Clams with Green Onions, Nori & Sesame
I’ve been eating clams all my life. They were brought home on Fridays for pasta sauce and eaten raw with lemon juice at holiday feasts and fairs. Clams are sweet, briny, and just chewy enough to make me salivate as I write this recipe. Widely available and ridiculously inexpensive, they make a great appetizer or light entrée all year round.
TECHNIQUE: CLEANING CLAMS
Have you ever chewed on a grainy clam? It's probably right up there with overcooked, tough lobster on the Worst Shellfish Experiences list. Clams live on ocean floors and ingest quite a bit of sand and other grit. So before cooking them it’s important to persuade the critters to expel any funky stuff. “Chipping” clams is easy: place live clams in a large bowl and cover them with cold water. Add 2 tablespoons of cornmeal and let stand for 1 hour, shaking the bowl gently every 15 minutes or so. Fooled into thinking they’re being fed. The clams will purge any sand-you’ll see it at the bottom of the bowl. Lift the clams gingerly from the water so as to avoid stirring up the settled sand.
Total Timeunder 2 hours
OccasionCasual Dinner Party
Recipe Coursehot appetizer, main course
Dietary Considerationhot appetizer, main course
Equipmentmortar and pestle
Taste and Texturesavory, umami, winey
- 24 littleneck or cherrystone clams in their shells
- 2 tablespoons cornmeal
- ½ sheet sushi nori (square-shaped seaweed used to roll sushi)
- 2 teaspoons sesame seeds
- 15 scallions, roots trimmed, white and pale green sections cut into 2-inch lengths, plus 2 tablespoons finely sliced dark green scallion tops
- 2 tablespoons light (low-sodium) soy sauce or 1 teaspoon regular soy sauce
- ¼ cup plus 3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
- 1/3 cup mirin
- Several drops extra-virgin olive oil
Chip clams for 1 hour (see Notes). Remove clams from water and keep in refrigerator.
Light a gas burner or heat an electric burner until hot. Lightly grasp a nori sheet with tongs and pass quickly several times through flame or over electric burner, stopping when nori gives off a faint toasted seaweed odor. The nori should not change in form or color. Coarsely chop nori and set aside.
Heat a sauté pan over medium-low heat and add sesame seeds. Toast seeds, shaking pan frequently, just until fragrant and golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes. In a spice mill or mortar with pestle, grind nori and sesame seeds together until crushed fine. Transfer to a small bowl and stir in chopped dark green scallions.
In a stockpot, combine soy sauce, vinegar, mirin, and ¼ cup water. Bring to a simmer and add 2-inch white and pale green scallion pieces. Cook until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Add clams to stockpot, cover, and cook just until all the clam shells have opened, about 8 minutes. Stir midway through so that clams buried at the bottom get an equal shot of steam. Discard any clams that do not open.
Put 6 clams in each of 4 shallow bowls. Distribute scallions and ladle cooking broth into the bowls. Dash a few drops of olive oil on the surface of the broth. Sprinkle with sesame-nori-scallion mixture. Serve hot.
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