Our Country House Rhode Island Clams inspired by City House in Nashville.
Some of the toughest dining concessions one makes in landlocked, soft white bread Nashville are the lack of great Italian food and fresh New England seafood. I’m not complaining because we’re well satiated on Mexican food, turnip greens, and Kurdish bread, but it is especially hard on R.B., a native of the Ocean state where the linguine and clams are wicked awesome. When R.B. has a bout of homesickness we head to Nashville’s City House restaurant for a plate of garlicy clams finished off in a wood-burning oven, crisp Italian white, and lots of crusty bread. Transports him straight home to a South County seafood house on some inlet pond. Even better, to his R.I. meadow house with a bag of freshly dug clams from the Charlestown Mini Super. So last week in Rhode Island that’s exactly what we did. A couple dozen briny littlenecks a la City House became Country House clams, and for once we got to eat as many as we wanted at a price that could not be beaten.
Double dozen Country House Clams for two.
About the super easy method: first, we’re quickly steaming the clams, then finishing them off under the broiler. Most importantly, use good bread crumbs, not the sandy ones in a can. I make a small simple batch by finely chopping a couple of slices of Italian bread. You can leave them somewhat coarse, like the size of a small pea. So stash some bread crumbs in the freezer and use the food processor to chop up a big batch of stale Italian bread. I learned a trick from Lidia Bastianich — keep two bags in the freezer, one already coated with olive oil and one plain. Use the olive oil coated crumbs for topping casseroles and clams, dishes that you want to get browned and crunchy in the oven.
- 2 dozen littleneck clams
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/4 cup minced onion or shallot
- 1/4 cup diced pancetta or
- 3 slices of bacon (optional)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 1 cup coarse bread crumbs from good Italian bread drizzled with olive oil
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
Rinse the clams in cold water and scrub any dirt from the shells. Let them sit in clean cold water while you prepare the sauce. Heat the broiler. In a large shallow pot with a lid or an ovenproof skillet with a lid, heat the oil and cook the onion and pancetta over medium heat until the onion is softened and the pancetta or bacon are cooked, but not crisp, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and continue to cook another minute. Add the wine and bring to a simmer. Drain the clams and add them to the pot. Cover and simmer about 5 minutes or just until all the clams are wide open. Carefully position clams so that the open side is face up. You can do this with a spoon. Sprinkle liberally with bread crumbs. Place the pan under the broiler to brown the bread crumbs. Watch carefully, it won't take long. Sprinkle with parsley. Serve with fresh lemon wedges. You'll want plenty of crusty bread handy to sop up the briny winey juices. Makes 2 big or 4 appetizer servings.