The other day, for the first time this year (bows head in shame), I got over to the green market at Union Square, one of my favorite food shopping destinations. As a matter of fact, I even walked both ways, combining exercise (a not favorite thing) with food shopping (a favorite).
While the market is not yet in full-speed ahead spring vegetable mode, there was plenty to be had...ramps (duh), asparagus, fingerling potatoes, greens of any and every sort, radishes up the kazoo, and some beautiful seafood from a favored Long Island fisherman. And in addition to a few scallops (simply pan-fried) and a pound of sweet squid (stir-fried with the aforementioned asparagus and ramps), I also picked up a healthy bagful of these beauties, freshly dug littlenecks...
Now, you can have Manila clams, or you can have Mahogany clams or you can certainly have those tiny, little clams they sell in Chinatown (feh), but to my taste there is nothing quite as delicious as a littleneck. Of course, if you're in Venice, the tiny clams they use to make pasta con vongole are amazing, but we're not in Italy right now, so...littleneck it is.
Provided they're stored properly, hard-shell clams will last quite a few days in the fridge...especially when they're as fresh as these. By stored properly, I mean in a bowl (even better, in a colander over a bowl) covered with a wet towel, topped by ice (I use blue ice - no melting) and in the coldest part of your fridge. Check 'em daily and rewet that towel - it will dry out in the fridge - and throw out any gaping clams. Even on the 3rd day after I'd bought them, not a single one of these clams was bad - and it was time to cook.
I only wanted something simple, easy and quick...oh, and that had pork in it, too. A classic combo on the Iberian peninsula, pork and shellfish go really well with each other. Since I had a couple of links of Spanish chorizo in the fridge, that was going to be my pork, so I sliced one of the links into rounds. I slowly cooked the chorizo in a tablespoon of olive oil, and added a chopped up clove of garlic after the chorizo had softened. Once the garlic was beginning to color, I added 1/2 cup of dry white wine, reduced that, then added a cup of chopped tomatoes -(canned San Marzano's, if you must know), a handful of chopped parsley and about 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes. Salt and pepper too, but be careful with the salt; clams have some of their own.
Let it simmer, uncovered, for a good 10 - 15 minutes, taste it, and if it tastes good, time to add the clams, which by now you've washed and scrubbed well; I suppose if you're really neurotic you've soaked the clams in a bowl of salt water overnight in the fridge with the hope of purging them of any sand inside. I never do as I find it unnecessary with hard shells like litttlenecks. Soft-shells, steamers, surf and razor clams are a whole other story.
Anyway, add the clams, turn the heat up to medium or medium high, cover the pan and wait. Give the clams a good stir after 2 minutes or so and after another 2 - 3 minutes, check and stir again. If they've started opening, it's time to take out the open ones, recover, and check again in another minute. Remove them as they open , otherwise they'll overcook and you'll be eating rubber. After a good 10 minutes, any that haven't opened probably won't, so toss those. It's worth noting that I have yet to get a single clam that didn't open from the vendors at the green market.
Once cooked, the clams will have released a lot of juice so reduce the sauce a bit and taste for salt, pepper, heat, whatever. Once it's to your liking, pour the sauce over the clams, throw some more parsley on top and serve with a spoon and some bread. A salad on the side can't hurt either, nor will an ice cold beer or a glass of dry white - like the wine you used for the clams. Enjoy.
Littleneck Clams with Chorizo
2 - 3 dozen littleneck clams, scrubbed clean
4 oz. chorizo, cut into rounds
1 T olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup high quality canned tomatoes (fresh ones in the summer), diced
1/4 cup parsley, minced
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper, to taste
Method above. Serves 2 as a main course, 4 - 6 as an appetizer.