Monday, October 28, 2013

Drunken Clams with Sausage

I have been wanting to live on an island for as long as I can remember.

On a small island by the sea.

My parents must have sensed this connection and every summer we would head to the coast and move in with a family of fisherman for a couple of weeks. Over a decade and a half, for a brief few weeks, I had a second family, on an island by the sea.

One learns many things on an island... One learns that you must grill your sardines as soon as you catch them, right there, on the beach, for a flavor beyond anything imaginable. One learns that come noontime, when the sun is high and there is no place to hide, nothing kills thirst like water mixed with wine. That you sleep better with lavender under your pillow. That one tenderizes octopus by beating it against the rock, and one treats the burns of a jellyfish with vinegar. That there are ghosts in the cathedral...

On an island, kids must know how to eat a whole fish by the age of two, swim by four, and throw nets by five, or they will never be of the fisherman kind.

Over a decade and a half, after my brief few weeks on the island, I would come back to the continent with a bag of pebbles and a bottle of seawater, a "present" for my grandfather, and for days I would refuse to take a bath, fighting to preserve the salt in my hear and the little pieces of island under my skin.

Some say that if you wish hard enough, you will make it happen. So I wished, and I wished, and today I finally live on an island.

My island is of an unusual kind. It’s big and crowded, and loud, and it does not quite have an ocean around it. But it does have beautiful lavender sunsets, and a marina, and sometimes, when you are really, really close to the water, there is a faint smell of seaweed, and if you let go and forget how big this island is and listen carefully, the “ocean” speaks to you. And sometimes, if you are really, really close to the tip of this big island and you open your windows, the southern winds bring in the wetness, the salty air, the seagulls, and the scent of clams in a broth...

As long as you believe in islands.

Drunken Clams With Sausage

* 4 dozen littleneck clams, cleaned and scrubbed (see the note below) 
* 2 sweet Italian sausages (about 10oz), casing removed and meat separated into small pieces 
* 1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced 
* 4 celery stalks, finely chopped 
* 1/2 of small fennel bulb, thinly sliced (optional) 
* 5 small garlic cloves, minced 
* 1 1/2 cups dry white wine 
* 3/4 cups sweet white wine, such as Muscat 
* 8 large fresh tarragon leaves 
* 1/2 cup heavy cream 
* 1-2 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped 
* 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil 
* freshly ground pepper  

1. In a large saucepan heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, until soft, for about 3-4 min. Add the garlic, celery and fennel and cook for another 3-4 minutes. Add the sausage meat and cook for another 5 minutes, until the meat is cooked through.

2. Add the wine (both dry and sweet) and bring to a boil. Add the tarragon.

3. Add the clams, cover with a lid and cook, shaking the saucepan from time to time, until the clams are open, for about 6 minutes.

4. Add the heavy cream, gently shake the saucepan to mix, and simmer over low heat uncovered, for another 2-3 minutes.

5. Spoon the clams into bowls or soup plates. Stir the parsley into the broth, season with pepper and then pour over the clams. Serve with fresh bread. 

Serves 4

p.s. I am sure you know this, or can finding it in a split of a second just by googling "how to clean clams", however, for the sake of completeness: 

* make sure you dispose of any chipped or broken clams.

* inspect for clams that are open. If you find such specimen, tap her against the counter, if the clam does not close, she is dead -- bury her in the garbage. 

* poor tap water into a large bowl, and place your clams into it for about 30 minutes up to an hour. The clams will get comfy and spit out the sand. (I like to keep my bowl of clams in the fridge.)

* lift each clam from the water and scrub it to clean the grit from the surface of the shell. Do not use colander, because if you do it will shoot the sand back into the shells.

* voila!


  1. I dream of someday living on Vancouver Island where the summers are cooler and we are surrounded by ocean, where we can soak in hot springs that are cooled by the tide, where we can hike and collect sandollars and feel the sand beneath our toes.

    1. It looks like you are a believer too :) Thank you for stopping by.

  2. I used to live on an island and due to all the sea traffic, the seafood would be dubious, especially if you can smell it. But I would definitely dig into that bowl of drunken clams.

    1. I know, even the islands are not the same anymore...

  3. Isn't yours one of the most amazing islands on earth? :)

    Here where I am, fresh clams are a big thing. There are boats specifically designed to dig clams in the shallow parts of the sea. Even though I don't like sausage too much (and I don't really eat pork), this recipe intrigues me so much that I'd love to give it a try.
    It will have to wait for clams to be in season, but it will happen :)

    1. I love my island… I carry it with me wherever I go. I have not visited again since childhood -- I am afraid that it will fail my memories of it.

      Trying to think about the replacement for the pork sausage. Perhaps if you cut the quantities by half, even more, and maybe put just one small sausage, for a tiny bit of flavor… Or maybe veal sausage with fennel and spicing similar to sweet Italian pork sausage.

  4. This is the best clams recipe in existence. I made a few changes to crank up the heat (spicy sausage instead of sweet, red pepper flakes, more garlic) but it is essentially perfect. I wanted to bathe in the leftover broth - it's that good!

    1. Thank you... The funny thing is, I did not make it in a long time. Thanks for the reminder. I never tried making it with a spicy sausage, must try now :)


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