Boozy Date Night Clams and Capellini

By • January 26, 2011 15 Comments

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Author Notes: Growing up, we never ate shellfish due to my Dad’s severe allergy. My introduction to shrimp, scallops, clams and mussels did not happen until right after college, when I lived in Boston. Splurge date nights would be spent in the North End, discovering the fruits of the sea. Fast forward ten years, five thousand miles, and two kids later, and date nights, though few and far between, are especially relished. This recipe is a nod to my favorite date night haunt, which has a terrific starter of mussels served in a boozy broth. Last summer I played around with tomato sorbet and chilled tomato soup and here I wanted the flavor without all the pulp. Although this was my first time making clams, I am happy to report, it was stress free and I will be making this often. Note: Make Tomato-Fennel water one day ahead. - gingerrootgingerroot

Food52 Review: One word: Delicious. This dish really delivers on the flavor. The boozy broth, sweet sun-dried tomatoes, rich salty olives and slightly chewy briny clams are like a symphony for your mouth. I didn't have oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes so added the air-dried ones I had to the broth so they'd soften, and it worked out perfectly. My clams were pretty small so cooked in about 5 minutes. The tomato-fennel water requires some patience, and my blender was not a fan of the fennel stalks, but it is worth the effort and wait. The rest of the dish is pretty simple and quick to put together - perfect for a mid-week supper with your sweetie. My husband and I give this recipe two thumbs up! hardlikearmour

Serves 2

Tomato-Fennel Water

  • 1 large ripe tomato
  • 3 stalks fennel (remove excess fronds)
  • 1 Thai bird chili
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Core tomato and score the bottom with a small “x.” Blanch tomato by plunging into boiling water for 10 seconds, followed by an ice bath. Slip off skins and discard. Quarter the tomato and puree (including seeds) in a blender until smooth. Using a thin tea towel or 4 layers of cheesecloth set over a glass measuring cup (I used a rubber band to secure), pour puree over and allow tomato “water” to begin collecting in the glass. Set glass aside.
  3. On a large baking sheet, season fennel stalks with a few good glugs of olive oil and two pinches of sea salt. Roast for 13-15 minutes until softened and fragrant. Cool for a bit, and then cut stalks in half and place in blender (since tomato and fennel will be eventually mixed, I did not clean out my blender). Pour any oil from baking sheet into top of blender and puree, using a spatula to scrape down the sides. The stalks are fibrous so need a bit of patience to puree. Add up to 1 ounce of water to help with this process.
  4. Check on your tomato water, using a clean spatula to carefully help press the water out from the pulp. You want to end up with ¼ cup of tomato water. My water did have a slight pink tinge to it. Discard solids.
  5. Repeat the process with the fennel puree, using the same piece of cheesecloth and measuring cup. You want ¼ cup of fennel water (or a total of ½ cup of tomato - fennel water). Discard solids.
  6. Cut off the end of the chili. Remove most of the seeds. Add chili to tomato-fennel water and cover cup with plastic. Refrigerate. Remove chili after one to two hours and discard. Return mixture to fridge and continue to chill overnight.

For the clams and capellini

  • 1 lb Manila clams
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced spring onions (can substitute scallions)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup dry vermouth
  • 1/2 cup tomato-fennel water
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped sun dried tomato
  • 3 tablespoons oil cured black olives
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
  • 8 ounces capellini
  1. Inspect clams and discard any that are chipped or ones that are open and do not close after you tap them. Clean clams by placing them in a bowl of cold water for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove each clam, scrub the shell and discard the water. Rinse out bowl and replace clams. Set aside.
  2. Start your pasta water.
  3. Heat olive oil and butter in a large (12 inch) skillet (with a lid) over medium heat. Add spring onions and garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant and softened about 2 minutes. Add vermouth and tomato-fennel water. Cook mixture for a minute. Add clams. Close lid and let steam for 7-10 minutes (liquid should be simmering). Stir clams once while cooking.
  4. Cook your pasta. Capellini takes about 4-5 minutes.
  5. Drain pasta and place in serving bowl. Toss pasta with sundried tomatoes, black olives and parsley.
  6. Cooked clams will open. Discard any clams that are still closed after cooking. Ladle boozy broth and clams over pasta, tossing to combine. Serve immediately and enjoy with crusty bread.

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