Copyright Piacere - Food & Travel without rules! 2022 - Theme by ThemeinProgress
As my 2 month visit to Cape Cod comes to an end, I can’t help feeling sorry that it is over. I have spent most of my summers here as a child and even had lived here on and off over the years. But coming back just to visit has made me see the Cape not at as part-time resident but with new eyes as a visitor. I will always love it here and consider it as a place I call home.
Since becoming interested in photography, I’ve seen the Cape through the eyes of a camera and have seen sights I took for granted and never really saw although they had always been there. I would like to share with you some of the wonderful sites of the Cape from Falmouth to Providence Town and one of its specialties.
I don’t know of anywhere else in the world where you can find steamers. Steamers are a soft shell clam particular to New England. They grow in mucky sand and we used a plunger, pumping it against the sand to bring them to the surface. Because of this it is very important to make sure that they are thoroughly cleaned or you will be eating sand along with the clams.
When buying steamers or any clam, be sure that they are closed. If not, do not accept them, usually the fishmonger will remove them. If you plan to keep them for a day, soak paper towels with water and cover the clams with the towels storing them in the refrigerator.
Steam Clams cooked in beer
5 lbs New England steamers
1 bottle beer
1 bay leaf
1 stick sweet butter
Sea salt to taste
Cleaning them requires that you put them into cold water along with some cornmeal and change it several times. As the clams circulate the water into the shell, the cornmeal helps to remove the sand.
When steaming the clams use one bottle of beer and about a cup of water in a deep pot. For 2 servings as a main course I buy about 5 lbs. of clams. Cover the pot and cook on medium heat until the clams completely open. Any clams that remain closed discard.
Remove the clams from the beer and put them into a dish. The remaining liquid pour into cups for each person. This liquid is used to dunk the clams after removing them from the shell again cleaning off any remaining sand. Give each person a cup of melted butter, which is used to dunk the clams before eating.
There is a black skin on the neck of the clam that must be removed before eating them. The skin is easily removed by using your thumb to scrap it off the neck.
We once saw a woman eating the clams with this skin on and she was finding the clams very difficult to eat or enjoy. I believe restaurants should inform their guests who might not be familiar with eating steamers.
Steamers are the same clam used to make fried clams.
During the summers on Cape Cod we went clamming twice a week. This was a ritual and at that time the beach in front of our house was a minefield of clams. There were three of us; my brother Mike, my cousin Mary Lou and myself. It took us no time to collect a large bucket of beautiful little necks. We enjoyed clamming so much that we just hated it when we had filled our quota. We dug with our hands and left big holes in the sand. As the tide came in we watched the waves rolling up the beach washing away our path of holes.
We had huge trays of clams on the half shell and the rest we use to make Spaghetti alle Vongole. To us it was not a specialty dish, just one of the pasta dishes our family always prepared and loved.
As I spend some time revisiting Cape Cod, the first thing I did was to go to the fishmonger where I bought fresh little necks. I couldn’t wait to make this dish for my husband who isn’t fond of pasta with fish. He would never even try it so I always made it just for myself. This time however I got him to join me and he was immediately convinced that he had missed something special all these years.
By the way, this has to be one of the easiest pasta dishes you can make, that is, if you can get fresh clams. Do not use canned clams, as they really don’t come close to the flavor you want to achieve.
Spaghetti Alle Vongole
Spaghetti with Clams
Prep Time: 10
Cook Time: 20
Yield: 4 Servings
3 lbs fresh clams (little necks preferably)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, whole
1 fresh pepperoncino (chili pepper or sprinkle a few pepper flakes, optional)
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup clam liquid (more if needed)
2 tablespoons Italian parsley, chopped
1 lb. spaghetti
Let the clams sit in cold water for at least one half hour to allow the sand to come out. Scrub the shells with a brush. Clams that are opened are not fresh and must be discarded. Cook the clams in about 1 cup of water allowing the clams to steam open. Remove them from the water and discard any clams that do not open. Reduce the water by boiling it for about 2-3 minutes to condense the flavor of the clam liquid. Strain the liquid to make sure there is no remaining sand and put it aside.
Remove the clams from the shells leaving about 5 per person in the shells for garnish. Chop the remaining clams and set them aside. This step is optional, as in Italy they never remove them from the shell.
Sauté the garlic and pepperoncino over medium heat. Add the wine and clam liquid into the pan. If you need more liquid, add more clam juice. Cook the sauce for several minutes and add the clams back into the sauce at the end.
Boil a large pot of salted water and cook the spaghetti until al dente. Put the cooked spaghetti into the sauce and toss the spaghetti with the sauce until it has absorbed some of the flavorful liquid. If you choose to not add the pepper flakes, serve a dish of red pepper flakes on the side. Sprinkle the chopped parsley and squeeze fresh lemon over the top.
Note: For a red sauce, add about 1 1/2 lbs. of tomatoes, skinned, seeded and cubed or cheery tomatoes cut in half or quarters. Add the tomatoes with the wine and clam liquid. Fresh tomatoes need only a few minutes to cook if you want them to remain whole. Do not use tomato sauce as this is a very different sauce and the flavor of the clams will be lost in the heavy flavor of the tomato sauce.