people, one and half pound of Manila or Little Neck clams would be sufficient.
The Raw and the Cooked, MYTHOLOGIQUES is a new column on the culture of eating and cooking, with contributions by various authors. The column name is borrowed from the title of a book by Claude Levi-Strauss. It is spontaneous, a little amusing but serious at the same time.