Linguini with Clams

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‘Tiz the Season to gather with family and friends and indulge in some “Festivus for the Rest Of Us!” Don’t know what Festivus is? Really, you didn’t see the December 18, 1997 ‘Strike’ episode of Seinfield? Well then, you need to know more. Excerpted straight from the Festivus website:

‘The slogan of Festivus is “A Festivus for the rest of us!” The usual holiday tradition of a tree is manifested in an unadorned aluminum pole, which is in direct contrast to normal holiday materialism. Those attending Festivus may also participate in the “Airing of Grievances” which is an opportunity to tell others how they have disappointed you in the past year, followed by a Festivus dinner, and then completed by the “Feats of Strength” where the head of the household must be pinned. All of these traditions are based upon the events in the Seinfeld episode, however, strangely enough, Festivus has roots that pre-date Seinfeld.

If you read my post from last week you would understand that I am a little unconventional in my humor. For the record – I LOVE CHRISTMAS. I don’t celebrate Festivus, but the thought of it makes me laugh. It was ironic that when I sat down to write this post, somehow the ‘A Festivus for the rest of us!’ slogan immediately came to mind. Regardless of what holiday you celebrate this time of year, I imagine that picking one that has no particular religious background might just be appealing to the indecisive, split religious families or agnostics among us. I believe what unites us best during these dark winter days are the festive gatherings and moments when we share laughter and food together.

There is nothing that captures this warm fuzzy feeling inside better than a hot bowl of fresh cooked clams with a nice garlic wine broth that you can drench your crusty bread in. I can envision the faces of those around me; content and dripping with this delectable broth as it squirts out of the sauce soaked bread. Shells in adjacent bowls piled high in colorful heaps and the familiar slurping of the shells as diners try not to loose any of that amazing broth. Yes, in addition to Christmas, I also love clams and this dish carries with it all the things I’ve enjoyed when I’ve ordered clams over the years.

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Linguini with Clams

Note: Closed shells are a sign of freshness. So when shopping for mussels and clams, consider size and freshness. If you’re new to mussels, it is often best to purchase small ones since they are usually cultivated, contain very little sand, and have a less fishy flavor than their wild cousins.

Ingredients

1/8 cup olive oil

5-6 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 small yellow onion, chopped

1 cup Italian parsley, rough chopped

1 (8 oz) bottle clam juice

½ cup sherry

¼ tps crushed red pepper, finely ground

2 lbs clams (or 1 lb clams and 1 lb mussels)

1 lemon, juiced

salt and pepper to taste

1 lb linguini

¼ cup Parmesan cheese

¼ cup unsalted butter

crusty bread (hardly optional)

Directions

Clams/Mussels 101: Shortly before you’re ready to start steaming, scrub the mussels or clams with a stiff brush under cold running water to get rid of the grit that otherwise will end up in the sauce. If the mussels have big “beards”—black hair like fibers that enable them to cling to things—use your thumb and forefinger to remove them.

Eliminate any dead clams or mussels before steaming because the saying is true… one bad one can ruin the whole batch. Look for any mussels that have opened and tap them on the kitchen counter. If they don’t close, discard them. For closed mussels, press on the sides of the two shells in opposing directions. Dead mussels will fall apart.

Prepare garlic, onion and parsley.

Cook pasta according to package directions.

While pasta is cooking, in a medium high-sided pan, over low heat, add olive oil and onion. Sauté stirring frequently for approximately 4 minutes until onions soften. Raise heat to medium high, add in clams, clam juice and wine; cooking approximately 6 minutes. Stir a few times to make sure all clams evenly reach the heat for proper cooking.

If using mussels, add in now and cook an additional 2 minutes longer. Stir regularly. As the clams and mussels cook a popping sound can be heard as the shells open. It is important that the shells of the clams and mussels open; sometimes if they are too crowded in a pan they will not heat enough to open.

If clams and mussels remain closed after cooking, it’s almost invariably bad. And while clams are a little trickier; nine times out of ten, if you insert a knife into clam shells they will snap open, and are perfectly good (sniff if you’re not sure; if you want to play it safe, dispose the closed ones if after a few additional minutes of cooking they do not open).

Drain pasta and add in cheese and unsalted butter.

To the clam mixture add in lemon juice, crushed peppers and parsley. Divide pasta and clams amongst 4 bowls and top with clams, mussels and juice.

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