During my boyhood in New Jersey, summer meant trips to the Jersey shore, and the Jersey shore meant clams! From then till now, to me summer means clams and clams mean summer. While clams alone in a simple broth would be appetizing all by themselves, this simple but delicious stew is even better—and barely anymore trouble. Adding fennel sets off the clams with a licorice taste—another of childhood summers’ favorite flavors—while the sausage adds richness and a fuller range of spices, especially when you select a top-quality sausage, ideally one made by your local butcher.
I may be criticized for this, but this recipe also includes butter and suggests a range of stocks to use for the broth—not just seafood or clam broth. While Italian custom forbids mixing sea and land, my own American take is that a little bit of French never hurt anybody: thus the suggestion to use vegetable stock or even chicken stock instead of the more traditionally Italian seafood or clam stock. While these stocks can easily be found in most supermarkets, homemade stock is surprisingly easy and much more flavorful, bringing the overall clam stew to a higher level of deliciousness.
Finally, add fresh tomatoes and sliced lemon at the very end of the process adds an extra pop of pure summer sunshine!
Serving this clam stew with crusty bread will give everyone the chance to soak up every bit of summer clamliciousness!Print
- 2 lbs Manila clams
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- ½ large yellow onion, diced
- 1 fennel bulb, cored and thinly sliced – reserve the fennel fronds
- Pinch red pepper (optional)
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1 link mild or hot (according to your preference) Italian sausage
- 1 cup vegetable, seafood, clam or chicken stock
- 4 teaspoons butter
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 1 lemon thinly sliced and seeds removed
- 4 fresh Roma tomatoes chopped into 1/2 –inch pieces
- Small bunch parsley
- Salt and pepper
- Loaf of crusty bread
- Place the clams in a large bowl filled with water and ice cubes for about 1 hour. This will allow the clams to expel any dirt and grit from their shells.
- In a medium heavy-bottomed stew pot over medium heat, drizzle a tablespoon or so of extra virgin olive oil and allow to warm. Add the diced yellow onion and sliced fennel. Also add a pinch of salt, a grind of pepper, the pinch of red pepper and the fennel seeds.
- Cover the pot and allow the onion and fennel to “sweat” as they release their water and soften (the salt is very important to this process).
- When the vegetables lose their crunch, remove the sausage from its casing with a knife and with your fingers, break the sausage into very small pieces and add to the fennel onion mix.
- Sauté the sausage, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, until it’s lost most of its pink color.
- Add the stock, wine and butter and bring to a gentle boil over medium-high heat. When the butter is melted, add the sliced lemon and tomatoes and reduce heat to low.
- Finely chop the reserved fennel fronds and parsley and add to the stew.
- Allow the stew to simmer for about 30 minutes until the lemon rinds have lost their bitterness and are edible.
- Add salt and pepper to taste, remembering that the clams will provide a little extra salt.
- Drain the clams from the bowl and add to the pot. Cook over medium heat until most of the clams open (about 5 minutes). Discard any closed clams.
- Ladle the mixture plus a good amount of broth into bowls and serve with sliced crusty bread. Provide a bowl for the discarded clamshells.