I still can’t believe how fast—or how good—this recipe is. When Marie-Christine made it for the first time, I watched her, I devoured the clams—minus the pasta (she was serving them as an appetizer), I licked my fingers and dipped stale bread into the sauce…and yet I wrote off my wonder at its deliciousness. –I must have been really hungry. –It’s just that the clams were so fresh. –She must have put in a LOT of butter. And so on.
That’s because it’s just four ingredients! (Well, five if you count some parsley, six if you count a little grated cheese.) It doesn’t have any of the fancy French food trappings I’m used to with seafood, like sautéing, deglazing with wine, reducing, finishing with cream and so forth. And yet…and yet…it’s now the only way I want to make pasta with my freshly-dug clams ever again. (OK. That may be an exaggeration. But for now…) The just-melted butter tastes rich and saucy. The garlic petals soften and turn miraculously mild—I eat them. And overall, the dish’s flavors are clean, fresh, and absolutely exquisite.
Marie-Christine just eyeballed the quantities in true French fashion (French home cooks never seem to want to measure anything!), so I’ve tried to put down precise amounts so the marvelousness can be recreated by one and all.
Linguine with Clams and Garlic Petals
8 oz./225 g. linguine or spaghetti (2 oz. per person)
40 to 48 steamer clams, purged (if necessary), scrubbed, and ready to cook
2 large cloves garlic, peeled (1/2 clove per person)
4 Tbs./60 g. butter, cut into 4 pieces
chopped parsley for garnish, optional
grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese, optional
COOK the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente.
MEANWHILE, PLACE the clams in a medium heavy-bottomed pot with a tight-fitting lid (like a Dutch oven). Using a vegetable peeler, peel the garlic cloves into thin petals straight onto the clams. Put the butter on top, and cover with the lid.
HEAT the clams in the pot over high heat about 5 minutes, or until all the clams have opened, stirring the clams once or twice during the cooking time so that they cook evenly. The butter will have melted and the garlic petals will have softened.
DRAIN the pasta and return it to the saucepan it was cooked in. Add the clams to the pasta, and ladle in the clam sauce until you have enough sauce. (You can always pass extra sauce at the table.) Sprinkle with parsley and serve with grated cheese, if desired. Serves 4