Sunday, April 08, 2007

24 clams (and then some)

Momofuking Clams

I'm not sure what got into us. Partly it was the memory of our trip to David Chang's Momofuku #1 last June, and my lingering regret over balking on his Long Island Razor Clams* with Kurowycky Sausage. Partly it was because of a desire to go back to La Mer to take a closer look at their astounding oyster selection. Whatever the case, the other day we up and hopped into Putney, our trusty, rusty '89 Jetta, and made our way back down to La Mer. When we emerged, a half an hour later, we had 24 Littleneck clams*, a small assortment of oysters from P.E.I., N.Y., and B.C., and, by some strange twist of fate, a single Dungeness crab from Alaska. Don't ask. I swear we never go this crazy (okay, almost never), but Michelle just couldn't take her eyes off those crab tanks and before I knew it I'd locked eyes too.

Anyway, we headed back home, opened up a bottle of wine (I mean, at this point, what the hell, right?), and got to work. We brought a pot of salted water to boil and threw our crab in. Then we prepared our clams according to the following recipe, one that's just a slight variation on a recipe that appeared in the New York Times almost exactly a year ago:

Momofuku-style Clams with Kielbasa

4 tbsp grapeseed oil or other neutral oil like corn or canola
1/4 onion, chopped finely
salt and pepper
24 clams, Razor, Littleneck, or Manila, scrubbed
1/4 lb smoked kielbasa
1/2 cup sake
2 tbsp finely chopped scallions
1 tbsp minced ginger
1/4 cup light soy sauce
1 tbsp sherry vinegar
chopped fresh jalapeños for garnish

Put the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the onions, salt, and pepper when the oil is hot; cook for a minute or two, stirring from time to time, until the onions soften and begin to brown a bit.

Add the clams and raise the heat to high, stirring for another minute. Add the kielbasa and stir again for a minute.

Add the sake, cover, and cook until the clams are tender or open (if you're using Littlenecks or Manilas), about 5 minutes. If applicable, discard any clams that don't open.

Meanwhile, combine the remaining oil with scallions, ginger, soy sauce and vinegar in a bowl.

Put the clams, onions, sausage and their juices in a bowl and spoon sauce over them. Garnish with jalapeños and serve.

Makes 4 servings; more if served as a side.

When we'd finished preparing the clams, the crab was fully cooked, so Michelle, in a bold show of just how pastry-kitchen-hardened she's become, plunged her hand into the boiling water and pulled him out. Somehow, miraculously, her hand reemerged unscathed, and I was there to document this phenomenon photographically:

freshly cooked dungeness crab

The only thing left to do was shuck those Raspberry Point (P.E.I.), Flower (N.Y.), and, best of all, Virginika (B.C.) oysters, place 'em on a platter and seat ourselves à table.

We never have these kind of all-seafood extravaganzas. It wasn't the most cost-efficient meal of all time, but it was absolutely worth every last penny. We melted butter for the Dungeness crab and quartered a lemon for the oysters, but both were so good, so sweet, so naturally briny that we ended up eating them unadorned. The clams had that special David Chang genius: a kind of intuitive type of fusion that's unfussy and surprisingly, refreshingly unselfconscious (in this case, an Asian/East Village riff on that classic Iberian combination of clams and pork).

The cats were happy (they got their very first taste of Dungeness crab). We were happy. Win-win.


* So named because of their startling resemblance to a sheathed straight blade.

** They had razor clams, too, but they didn't look nearly as fresh as they do in NYC, while the Littlenecks, on the other hand, looked great.

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