Spanish Steamed Clams Recipe
3 to 4 pounds live small hard-shelled clams*
3 tablespoons unsalted butter or olive oil**
1 small white onion, coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic, lightly chopped
1 bottle dry white wine
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Small pinch saffron threads***
Melted unsalted butter
Thick slices of French Bread or country-style bread
* There are generally 12 to 15 clams per pound. Serve approximately 1 to 2 pounds of steamer clams per person. Also called cherrystone, littlenecks in the New England states) and steamer clams (in the Pacific Northwest). If the shells of the live clams are open, tap on shell. If it does not close, throw away the clam.
** Use only unsalted butter for this recipe - otherwise your clams will be too salty!
*** The rule is that a "little saffron" will go a long way. When determining how much saffron to use in cooking, remember that the saffron flavor will be stronger the second day. In general, just use a pinch in soups and stews that serve 4 to 6 people.
FDA recommendations are to soak steamer clams for several hours in seawater (or 1/3 cup coarse kosher salt and 1 gallon water) to which you have added 1 cup cornmeal. Use kosher or sea salt as the iodine in regular salt will kill the clams before they hit the boiling water.
One hour before serving, scrub the outside of the clam shells with a vegetable brush in cold water; rinse with water until free of sand (adding a little coarse salt to the water will help to remove the sand from the clams).
In a steamer pot or a large kettle, melt butter or olive oil; saute onion and garlic until soft. Add white wine, pepper flakes, and saffron threads; bring to a slow boil. Add clams and cover pot with a tight-fitting lid and steam over low heat just until clams open, about 5 to 10 minutes. Do not over cook, as clams will become tough and rubbery - discard any clams that do not open.
Use tongs or a slotted spoon to transfer the clams to large individual soup bowls with individual cups of melted butter.
Pour broth through a cheesecloth-lined strainer to remove any sand. The broth can either be used as a dunking liquid for the French bread or placed in mugs to drink.
Eat and enjoy!
Yields: 2 servings.