Tuesday, May 12, 2015

A Clam Walks Into a Bar...

...and announces, "I've just won the Powerball! 10.5 million, I can't believe it!"

Everyone crowds around him, offering congratulations and pats on the shell when the bartender suggests he buy a round for the house. The clam looks scandalized and swiftly exits the bar.

"Well," says a nearby mussel. "I guess he was a little shellfish."


Boy am I funny.

I am also a self-proclaimed shellfish addict. Totally hopeless. I know it's treyf but I figure if God really didn't want his chosen people eating it then moules marinières wouldn't taste so good.

One of my favorite ways to eat seafood (besides all the ways) is in pasta. There are very few things that cannot be improved by spaghetti, and seafood is definitely not one of them. This recipe came about as a challenge from Tommy -- now that we're down to our final months in Spain, (holyshitholyshitholyshit) we need to take advantage of all the things we won't be able to enjoy once we're home. One of those things is disgustingly fresh seafood.

Therefore, we descended into the depths of the fish market at the mercado and scooped up a boatload (heh) of clams, mussels and shrimp. Initially I was really intimidated by the prospect of cooking shellfish having never done it before but some Internet research revealed that it really isn't difficult at all.

All you need to know is this: if it doesn't open while you cook, throw it out. If it's already open before you cook it, throw it out. Because our stupid stove is the size of a Barbie kitchenette, I had a lot of difficulty getting the mussels to cook evenly. The burners simply weren't big enough to effectively distribute the heat. Thusly, I had to throw almost half of the mussels away because they just wouldn't open all the way. I am 90% sure they were fine to eat but in this case better safe than sorry is the name of the game.

As far as mussels go, pick ones that don't have any cracks in the shell and that are tightly closed. If a mussel opens after you remove the beard (the little cluster of thread-like fibers at the bottom of the shell), give it a sharp tap on the counter. If it closes right away, it's fine. If not, say bye.

Clams just need to be rinsed and soaked in cold water about 30 minutes before cooking. Otherwise, it's smooth sailing there.

Feel free to adjust the level of heat in the chili oil here. I personally like spice but it is truly up to you. You can also add other seafood like scallops or cockles or even chunks of a sturdy fish such as snapper if you so choose. This is a great recipe to feed a lot of people that looks really fancy but honestly isn't that much work. A sprinkle of fresh parsley and a shave or two of fresh parmesan is all you need to make it look like you graduated from Le Cordon Bleu. I won't tell if you don't.


1 lb. spaghetti or angel hair pasta
1 lb. cherrystone clams
1/2 lb. mussels
1/2 lb. raw shrimp, peeled and deveined (tail on is fine)
1 lb. cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
1/4 c. evoo
1 medium onion, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 c. dry white wine
1 c. seafood stock

For the seasoned oil:
1/2 c. very good olive oil
2 tsp. crushed reds or to taste
1/2 tsp. each dried basil, parsley and oregano
2 tsp. sea salt

1. In a medium bowl, mix all the ingredients for the oil together. Set aside.

2. In a large, deep skillet, heat olive oil until it shimmers. Add garlic and onion, cook over moderately high heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Add wine and cook for another 3 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, clean mussels by rinsing them well in cold water, scrubbing off any barnacles or attachments. Remove the beard with a sharp tug. Set aside with the rinsed clams and shrimp.

4. To the skillet, add the stock, cherry tomatoes and 2 tbs. of the oil mixture. Bring to a boil. Add the shrimp, mussels and clams and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the shrimp are tightly curled and the shells are all open, about 5 minutes.

5. While the shellfish is cooking, make the pasta according to the directions on the box. Drain well.

6. Transfer pasta to a large bowl and toss with the seafood, its sauce and 2 to 3 more tablespoons of the hot oil. Serve immediately with fresh parsley, parmesan and the rest of the oil for drizzling.

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