1. While grocery shopping at the Fairway in Red Hook, notice the fish department’s special: three dozen Little Neck steamer clams for $10. Feel brave, even though you’ve never cooked live bivalves before.
2. When it’s time to make dinner, consult online recipes and discover that steamer clams need a minimum of two hours’ soaking time in cold water with a cup of cornmeal thrown in. Bah. Start soaking them while Patrick makes up an interim snack of cheese, crackers, and olives.
3. Do further research while waiting. Discover that the iodized salt you threw into the soaking water may have killed your clams. Brood.4. When it’s getting on to two hours, start the actual recipe:
3-4 lbs. live steamers5. At ten minutes, take the lid off and discover that none of the clams have opened. Despair. Announce that you must have killed them with that iodized salt. On general principles, set the timer for five more minutes and replace the lid.
3 tbsp. butter
1 small onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 bottle white wine
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
thick slices of French bread
enough melted butter
Thoroughly wash your clams.
Melt the 3 tbsp. butter in a good pan (tall is better than shallow) and cook the onions and garlic in it until soft. Pour in the entire bottle of wine and add the pepper flakes. Bring to a boil. Add the clams. Slap on a lid and set the timer for ten minutes. (It’s supposed to take five to ten minutes for the clams to cook.)
6. When the timer beeps, take the lid off and find the clams have opened. Joy! Summon spouse. Remove the clams from the pot with a slotted spoon, and strain the broth through a fine strainer.
7. Ignore the broth. Ignore the bread. Eat the clams while standing up at the kitchen counter. Procedure: remove clam from shell. Dip in butter. Eat. Emit faint moan. Discard shell. Discard, uneaten, any clams that have failed to open.
8. Pack up and refrigerate the clam broth, promising to eat it later.