Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Personal Best: Lemon Linguine with Spicy Clams, Asparagus and Garlic

Warning: There is not a small amount of Joie de Vivre, a lovely music playlist, an amazing recipe and a girlcrush of L Word proportions scattered throughout this post.

This may be my favorite thing I've ever made for dinner. In fact, it was so good, it's literally taken me about two weeks to post the recipe since I made it for myself the first time and I've made it for two sets of dinner guests since then. That good.

You see, Jaimeson had just left that first morning after Thanksgiving week and I felt like a self-date was in order. Born half out of the realization it would be my first night alone in ten days and half out of the subsequent grief in that fact, but fully craved nonetheless. Cue Sues/Chels and my craving for spicy clams and lemon linguine.

We've established (over and over and over) my love of citrus, lemons in particular. This takes it straight into savory and does not feel the need to apologize. Of course, upon looking at the original recipe Susie sent over from Stir in Boston, I was looking for something a little thicker in terms of sauce and bite.
And that's where Nigella came into the picture. Most people seem to get all hot and bothered by a particular Italian chef (no, Mario, not you) but I have to say it...that Nigella Lawson is a total dish. Obviously both are lovely and I luckily/unluckily? don't have to choose between them but I'm just saying, give me the Domestic Goddess any day of the week.

Nigella's lemon linguine recipe calls for a sauce of heavy cream, an egg yolk and fresh Parmesan. I had my own twists but the combo of spicy clams and lemon linguine made for one seriously sexy single girl night in.

Lemon Linguine with Spicy Clams, Asparagus and Garlic
  • 2 cans chopped clams
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 4 cloves of garlic minced or halved then sliced paper thin
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 pounds linguine
  • 1 pound asparagus, dead ends snapped off and chopped into 1 inch pieces
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1 lemon, zested, and juice of 1/2, plus more juice, as needed
  • Salt
  • freshly milled black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons chopped parsley leaves
Put a saute pan over high heat and add clams and wine. Cover and cook until clams open (5-10 minutes). Remove clams with slotted spoon and decant juices in a small bowl leaving any sediment behind in pan (you'll want this for lemon sauce later, trust me).

Start cooking your linguine- about 7-8 minutes- and steam your asparagus -don't let it get beyond JUST tender and BRIGHT green. Drain asparagus as soon as it's done, add 1 TB of butter and set aside with the top on the pot so it melts.

Heat olive oil (1 T) in a clean saute pan over medium-high heat. add clams and garlic (1 1/2 T) and let clams sizzle undisturbed for 2-3 minutes crisping them slightly, lowering heat if garlic starts to color. Add red pepper flakes (1/4 t) and a couple teaspoons of reserved clam juices and stir. remove sauce from heat. Add salt if needed.

Now "get on with the sauce" as Nigella says. In a bowl, add the yolks, cream, Parmesan, zest of the whole lemon and juice of half of it, the salt and good grind of pepper, and beat with a fork. You don't want it fluffy, just combined. Taste. If you want it more lemony, then of course add more juice.

Anyway, as soon as the pasta looks ready, drain the pasta, and then, off the heat, toss it back in the pot or put it in an efficiently preheated bowl, throw in the butter, and stir and swirl about to make sure the butter's melted and the pasta covered by it all over.

"Each strand will be only mutely gleaming, as there's not much butter and quite a bit of pasta. If you want to add more, then do; good butter is the best flavoring, best texture, best mood enhancer there is." -NL

When you're satisfied the pasta's covered with its soft slip of butter, then stir in the egg mixture and turn the pasta well in it, adding some of the reserved clam/wine mixture if it looks a bit dry (only 2 tablespoons or so - you don't want a wet mess - and only after you think the sauce is incorporated). Now toss in the asparagus, sprinkle over the parsley and serve "now, now, now."

I'd also made an amazing pick-up at Wicker Park point of intelligence, Myopic Books. This involved used editions of both Captain Corelli's Mandolin (a Jaimeson favorite and quickly becoming one of mine) and Mark Bittman's The Minimalist Cooks Dinner.

So I ate heartily the best bliss I've ever made for just me, read a fabulously romantic novel set in Greece, drank a good amount of wine and listened to some great dinner music (Playlist below).
All while wearing my new orange boots from Santa.

Playlist: The music is half the spice...

Romance de los Pinos- Andres Segovia
Treadwell No More- Richard Thompson
The Kibosh- Richard Thompson
A Lovestory-Thomas Dybdahl
Ballerina- Van Morrison
Rather Lovely Thing- Nick Cave and Warren Ellis
Anything- TBD but it's the best kind of secret
Cecilia- Thomas Dybdahl
Recuerdos de la Alhmbra- Adres Segovia
That's My Story- Richard Thompson
It's Always Been You- Thomas Dybdahl
Tango Suite III: Allegro- Sergio and Odair Assad
Moving On- Nick Cave & Warren Ellis
Coalition of the Unwilling- another amazing secret
Cyprus Avenue- Van Morrison
Andante and Allegro- Sergio and Odair Assad
Unaccompanied Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major- Yo-Yo Ma
Saeglopur- Sigur Ros
Honey-Thomas Dybdahl


surviving myself said...

I prefer Giada.

Cheryl said...

That looks amazingly good. Hope you enjoyed self date night.

Any Little Reason said...

As if I needed another reason to adore you...Van Morrison, Cypress Avenue. LOVE.

stacy di said...

ooh...looks yummy! I'm a big Giada fan...haven't had much luck with Nigella's recipes. But this one looks GREAT!! I'll definitely try it...

Rachel said...

Um... yummy!!! Wow. I am bookmarking this one.

Love pasta and spicy and clams. Yummy!!!

RebeccaC said...

When you first told me about this I shrugged b/c most clam recipes I know about involve tomatoe sauce. I don't like seafood and tomato sauces for some reason.

Now that the lemon-riffic truth has been revealed, things are completely different. This sounds relatively simple too. JiT will be treated next week.

Point of clarification....fresh clams or canned. You know how I generally feel about cans, but so much easier....

Anonymous said...

MmmmMmm... That sounds/looks AWESOME! I'm definitely trying out your recipe.

TKTC said...

SM: I prefer both. See how in hypothetical land, we don't have to choose?

Cheryl: I did enjoy self-date night...we all need those!

ALR: Jaimeson put this record on while I was making dinner a few nights ago and the response was something like "Oh- we're feeling a little lucky tonight, are we?" That album is my total weakness.

Stacy Di: Nigella can be a touch trickier because you do have to convert her recipes unless you're a food scale devotee. But it's so worth it the 4-6 times a year I get the gumption to go through all the trouble!

Rachel: Thanks for the Stumble, my first personal Stumble experience and it was lovely having so many folks stop by!

RC: Canned. I hate it too as a policy but there's no reason to work that hard when your just going to sop them in wine, garlic, lemon, egg and cream. Why waste the heart attack on over-extertion due to shucking?

MistressMom: As someone I perceive to live on the spicy side, I think you'll find this is right up your alley! said...

add anchovies and capers for a little salt and flavor