|Clamming, about as Long Island as you can get|
|A Clamming Rake is as essential to digging|
Little Necks as the beer which generally accompanies
Clamming on Long Island
For years, families have clammed here, taking their rakes and digging through the fine sand to pluck these tender-sweet fruits of the sea from their beds at low tide. They look for tell-tale 'bubbles' in the sand where the objects of their affection live. They zealously guard the locations of their clamming grounds just as they would buried treasure. It’s a fine pastime usually accompanied by a few beers to accompany the hard work of raking through the sand.
When you cook with Little Necks, the key word to remember is "sand". These creatures burrow in and it’s essential to clean the sand from the interior of the clams or else you’ll have one gritty ‘umido’. So here’s a technique to use to minimize the sand and maximize the clam.
|A famous photo of 2 Nuns Clamming|
As you put them into the bowl, examine your clams and throw out any that are broken and chipped. If any of the clams are open, gently squeeze to close. If they do not close, they are dead and should be thrown out.
Remove the bowl of clams from the and place on the counter for 20 to 30 minutes. The clams will have dispelled some of the sand during their initial stay in the bowl. So remove them one by one and throw out the sandy water. Refill the bowl with fresh cool water from your faucet. Add the clams and allow them clams to soak for another 20 to 30 minutes. The clams will clean themselves of any sand they have inside their shells.
Remove the shells from the water one at a time to a plate, preferably using tongs. Do not use a colander to strain the clams. (The sand and dirt they just extracted may settle on the bottom and go right back into the clam shells.) Your clams are ready to cook. And here’s the recipe, the hardest part of which is cleaning the clams.
Recipe for Spaghettini and Tomatoes in Little Neck Clam Broth from La Cucina Italiana:
For four “Primi Piatti” or 2 generous main courses.
Fine sea salt
2 1/4 pounds small littleneck clams, scrubbed and washed as above
1/4 cup plus 3 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/3 pound spaghettini or spaghetti
1/2 pound cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 tablespoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley plus more for garnish
1 small carrot, peeled and thinly sliced into rounds
1/3 cup finely chopped green bell pepper
Wash leek well in a bowl of cold water, agitating it, then lift out and pat dry. Set aside.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, in a large heavy pot with lid, combine clams, 1 1/2 tablespoons oil and wine.
Cover and cook over high heat, shaking pan occasionally, just until clams open, 7 to 10 minutes. Discard any clams that do not open). Reserving cooking liquid, transfer clams to a bowl, then strain cooking liquid into a bowl through a cheesecloth-lined fine-mesh sieve. Remove clams from shells; discard shells.
Cook pasta in the boiling water until al dente. Reserving 1 1/2 cups pasta cooking liquid, drain pasta and set aside (do not rinse).
In a large skillet, heat 1/4 cup oil over medium-high heat. Add tomatoes and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook 30 seconds, then add pasta and parsley; toss just to combine. Remove from heat.