When the summer heat comes swooping in, I always have a hankering for clams – a big, soupy bowl of briny littlenecks bathed in garlicky heaven. Nothing better!
There are so many memories associated with these little morsels.
Growing up, there were summer clambakes at the Italian-American social club where huge pots of clams were fired up and dished out with loaves of crusty bread made by the local Italian bakery (of course). Back then, I hated the squish of the clam in my mouth so was content to simply eat the little muscle still attached to the shell from my mother’s empty shells – still had that wonderful garlicky flavor. (My palate has luckily evolved since then – bring on the squish!)
Years later, when I spent time in Sicily along the sea near Taormina, we would lounge on our beach chairs for hours in the Sicilian sun. By late day, ready to wet our whistle, we would appropriately change out of our swimsuits, saunter up to the little seaside restaurant and order carafes of crisp white wine and bowls of steaming clams bathed in a simple fennel garlic broth. We again would sit for hours – the guys playing cards, us girls chatting away. Well, truth be told, the other girls chatting away as I struggled to keep up with their rapid fire Italian with the occasional Sicilian dialect being tossed in. But who cared?? My mind was barely able to get past the fact that I.WAS.IN.SICILY.ON.THE.BEACH!
With the summer heat full on, it was time to have my own little clam fest even though my boyfriend was away. I originally picked up only 25 littlenecks but the bag looked so forlorn all by itself that I ordered a second. As my little clamfest-photo shoot progressed, I munched away on the pile remaining in the pot. And of course, you guessed it – by the time I finished processing my photos, every last littleneck had disappeared. (And I am certain the occasional slurp of the broth was heard by the neighbors.)
This recipe is incredibly easy and great for a summer meal or even as an antipasto. It takes minutes to prepare and all you need do is put the pot on the table with a big loaf of crusty bread, some crisp vino and perhaps some appropriately summer Italian music on Pandora.
Happy summer! Buon appetito!
Sicilian Clams with Fennel Broth
- About 2 pounds littleneck clams
- About 1/3 cup flour
For the broth:
- 1 small to medium bulb fennel, fronds reserved
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 2 large shallots, minced
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 2 cups clam broth or juice
- 1 sprig fresh thyme
- Sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Fennel fronds, sprigs of thyme for garnish
- Extra virgin olive oil
To clean the clams, place them in a large bowl with cold water. Add in the flour. (The theory is that the live clams will open to ingest the flour, releasing any sand along the way. To be honest, I have also read that this is hogwash however it makes me feel better tossing in the flour so what the heck!) Soak for at least 30 minutes. Scrub the clams under clean cold water to remove any remaining debris from the shell.
Prep the fennel: Trim the fennel bulb. Slice the bulb in half, top to bottom. Remove the core. Thinly slice each half. Set aside.
In a large, heavy pot (large enough to accommodate all the clams), melt the butter with the olive oil over medium heat. Add in the garlic, shallots and fennel. Sauté until tender and fragrant, about 5 – 7 minutes. Add in the wine, clam broth and thyme. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Cover pot and allow to simmer for about 15 minutes, allowing the delicious flavors to come together. Add the clams to the pot. Cover and cook until the clams have opened, about 10 minutes. Discard any unopened clams.
Remove the clams to a warm bowl. Season the broth with salt and pepper if needed. Garnish with additional fennel fronds and thyme. Drizzle with some extra virgin olive oil to finish. That is it – serve!