Nobu West Steamed Clams With Ginger And Garlic

  • My wife loves clams
  • My wife loves pasta
  • My wife loves vongole

So this past weekend my wife and I were thinking about what to make for a weekend supper and she wondered aloud if we could make a kind of vongole.   Nobu West had a dish that claimed that “you can use this method with mussels and both (versions) make great dressings for noodles and pasta”. That offering was Steamed Clams With Ginger And Garlic from Nobu West (p. 144,145).  The dish itself is astoundingly simple and calls for –

2 1/4 lbs fresh cherrystone clams (washed and cleaned thoroughly)
2 cloves garlic sliced
1 inch piece ginger peeled and shredded into thin strips
1 T grapeseed oil
1 t + 1/2 t sesame oil
1 leek, white part only cut lengthwise into long strips
1 c dashi
soy sauce
fresh ground black pepper

This recipe specifies that it serves four portions, but with the shells and all, I thought it would serve a generous two!  As it would turn out, my wife insisted we get 20 clams (~4 lbs worth without changing the rest of the ingredient amounts!)

The preparation calls for combining everything into a saucepan except the soy and black pepper and cooking that covered on high heat for about 10 minutes (until the shellfish have opened).  Discard any unopened shellfish, plate the opened ones and reserve the cooking liquid.  To the reserved cooking liquid, mix in the soy sauce and black pepper.  Dress the plated shellfish with the mixed cooking liquid.

Lidia Bastianich’s ‘vongole’ uses linguine for her dish; Marcella Hazan suggests spaghettini with the clams. Since my wife loved the pasta, I let her take her take care of the linguine while I worked on the dish itself.

Getting the white part of the leek

So I began by isolating the white part of the leek, reserved the greens and trimmed off the root.  I then split the  white part of the leek and rinsed it carefully under running water to get rid of any embedded dirt.

Shredding the leek’s white part into strips

Then it was a matter of cutting length-wise strips from each half of the leek whites.  As a matter of record, I thought I get a sense about the ‘quantity’ of two medium garlic cloves – so for future reference, it was about 1/4 oz.

A little garlic to go with the clams

Once I recorded the ‘amount’ of garlic, I went about slicing the cloves as thinly as possible (usuzukuri garlic anyone?).

the garlic thinly sliced

After peeling a little ginger, I applied the trick of using the peeler to get a nice thin thumbnail size slice of ginger

A thin thumbnail sized piece of ginger….

that I then julienned as thinly as possible.

…and now shredded

Once that was then, I took a quick moment to use a half tablespoon spoon to measure 2 portions (1 T) of grapeseed oil mixed with 1 portion of dark sesame oil (sounds not unlike the new style oil mix….).

grapeseed and sesame oils for seasoning

Now that my preparations done, I got all the clams well scrubbed and into the cooking pot.  I figured the clams should go in first and then the vegetables.

all the ingredients for the pot

I thought the vegetables should go in after the clams since I would be cooking them at high heat – didn’t want them on the bottom and then burning on high heat, even though there was going to dashi and the oils.

the cooking pot loaded up for 10m at high heat

Now it was a matter of pouring in the dashi and the oils, closing up the pot and firing up the burner on high for 10 minutes.  As it would turn out, the clams themselves would release their own (substantial) briny liquor to the mix of dashi and oils.  In fact, there was at least two cups of cooking liquid once the solid contents were plated atop my wife’s linguine (a generous 5 oz per person).  To each cup of liquid, I mixed in 1/8t of black pepper and 1t + 1/2t of soy sauce.  I figured (in the event someone only wanted just salt, it would be 1/4t of salt for the cup of liquid).

Clams plated on linguine with the seasoned broth in the top right corner

To each dish, I carefully poured the seasoned cooking liquid over the leeks, clams and pasta into my revol dishes.

Nobu Clams With Ginger And Garlic (on pasta)

Before sitting down to enjoy this dish, my wife noted that the dish was highly aromatic; but was slightly doubtful about the combination of sesame oil with the clams.  Upon tasting the dish, she marveled how balanced all the flavors were and that the sesame oil didn’t overpower the clams.  I, too, thought this was a wonderful dish; I wonder how this dish would match with inaniwa udon or tagliollini?

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