Last night had a bit of inspiration - I was thinking of more ways to use the Bottarga I recently bought, and started thinking of some flavors that it would enhance. Shellfish popped into my mind...and saffron. So off to Whole Foods for some huge and gorgeous Littleneck Clams, petite and delicious Cockles (I cleaned them out), and Mussels (I can't think of any adjectives for Mussels...):
Next challenge was figuring out the broth. I knew I would cut up some Bottarga, throw in some saffron, and I got some white wine. That left adding some shallot, garlic, butter and red pepper flakes. And while I LOVE seafood, there is something other-wordly about the broth after steaming open some beauties like the ones pictured above. They release the most amazing flavor of the sea, and my favorite part is tearing some bread, dunking it in the broth and devouring it. To be honest, it was a pretty primal meal eaten only with our hands. I showed my husband, Keith, how to use one half of the shell to pull the meat off of the other half of the shell. Nothing sexier than getting down and dirty with your food - juices dripping, tearing into the bread, the sweet & delicious meat of the shellfish...whew, somebody stop me. Needless to say, it was fantastic. And while I chopped up some Bottarga to go into the broth (little orange chunks in the photos), I also grated some over the top before pouring the broth into each of our bowls.
1 bag Mussels
1 dozen Littleneck clams
1 pound Cockles clams
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large shallot, chopped
5 garlic cloves, thickly sliced
Large pinch red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon of saffron
1 tablespoon Bottarga, chopped (some reserved for grating)
2 cups white wine (you could substitute fish stock or just water if you want)
[Parsley would be a great addition to this - I just forgot to buy some!]
First - you need to clean the shellfish. If this is familiar to you - skip ahead to the next paragraph! :) Fill a big bowl with 1/3 cup salt and about a gallon of cold water, and put all of the clams (littleneck and cockle) into the bowl. Let them sit for about 15 minutes. Empty the water, and then fill the bowl again with fresh brine (same quantities), and let them sit for another 15 minutes. Since they're alive, this will encourage them to flush out their systems, getting rid of any grit and sand they might be holding on to inside. Scrub each one clean and put aside. Mussels are relatively easy - scrub the outside of each, and make sure to pull off any burrs that might be still attached.
In a big pot, melt the butter into the olive oil over medium-high heat. Throw in the shallot, garlic, saffron, red pepper flakes and chopped Bottarga. Cook this for 2-3 minutes until everything starts to soften. Add salt & pepper to taste. Pour in the wine, raise the heat, and bring to a boil. While boiling away, gently plop in the large littleneck clams - mine were HUGE and I guessed they would need about 8-9 minutes to cook. Cover the pot to start these clams cooking. When there is about 3 minutes left, throw in the mussels and the cockles (they take very little time), cover again to continue steaming. Uncover, and check to make sure that all the shellfish have opened - if a number of them are still closed, cover for another minute or so.
Place the clams and mussels in a bowl, and grate Bottarga over top. Then spoon the broth into your bowl(s) and enjoy. And for the love of god, don't forget crusty bread to dip in that broth!!