Clams in porter and cream: If there’s a better title, I can’t think of it.

Friday, in the middle of the day, I had to supplement the wine with a Diet Coke because I was just having too much fun. I kneaded enthusiastically. I needed a nap. Of course that meant that I overcooked the bread – I forgot the buzzer and woke to wondering how much longer was left on the loaf, only to find that instead of golden it was a dark – though edible – brown. Also, because sometimes when I’m shopping I’m drunk filled with tremendous enthusiasm for the next feast, I accidentally grabbed the whole wheat flour that acts and sort of tastes like white flour (the word “SALE!” is like onomatopoeia to me – I see it and I think of a joyful noise and it compels me) – the colour is odd, but Grace was kind and said the finished loaf looked “artisanal,” which I can’t actually define but I think means “crusty and way too high in fibre.”

No matter – the little biscuits for the strawberries turned out perfectly, so all was not lost. Small victories. But then Grace brought lemon slice in cake form, so we ate the peppered berries and honeyed cream that way, and it was even better. I ate the biscuits and the leftover berries and drank the leftover wine for breakfast. I wrote about them here.

Almost all of my photos from the evening turned out blurry. Fortunately, Grace also brought a tripod and her good camera. And I am now in possession of a few glamour shots of the meal, so it’s time now to tell you all about it.

Brownish caramelized onion and fennel bread.
Brownish caramelized onion and fennel bread.
Green and white asparagus baked in olive oil with garlic.
Green and white asparagus baked in olive oil with garlic.
Grace's pretty salad. Fresh greens, and dressing she made herself: Roasted red peppers, garlic, olive oil, happy thoughts.
Grace's pretty salad. Fresh greens, and dressing she made herself: Roasted red peppers, garlic, olive oil, happy thoughts.

I couldn’t tell which of us was trying to seduce the other, except that we’re both very sloppy drunks and then two bottles in, James called and offered to bring us wine, and Paul called and asked what we were doing and then came over with some beer and an empty bottle of ketchup so nothing life-changing really happened. Nothing life-changing except for this:

Clams have feelings too? I don't think they do.
Clams have feelings too? I don't think they do.
Another angle, because they were just so damn sexy.
Another angle, because they were just so damn sexy.

And it’s possible that I’m exaggerating and tooting my own horn here. But I don’t think so. What do you need to make this happen in your kitchen? Not much. Not much at all.

Ingredient pile, with wine. These next two pictures come from my camera, which explains their wobbly suckiness. We'll conclude with Grace.
Ingredient pile, with wine. These next two pictures come from my camera, which explains their wobbly suckiness. We'll conclude with Grace.

Clams in porter and cream

(Serves four, unless one of you is me or Grace)

  • 4 lbs. clams
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 medium-sized onion
  • 1 medium-sized bulb of fennel
  • 3 cloves chopped garlic
  • 1/2 cup beef stock (you can use chicken if you want)
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 cup porter or other dark beer
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup chopped mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

Before you do anything, make sure your clams are clean. Soak them in a bath of cold-to-lukewarm water, 4 cups water to 1/3 cup salt. Your clams will spit out any sand they’ve got kicking around inside their shells – you may need to repeat this process two to three times to be sure you’ve got it all. Nothing’s grosser than a mouthful of sea dirt.

My pretties.
My pretties.

When they’re good and clean and you’re ready to get on with it, heat the oil in a large pot, and caramelize your onions, garlic, and fennel, deglazing the pan as needed with the beef stock. Add the salt and pepper.

When everything’s golden and smells good, add the beer, the cream, stir it all up, then add the clams. Steam these with the lid on until the beautiful little guys open, ten to fifteen minutes. Possibly longer, if they’re stubborn. Which can totally happen. Shake the pan frequently to ensure that all the clams touch the heat and the liquid.

Before serving, add in the mushrooms, stir to coat and cook lightly, and then dump the whole thing into a big bowl. Garnish with the parsley. This is excellent over pasta, or just as is, with lots and lots of bread. Drink lots of dry white or pink wine. Sigh repeatedly over your contented fullness.

And then eat this:

Lemon slice topped with peppered strawberries and whipped cream with honey.
Lemon slice topped with peppered strawberries and whipped cream with honey.

The whole meal had a soothing, sedative effect on the both of us, and we never made it out to karaoke, as planned. Come to think of it, many of the meals I’ve shared with Grace have done more to lull than energize: Perhaps our diets are too rich? Maybe we gorge ourselves too much? Maybe there’s more to life than eating and possibly we could eat less and venture out into the world a bit more, because it is Friday after all and we have to consider our youth? Maybe, but I doubt it. It’s probably just the wine.

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