June: Risotto With Fresh Clams

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Clams Amalfi Style-

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Buon giorno!

The summer season is upon us and what better way to celebrate than with shellfish – more specifically CLAMS! But here’s a new twist on an old theme – RISOTTO WITH FRESH CLAMS! I like to call it Clams Amalfi Style. Everyone knows the classic Linguine Alle Vongole. This is a little different.

The sea-scented broth created by the clams offers a beautiful base for risotto just as it does for spaghetti or linguine. The flavor is almost intoxicating, and the colors in this dish are bright and vivid. Close your eyes and breathe in the aroma, letting your senses float to the Amalfi Coast. One can only imagine dining on the day’s catch among the famous lemon trees of the region, as the breezes drift in from the sea. Ahhhhh…

Wake up!! Attenzione! It’s time to give some attention to the distinctive elements this dish will bring to your table.The interesting thing about this particular preparation is that the recipe offers you two different uses for the same dish! The first is obvious – a delicious risotto and clams as an entrée presentation. The second is a stand alone appetizer or even main course using the clams alone, served with a crusty bread for dunking in the broth and served without the risotto. You often see mussels served this way, but not as often clams. They are delicious, attractive, and truly a gift from the sea.

An added benefit: Clams are very high in iron and can be a good source of this mineral in your diet. Healthy and delicious? You can’t lose!

The goods: For this recipe, I like to use a sweet tomato like the grape tomato. You can also use Campari Tomatoes. The grape variety is especially sweet and blends well with the briny nature of the clam juices. Plan to cook your clams first, as you’ll want to use some of the broth to make your risotto. Also plan on about 8-9 clams per person when making this with risotto and about a dozen per person when serving the clams alone. I like the addition of the sliced fennel in this and the touch of the optional Sambuca or Pernod. This gives the dish a slight hint of Provence or a Mediterranean stew.

Guarantee: You will love this so much – you’ll be making it with and without the risotto all summer long. There is nothing better than taking a steaming pot of the clams outdoors on a warm summer night to enjoy with your favorite white wine. Join me soon On the Patio for a pot of these lovelies and a crisp Falanghina!

RISOTTO WITH FRESH CLAMS

(Risotto Alle Vongole)

FIRST: the clams!

Serves: 4

Prep: 20 minutes

Cook: About 10 minutes

Ingredients

4 Tbsp. Butter

4 Tbsp. Olive Oil

2 Bulbs Sliced Fennel + 2 Fennel Fronds ( the fuzzy green stuff attached to the bulb) – for a quick lesson on slicing fennel click: HEREon my Roast Chicken post.

5 Cloves Fresh Garlic chopped finely

2 c. Fresh Grape Tomatoes – sliced in halves

1 c. Dry White Wine

Pinch of Saffron dissolved in the white wine

1 tsp. Sambuca or Pernod (optional)

1/4 tsp. Red Pepper Flakes

3 Dozen Fresh Clams (Cherrystone is a good one here)

2 Tbsp. Fresh Flat Leaf Parsley – chopped

3 Tbsp. Chopped Fresh Basil

Salt and pepper as needed

1 Tbsp. Fresh lemon juice

Extra Virgin Olive Oil for drizzling before serving

Instructions

Important – scrub your clams with a brush before using.

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Cook the garlic and fennel for a couple of minutes in the butter and oil. Then add the tomatoes. Cook about 5-6 minutes.

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Add the sliced tomatoes and cook covered for about 5 minutes at med. high.

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Add the white wine with the saffron threads dissolved in it and Sambuca or Pernod (if using) Don’t worry if saffron does not completely dissolve.

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Cook about 4 minutes letting the wine cook down and the tomatoes release their juices.

Add the pepper flakes and herbs. Stir.

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Season with Salt and Pepper. Taste for seasoning.

Add the clams – give a light stir.

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Add the fennel fronds –  then cover to cook on medium high for 10 minutes.

Clams should all open – discard any that do not.

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Add the lemon now.

Taste for seasoning.

Your clams are now finished – you can enjoy them as is, or reserve them for the risotto. If serving  the clams alone, add a crusty loaf for dunking!

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Before serving – drizzle with a good Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

SECOND:  the risotto!

Serves: 4

Prep: 15 minutes

Cook: About 40 minutes

Ingredients:

3 Tbsp. Olive Oil

3 Tbsp. Butter

2 c. Arborio Rice

1 Chopped Onion

1/2 c. Dry White Wine

1 c. Fresh Peas – if in season – if not, frozen is OK

4 c. Chicken broth – warm (keep a little extra handy in case you need it)

1/2 c. Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese – grated (Montasio is also lovely in this)

2 Tbsp. Butter

Fresh Basil for garnish

Instructions

Keep chicken broth warm for adding to the risotto so that you don’t reduce the temperature of the risotto as you cook it.

Cook onion in butter and oil about 5 minutes.

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Add the rice and cook another 5 minutes, tossing and coating with the oil and butter.

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Add the wine and cook down a little.

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Add the fresh or frozen peas.

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Begin adding the warm chicken broth a ladle at a time. Let the rice absorb the liquid as you stir constantly, before adding the next ladle. Repeat this until the broth is incorporated. Alternate with some of the liquid from the clams – remember to stir.

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When the risotto is tender to the bite, add the butter and stir in as it melts. Then add the Parmigiano-Reggiano. Let it rest a couple of minutes.

Spoon the cooked clams with the tomatoes and fennel over the risotto along with remaining juices. You can also do this with individual servings, if you like.

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Top with a drizzle of a good Extra Virgin Olive Oil and a sprinkle of chopped fresh Basil.

RISOTTO WITH FRESH CLAMS is a beautiful “Amalfi Style” dish that you will be proud to serve as well as happy to eat. It is a perfect dish for summer enjoyment and is the ideal choice, I think, for Recipe of the Month for June. You’ll want to try them both with and without the risotto, and when you do, listen for “Come Back to Sorrento” as you enjoy this aromatic delicacy from the sea.

PARLA COME MANGI!

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