08 May2006

vong1

We are hopefully physically within the borders of Italy by the time this post comes out. So I figured I would do a classic Italian dish today. Spaghetti or linguine a la vongole is my wife’s favorite pasta. It ranks just a hair above a well made carbonara. She does both of them superbly. The problem is, finding small, fresh and safe clams to use for the vongole. I don’t buy clams in Manila if they come from within 100 kilometers of the city. As bottom dwellers that eat all the muck that flows by in the water, I worry about the quality of water and hence the quality of clams. It is ironic that the best “Manila clams” on the planet are actually raised in farms off of Vancouver, British Columbia. These clams are then exported to fine restaurants all over North America and you see recipes that specifically mention Manila clams. If those restaurant owners only knew what images that might conjure in Manila when one looks out onto the bay where millions of gallons of raw sewage empty out every day… My first suggestion, find a GOOD source of clams before you make this dish! Being out of town isn’t a guarantee either as some of the most pristine places have the most horrific fecal matter count. Not to spoil all those fabulous memories of those who have just returned from Boracay, but apparently few places on that island have proper sewage facilities and at certain times of the year swimming in the waters off of Boracay can be less than good for one’s health. It’s like swimming in a huge toilet bowl. Don’t take big gulps of sea water…

So we basically eat linguine a la vongole much less than we would like. At the market two weeks ago, there was a huge bucket of mini clams that would be perfect for vongole… the vendor vong2assured me under threat of crucifiction that they were from a good source in Calatagan and I decided it was worth the risk and purchased several kilos. Back home, I soaked the clams in fresh water and changed the water at least 25 times during the day. The amount of floaties in the water was disconcerting but that just meant they were from a relatively muddy/sandy area. You can also throw in some flour into the water in a bid to fool and upset the clams to make them expel whatever stuff they have in their shells. Despite this careful treatment, some of the clams remained filled with some mud and were inedible. Prepare the following before you start cooking: several tablespoons of chopped garlic (my wife likes more rather than less) and an equal or more amount of chopped white onion. Chop some Italian or flat leaf parsley. Start boiling up some water in your pasta pot on a back burner.

Take a large saucepan, place over high heat, add ¼ cup water and about 1-1.5 kilos of clams and cover until most of the clams open. Remove any clams that don’t open after a few minutes and any clams that look dubious or have “stuff in them”. Remove the clam meat from about half of the clams and set aside. Set aside the other half of the clams with shells. Boil down the vong3clam juice left in the pan until about a cup worth or slightly more. Strain this through a sieve lined with a paper towel or cheesecloth. You are now about 15 minutes away from sitting down to dinner. Place your linguine (more classic) or spaghetti in the salted boiling pasta pot and cook until al dente. Meanwhile, heat up a saucepan and add some olive oil and sauté your garlic and onion until soft, about 3-5 minutes. Add your clam meats and shelled clams and about ¾ cup of good white white over medium high heat. Add the strained clam juice and chopped parsley. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add the al dente pasta and turn off the flame. Add some pasta water if it looks a bit dry. Mix and place on warm pasta bowls and serve immediately. Do not serve parmesan cheese with this dish. It is delicious, briny, salty and highly flavorful.

 

COMMENTS:

  1. Berry says:

    Marketman, you have just made me very happy. Spaghetinni alle vongole is my favorite dish in the whole world and I’ve always been in a manic hunt for the best ones. (My all-time treat was from a ristorante in Venice that was worth its hefty price in euros… just the right amount of soupy salty broth with golden olive oil and chili.) I am grinning ear-to-ear. ;-)

    May 8, 2006 | 1:32 pm

     
  2. Marketman says:

    Berry, glad to bring you a favorite. We just got into Florence, Italy last night and I am in LOVE with the city before even seeing much of it… Greetings, other readers, I am online again for the next week… Barcelona had tough internet connections from where we were…

    May 8, 2006 | 1:55 pm

     
  3. Bay_leaf says:

    one of our fave Italian dishes, ever! Hubby just loves it. Luckily one can buy a frozen pack of vongole here and when thawed, the taste is still very fresh.
    My version is i add cream and white wine to my sauce, then sprinkle the parsley before serving. Squisito, effettivamente!
    Enjoy Toskana, MM!

    May 8, 2006 | 4:14 pm

     
  4. Mila says:

    I don’t suppose you’ve tried to substitute canned clams for the clam meat part of the dish? Changing the water 25x! What does adding the flour to trick them do to the flavor?

    May 8, 2006 | 4:54 pm

     
  5. Hchie says:

    How long can fresh clams keep? Is it safe to put it in the fridge for 24 hours?

    May 8, 2006 | 5:04 pm

     
  6. Marketman says:

    Mila, the flour just fools the clams into thinking there is stuff in the water so they spit out whatever they take in…kinda hard to fool an already filthy clam though! Doesn’t affect the flavor at all. Hchie, yes, very fresh clams can be kept in the fridge in cold water for up to a day…you will know when they die as the clam shells open and then they are useless. In the U.S., we used to keep clams in a bowl without water and just covered with a really wet kitchen towel. The same treatment works for live lobsters. And no, I haven’t tried this with bottled or canned clams yet nor with cream…

    May 8, 2006 | 9:44 pm

     
  7. mae says:

    Wow! This looks heavenly. I must try this. It looks so similar to a spaghetti mama lucia that i have at least once a week for lunch – the recipe is so similar too. I must find some clams. pronto.

    Delicious.

    May 9, 2006 | 7:01 am

     
  8. linda says:

    Enjoy the rest of your holidays and thank you so much for leaving us readers grist for the mill,we certainly appreciate it. Keep safe and we look forward to hearing and reading about your travels and discoveries.

    May 9, 2006 | 8:27 am

     
  9. mojitodrinker says:

    this looks great!!!

    May 9, 2006 | 10:38 am

     
  10. trishlovesbread says:

    Is that chopped parsley in the pictures? Also, aside from Chardonnay, (which is what I usually have on hand), what other white wines would go with this dish?

    May 9, 2006 | 10:54 am

     
  11. Marketman says:

    trish, yes, lots of chopped flat leaf or Italian parsley really makes this dish brighter…I had a shortage of it when I took these photos above. A nice dry Italian wine might be nice…I would rather send you to a wine store for recommendations as I am not great with wine… linda, thanks for continuing to visit…it’s funny how some other regualr readers tuned off for a week or two then send private emails that say “Ay, you had posts lined up pala!” heehee. Mae, where you live, I bet the clams are wickedly good…

    May 9, 2006 | 2:36 pm

     
  12. goodtimer says:

    Hi! I think I mentioned in a previous post that I had the best vongole pasta in Florence. I just can’t remember which restaurant we went to, basta it’s in a square with tiangges and cafes around it, with most restaurant owners hawking outside. I must say being my first and only trip to Europe and in a tour cramming everything in 10 days, everything came by in a haze. It was just the food and flavors that created memories (well, ok, the museums left a mark as I had just read the da Vinci Code and was fascinated with actually seeing all those artworks). The picture above succeeded in bringing back fond memories but left me drooling!

    May 9, 2006 | 5:37 pm

     
  13. edee says:

    i’ll try this the next time we go and pick them at the beach, plus some mussels :)

    May 9, 2006 | 6:37 pm

     
 

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