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Steamed Manila Clams with Tomato, Vermouth, Linguica Sausage and Toasted Focaccia
Steamed Manila Clams with Tomato, Vermouth, Linguica Sausage and Toasted Focaccia Photo courtesy of Rick Poon

At his new Manhattan Beach restaurant, Fishing with Dynamite, chef David LeFevre’s menu is broken down into old-school and new-school dishes. And while we were impressed with classics like blue crab cakes and reliable clam chowder, it was his modern take on timeless steamed clams that really got us going. To make the simple meal more interesting, LeFevre spikes his broth with harissa (North African chile paste) and adds slices of linguiça sausage to the pot. We served ours with pieces of toasted focaccia to mop up the delicious broth.

Makes 4 servings

1 small fennel bulb--trimmed, cored and thinly sliced

1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

¼ pound spicy linguiça sausage, thinly sliced on the bias

5 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 shallot, finely chopped

4 thyme sprigs

1 bay leaf

2½ pounds Manila clams, scrubbed and rinsed

1½ cups low-sodium or homemade vegetable broth or stock

1 cup dry vermouth

One 14.5-ounce can stewed tomatoes

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon harissa paste

1 tablespoon roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves

Freshly squeezed juice of 1 or 2 lemons (about 3 to 6 tablespoons)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 thin slices focaccia bread, toasted

1. Prepare an ice-water bath and set aside. In a large pot filled with salted water, blanch the fennel and onion until tender, about 3 minutes. Transfer to the ice-water bath and set aside to cool.

2. In a large lidded pot set over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the linguiça sausage, garlic, shallot, thyme and bay leaf and cook, stirring occasionally, until the shallot and garlic become translucent, about 5 minutes. Increase the heat to high, then add the clams, vegetable broth and vermouth. Bring the liquid to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-high, cover the pot and simmer until the clams pop open, about 6 minutes.

3. Add the reserved fennel and onion, tomatoes and their juices, butter, harissa paste and parsley; cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the butter melts. Remove the pot from the heat, then add the lemon juice to taste. Season to taste with salt and pepper to taste.

4. Remove the thyme sprigs, bay leaf and any clams that have not opened and discard. Divide the remaining clams and broth among four large shallow bowls. Serve immediately with the toasted focaccia on the side.

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