When my parents come to town, it’s usually late-ish on a Friday night. They haven’t eaten, having waited until they see us to grab dinner, so where do we go? People may not normally think about hanging out in a hipster-filled bar with their parents, but there’s one in West Seattle that is usually our best bet for a good, late night dinner.
One of the things I love to eat there is a dish of Manila clams, steamed in a peppery tomato broth, spiked with pieces of chorizo and slightly thickened with starches from grains of farro that add such a nice texture contrast. Since John and I love the simplicity of a steam clams and loaf of bread meal at home, I thought about how I could change up the flavors of that meal with something inspired by that farro and clam dish.
I started by browning some spicy chorizo sausage, then sautéed some onions, garlic, jalapeno for heat, and fennel in the rendered fat. For added color and sweetness, I added some sliced red bell pepper before throwing in the clams and some chicken stock then closing the lid to the let the clams do their thing. After the clams opened, I tossed the whole mixture with some undercooked pasta to let the pasta finish cooking in the mix of clam juice and stock. For some fresh flavor, I sprinkled some parsley, cilantro and lemon zest before serving. The clams were tender, the peppers were crisp, and I loved the balance of heat and sweet in the pasta sauce thanks to the vegetables. If you make this at home, don’t forget to indulge in carbs, and serve with some toasted garlic bread for sopping up the extra sauce!
Note: As I look back on this, I think I would have played up on the Spanish influences a bit more by swapping out the lemon zest for some freshly grated orange zest instead. For more of an acid taste, substitute a good dry white wine for half of the chicken stock if you wish.
- 1 lb ground chorizo
- olive oil
- 3/4 lb dried fettuccine, cooked about 2-3 minutes shy of al dente
- 1 medium white onion, halved and then sliced from pole to pole, about 1/4 inch thick
- 1 medium fennel bulb, trimmed and sliced into 1/4 inch thick pieces
- 4 medium cloves garlic, minced (about 2 teaspoons
- 1 medium jalapeno, halved lengthwise, then sliced cross-wise into 1/8 inch thick half-moon pieces
- salt and pepper
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and sliced into 2 inch long, 1/4 inch thick pieces
- 1.5 lb Manila clams
- 1 cup chicken stock
- chopped fresh parsley and cilantro
- zest of 1 medium lemon, grated
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the pasta while you cook the clams. Heat about 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet that has a fitted lid over medium high heat. Add the chorizo and brown thoroughly, about 8-10 minutes. Remove chorizo to a plate, then add onion, fennel, garlic and jalapeno to skillet. Saute until onion is softened, about 5-7 minutes. Season with a teaspoon of salt, half a teaspoon of pepper and the red pepper flakes then add the red bell pepper. Continue to cook until bell pepper softens a little, about 3-4 minutes. Add the clams and the chicken stock then cover with lid. Cook until clams have opened, about 10-12 minutes.
Drain pasta and return to pot. When clams have opened, pour the contents of the skillet into the pasta pot and toss to coat. Cook over medium heat for 1-2 minutes or until pasta has absorbed some of the clam and chicken broth and is al dente in texture. Adjust seasoning to taste with salt and pepper then sprinkle in lemon zest, some parsley and cilantro. Serve in a big bowl topped with additional cilantro and parsley.