Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The Great Clam Massacre

Clam pasta
Originally uploaded by Neenabeena

Neen tells me that there is nothing sexier then a man passionate about cooking. Thankfully, she appears to be unconcerned about the actually quality of the dishes created. I suspect that my cooking scores high in the "Creative" category (with little idiosyncratic touches thrown in to the dish), but lower than average in "Quality."

Tonight was no exception. I saw a jar of clam juice at the grocery store this weekend and made an impromptu decision to make my mother's creamy clam pasta sauce. Neen picked up some cans of clams for me on her way home (yes, it is made with canned clams - I come from the Midwest, there is no such thing as fresh clams). I was prepared to produce this dish, when I realized that I also happened to have the ingredients for a clam pasta sauce from the Silver Palate.

Now, usually, cooking out of the Silver Palate is nothing but a good idea. I have a very healthy respect for their recipes. Tonight, however, not only did I decide I would cook their sauce, I also decide I would "improve" it. The base of the Silver Palate sauce is garlic, clam juice, herbs, and olive oil. (This can be compared to my mother's recipe which uses: garlic, garlic, clam juice, garlic, butter, and garlic. Oh, and cream and garlic.)

My improvements for the Silver Palate recipe were the addition of white wine (if you have also read my post on Lamb Stew, you may begin to see a trend), changing the oil for butter (a little richer), and thickening the sauce with a roux at the very end (I like thicker sauces).

The results were less then impressive. The dish did not carry any of the subtlety of the herbs or the white wine. It was a good consistency, but the flavor was saltier then it should be and basically only tasted of garlic and clams (I am not complaining, but I was hoping for something a little more impressive given the extra effort). My suspicion is, if I had left the sauce alone (particularly without thickening it), the flavors would have been milder (or, at least, less concentrated) and the fresh parsley would have been more present as a flavor. Similarly, the use of butter added a rich (and probably salty) flavor that actually worked against the dish. In fact, what I created was exactly what I should have expected, I suppose. It was the average between the rich, potent, sauce my mother makes and the lighter, more subtle sauce of Silver Palate.

In the future I think I will stick to my mother's recipe when cooking with canned clams - the subtle sauce of Silver Palate is probably also not well suited to the coarser flavors that canned clams offer. But it may just be worth it to try making the Silver Palate sauce using fresh clams, since I can buy them around D.C.

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