Stop the garlic abuse! When it comes to garlic, it seems we have a dysfunctional relationship. We say we love it, but we beat it, chop it, mince it and even pulverize it into paste. I realize I’m exaggerating a bit, but honestly, is there any reason to smash garlic as much as we do?
I found myself wondering about this while making a plate of linguine with clams. I stopped myself from mincing the garlic — instead, I opted to do long, thin, teardrop slices. Because clams and garlic compliment each other so well, I decided it would be much better to slice the garlic then dice the clams. The resulting dish was simply fantastic.
I have since re-named my recipe Linguine with Garlic and Clams. The trick is to simply saute the garlic, to the point where it becomes fragrant and do no more. Raw garlic is pungent and strong, so you do want to cook it. The best technique is to sweat the garlic — simply stir it into a hot environment and keep stirring. Don’t allow your garlic to brown or caramelize as this will result in a bitter taste. When garlic sweats in a little bit of oil then simmers in white wine, it turns buttery, soft and rich, a perfect match for salty sea flavored clams.
If you need to chop something, chop the clams. While clams in shell are lovely visuals, they don’t actually do much for me at home. I suggest shucking the clams first and chopping the meat, then creating the creamy sauce. If you only have access to canned clams, you may certainly use them, but I find fresh seafood to be the best. Use a good, drinkable, dry white wine when cooking and serve the same chilled wine with the pasta. Of course, you should have a glass (or two!) while cooking.
Linguine with Garlic and Clams
1/2 pound linguine noodles (I like a trio of whole wheat, spinach and semolina)
1 cup chopped clams (I recommend littlenecks or razors)
1 tablespoon clam juice
1/2 cup diced pancetta
4 garlic cloves, sliced thin
1 leek, white and light green parts only, sliced thin
1 shallot, sliced thin
1 1/2 tablespoons creme fraiche
1 cup dry white wine
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and White Pepper to taste
- Bring a pot of salted water to boil for the noodles.
- Cut the leek in half and wash thoroughly. Slice into thin semi-circles and separate. Do the same with the shallot.
- When the noodles go into the water, heat a large saute pan with the olive oil. Over medium heat, add the pancetta and allow to brown and crisp, about 2-3 minutes. Add the leek and shallots and allow to sweat, but do not brown.
- Add the garlic slices and chopped clams. Stir frequently, until the garlic becomes fragrant, about one minute more.
- Lower the heat and add the white wine and clam juice. Loosen any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Stir in the creme fraiche until incorporated, then cover and allow to simmer over low heat, about 2-3 minutes.
- Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Using tongs, remove the linguine noodles from the boiling water and add to the pan. Fold into the sauce until well incorporated. If more sauce is needed, use some of the leftover salted pasta water.