Recipe of the Month August: Sausage and Clams

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Buon giorno!

So I just returned from my 50th high school reunion in Binghamton, NY, where I was fortunate to rekindle friendships with some of the finest people I have ever known. In a word, it was somewhat surreal! Since this event, I have thought of little else, along with memories of all sorts of fun times and yes, even some mischief. Some of the memories that came to mind involved clambakes at a place called “Mountain Top” where we consumed more clams on those warm days than you might think possible in a place so far inland and also sausage and pepper sandwiches, on the bill of fare at well attended Italian festivals.

I began to yearn for those flavors and decided to put together a little Italian dish in honor of those good folks with whom I reunited, combining the distinctive flavors I remembered so well at the clambakes and festivals of my youth. Here we have it – – SAUSAGE AND CLAMS. (I should have called this “Bowls of Heaven”!)

You might wonder how this duo might be at all complimentary, but I assure you that when the briny/sweet clams come together with pork sausage, it is magic time. The broth that is so simply created in this recipe makes good crusty Italian bread an essential ingredient to make this dish truly complete. The broth itself is so extraordinary as to enchant even the most skeptical of gourmands at your table. The looks you will receive and the sounds that you will hear upon serving this dish, laden with the golden broth in particular, are sure to please you and validate your efforts.

Clams and Sausage 1

This dish is surprisingly easy to prepare and an especially good one to choose for a crowd. Your Italian guests will appreciate the flavor similarity to an old fashioned sausage and peppers sandwich especially when they begin to scoop up the peppers and onions from the broth.. but then of course the twist of the added clams will surely send them into outer orbit. Obviously, the merging of the special flavors of the clams and the sausage might be wonderful enough, but the real secret to a truly successful preparation is one that is true of almost any Italian dish – FRESH INGREDIENTS! The freshness makes all the difference in this recipe. Just look at the ingredients below, and you will see that almost everything involved is fresh.

This amazing dish is almost a soup, could be a stew, but is definitely a flavor bomb! You can’t take a wrong turn with it. It is easy, fairly quick to prepare, and will make you a star in your own kitchen. Get the bowls ready… and don’t forget the bread!

Yeah. yeah, I know THE WINE!!! I am a fan of the beautiful Italian white wine, Falanghina, with any seafood dish. It is simply made to order for seafood and almost bears the very essence of the Mediterranean. For those who might like a red which would actually be lovely with the sausage, I might like a lighter red, like a Dolcetto or even a Barbera – but nothing too heavy.

I will leave you with a cautionary tale…When you buy your fresh clams, do NOT close the bag before cooking them. Clams are living things and need to breathe just like you do. I remember going to my local fish market and while waiting for my turn, overheard the gentleman customer ahead of me rudely berating my fish monger for handing him an open bag of clams.

CUSTOMER: “You are not going to even bother to close the bag?? What kind of service is this?” he said in a very loud voice. My fish monger was speechless and seemed embarrassed.

ME (sticking my nose where it did not belong – a bad habit): “Sir, do you plan to eat those clams?”

CUSTOMER: “Well, of course, I am”. (Responding in a very haughty and mind your own business tone)

ME: “ If that is the case, you better leave that bag wide open or you will have dead clams for dinner! This man did you a favor giving you an open bag allowing the clams to breathe!”

He never said a word of apology and stalked off with the open bag of clams. I, on the other hand, got free fish that day!

Now while I am off to Mountain Top or an Italian festival in my dreams, or maybe just the patio –  here are the keys to the kingdom:

SAUSAGE AND CLAMS

Serves: 4-6

Prep: 20 minutes

Cook: 25 minutes

Ingredients

1/2 Stick (4 Tbsp.) Butter

1/4 C. Olive Oil

1 lb. Italian Sausage, sliced

I Onion, thinly sliced

1 Green Pepper, sliced thinly

2 Cups Sweet Grape or Cherry Tomatoes, sliced in half

Red Pepper Flakes – amount up to you but at least 1/4 tsp recommended

3 Fresh Cloves Garlic, chopped finely

A good handful fresh flat leaf Italian Parsley – chopped

About 50 Clams – I like Littleneck, scrubbed and rinsed

3/4 Cup Dry White Wine or Dry Vermouth

1/4 cup Bottled Clam Juice

Zest of one fresh lemon

Lots of fresh ground pepper

Fresh Parsley for garnish

Extra Virgin Olive Oil – a good one – for drizzle

Instructions

In a wide pan, place butter and oil and heat. Add Sausage, onion, pepper, tomatoes,  red pepper flakes and cook until sausage is browned and veggies are just tender – about 10-15 minutes.

Clams and Sausage 2

In last 5 minutes of cooking, add the chopped garlic, black pepper, and parsley.

Clams and Sausage 3

Give a quick scrub to the outside of the clams with a brush under running water. This is important! Then add the clams to the pan. Pour the wine and clam juice over them. Add the lemon zest .

Sausage and Clams 4

Cover and cook about 8-10 minutes. Uncover and check to see if any of the clams did not open. If there are some, you might cook another minute or two. Sometimes if the clams are larger, they need more time. If any remain unopened, discard them!

Sausage and Clams 5

Taste the broth for seasoning – You should not need salt at all – but if you would like it – add it now.

Garnish with fresh parsley and served in bowls with plenty of Italian bread for dunking.

A drizzle of good Extra Virgin Olive oil before serving finishes the dish!

It’s showtime!!!

PARLA COME MANGI!

 

 

 

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Comments

  1. Howie Mash says:

    This is a def this week. Friends coming up from Naples. I’m thinking Linquini bed too. Maybe a sprinkle of Regiano. Too. Omg. Great for a hot day. Too hot to cook out. And I will travel for great bread. Cheers.