Today, I could resist no more. In spite of not having any specific plans for them, I ended up buying a bag of lovely little clams from my favourite seafood shop. When I first saw them a couple of months ago, you would have thought I had sighted a unicorn. Up until then the near mythical vongole was something I had only heard my mother wax lyrical about or seen in Japanese cooking magazines. With us Aussie’s getting a bit more adventurous with things that come out of the ocean’s depths, it seems clams could be the new scampi.
Undeterred by the fact I had never actually cooked live bivalves before or knew what Spaghetti Vongole involved, I put the clams on a wet tea towel in a bowl and got down to some research. I had a hankering for a tomato based sauce but every recipe I clicked on shunned the big red globe. I figured that the delicate flavour of the clams could get overpowered by a tomato base. I was becoming a bit disheartened until Wikipedia’s entry for Spag Vongole (yes, there is one) confirmed that a tomato based ‘rosso’ recipe does indeed exist.
Finally, I stumbled across Paul’s Cooking which features both the red and white recipes for Spaghetti Vongole – that is Spaghetti alle Vongole in Bianco and Spaghetti alle Vongole in Rosso. Hooray! Sadly my happiness was short lived as I realised that I had no tomatoes in the house…
By the time dinner time rolled around, I wasn’t even sure I wanted pasta anymore. I decided then that I would borrow some ideas from a French Bistro book and do up a simple Vongole Marinière. The recipe wasn’t too different to a bianco Spag Vongole at any rate. If I ended up wanting some carbs, then I could add some pasta in the end I figured. I also had some black garlic to try out so I put my own spin on the whole shebang. And la voila!
Vongole Marinière with Black Garlic (serves one or two lol – double quantity for 3-4 people)
300g live vongole clams, washed/cleaned before adding to pan
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp chopped shallots
1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped
1 clove black garlic peeled and scraped (this will disintegrate during cooking)
1 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley
1/3 cup of dry white wine – I used an unwooded chardonnay
salt & pepper to taste
spaghetti as required or good crusty white bread to soak up the liquid
To prepare: In a medium to large pot, melt the butter and wait for the foam to subside. Add chopped shallots and both types of garlic, then cook until translucent for a few minutes. You’ll be able to tell the difference black garlic makes at this point. It has a very unique fragrance. Add parsley and stir once before adding the clams, bring to medium/high heat. Once heated through briefly, take pot off the heat and add the wine. Return pot to heat (lower to medium) and cover. Shake the pot occasionally. After 2-3 minutes, most clams should be open. You can continue to heat the pot for another minute but any clams that remain closed after this point must be discarded. Serve clams with liquid in a bowl with crusty bread, or if we want to go Spag Vongole toss your cooked spaghetti through the clams and serve with a little more chopped parsley.
I ended up going the pasta route after all since I was doing up some spaghetti for my son. I was tempted to shave some parmesan over the dish but showed great restraint. I wanted to taste the clams and its flavoursome juices infused with black garlic, and if I do say so myself, it was amazing! Next time I think I’ll get some bread for the tasty liquid. It’s a bit uncooth slurping it up after eating the pasta after all!