Red sky at night, a sailor’s delight. And morning and the softest of ocean combers, breaking like a soft whisper over the silver sands of the Long Beach Peninsula. Millions of razor clams poking up their fleshy necks, blindly combating the give and take of the Pacific Ocean.
The clams were hungry for phytoplankton, and fat this year. Fat and large, some nearly 6 inches in length.
A clarion call must have leaked out, for human beings swarmed over the beaches, anticipating limits before they had even left their pickup trucks. Most everyone was rewarded handsomely this season with heavy bags of clams. The only task that remained was to clean the tasty critters and prepare them for dinner.
How many ways, you might ask, to cook razor clams? Generally, they are fried in an armor of breadcrumbs, or panko. But let’s take a detour. Let’s make a white sauce, a bechamel, with a roux of equal parts of butter, flour, cream, white wine and delicate herbs. All that and chopped clams ladled over fettuccine.
Razor clam fettuccineIngredients
• Eight to 10 minced razor clams,
chopped small (I like to throw them in
a Cuisinart with a handful of fresh
• 8 ounces fettuccine pasta, boiled until
al dente and drained
• Four potatoes, 1/4-inch diced
• 6 tablespoons butter, or equal portions
of virgin olive oil and butter
• Six cloves garlic, finely chopped
• One onion, medium-diced
• 6 tablespoons flour
• Three stalks celery, cut diagonally into
• 1/2 cup white wine
• 1/2 cup veggie or chicken stock
• 2 cups whole milk, or half-and-half for
a decadent bechamel sauce
• 1/2 cup heavy cream
• Freshly chopped herbs, parsley and
dried oregano, or cilantro
• Salt and pepper, to taste
• Parmesan cheese and chives
• 1/2 teaspoon of dried red chili peppers,
Dice the spuds into 1/4-inch cubes. Boil until soft, then strain and hold. Saute the garlic and onion until translucent in oil or butter or in equal parts of both. Saute the celery. Sprinkle in the flour and continue to brown for a minute or two. Slowly add the wine to form a roux. Thin further with stock. Finally, add milk or half-and-half. Finish with a splash of cream.
Choose your garden herbs. As the sauce thickens, decide on a favorite consistency. If too thick, thin with a little bit of water. Add the potatoes and herbs. Lastly: lower in the clams and cut the heat. Do not boil the clams. They are delicate fellows and should be treated with care.
Cook off the pasta. Strain. Toss with a tablespoon of olive oil so that the pasta doesn’t stick together. Ladle the sauce over the top of the pasta. Grated Parmesan cheese is a must. Freshly chopped chives are a nice touch for color and taste. Don’t forget a green salad and a bottle of chardonnay.
I’ve never come to a conclusion as to what is better or more fun: digging the bivalves on a lazy, cloudless day or eating the delicate morsels at home.
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