Holiday Feast

A dish fit for friends, family and festing

The Fest of the Seven Fishes, part of the Italian American holiday celebration, is typically consumed on Christmas Eve, which is a vigil or fasting day. The abundance of seafood in the meal reflects the observance from meat until the feast of Christmas Day itself. Eating seven courses of delicious seafood seems not much of a sacrifice. This could be a holiday traditional worth adopting. 

I will admit to having been a little intimidated by the thought of working with fresh clams as I have never tackled clams nor mussels, though I love them both. My fears were unwarranted. Clams and mussels are relatively easy to find, not as pricey as I expected, and the preparation is easy.

Spaghetti with Fresh Littleneck Clams

Shared by Chef de Cuisine Jared Heider, Gianna

Serves 4

1 pound dried spaghetti or 1 1/2 pounds fresh spaghetti 

1/4 cup olive oil 

3 tablespoons chopped garlic

1 cup dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper 

40 littleneck clams (or similar), cleaned and refrigerated (see NOTES, below)

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

Juice of one lemon

1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano leaves

1 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Cook the pasta to al dente according to package directions. Save 1 cup of pasta water for later. 

2. Add the oil to a large saucepan set over medium heat. Add the chopped garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute.

3. Add the wine, crushed red pepper flakes, and the clams. Cover and steam the clams. When the liquid comes to a boil the clams will open within a minute or two. Do not overcook the clams. They will be rubbery. Discard any clams that do not open.

4. Remove the pan from the heat. Add the al dente pasta, the butter and 1/4 cup of pasta water, lemon juice, and fresh herbs. Using tongs, toss the paste until butter is emulsified, adding more of the pasta water as needed. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve.

  1. I had no trouble finding Littleneck Clams. They were available at Whole Foods and Restaurant Depot.
  2. When choosing clams looks for those that are tightly closed. Any opening or crack in the shell will admit more sand and, potentially, bacteria. Give the clams a sniff. If they smell fishy or of ammonia, pass. They should smell, fresh, clean, and lightly briny. Have the fishmonger pack them in a plastic bag set within another plastic bag filled with crushed ice. Do not seal the bag. The clams will suffocate. 
  3. If necessary, store the clams in an open container in the refrigerator until ready to use, up to two days. Do not put them in a sealed container
  4. Check the clams before proceeding with cleaning: Tap the of top of any partially open clam. If a clam does not close its shell, it is dead and should be discarded.
  5. To clean the clams first scrub them under running cold water and rinse them with cold water a few times until the water runs clear. In a large bowl, dissolve 1/4 cup of Kosher salt in 4 cups of cold water. Add the washed clams and soak the clams in the refrigerator for a minimum of 20 minutes or up to 2 hours. Soaking in salted water helps to draw out the sand. Drain and rinse the clams in cold water before proceeding with the recipe.

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