Ever since living in Europe, where everyone seems to casually sit down for a glass of wine and hors d’oeuvre before serving dinner, I’ve wanted to do the same with our family on the weekends. But it turns out we’re very American in our ways, rushing around doing laundry, finishing up homework, writing a few last emails, cracking open a beer while someone puts the food on plates, and then plopping down at the table in a collective exhale. We do light candles and toast, but the hour-long preamble has remained a fantasy.
However, I have managed to squeak in one dish that encourages everyone to pause. On Sunday nights, we often make fish tacos. Our fishmonger at the Greenmarket also sells excellent littleneck clams. I’ve taken to buying a dozen and roasting them until they open. As they do, we all gather around the counter, dabbing them with butter and topping the warm, briny clams with a droplet or two of Cholula. We eat them standing up, chatting, shells clanking against the pan—a civilized and sweet family gathering. And once the last clam goes—quickly!—we get back to our business. —Amanda Hesser
Optional: lemon juice, preserved lemons, parsley, and anything else you like with your clams
Heat oven to 400° F. Spread the clams in a cast iron skillet or dish, or other heavy casserole dish.
Roast until the clams open, then remove from the oven and dot each clam with butter and a droplet of hot sauce. (You may transfer them to a serving dish if you like.) If you like lemon or herbs with your clams, this is the time to add it—we keep ours succinct.
Before starting Food52 with Merrill, I was a food writer and editor at the New York Times. I've written several books, including "Cooking for Mr. Latte" and "The Essential New York Times Cookbook." I played myself in "Julie & Julia" -- hope you didn't blink, or you may have missed the scene! I live in Brooklyn with my husband, Tad, and twins, Walker and Addison.