I know you're probably wondering what getting lucky has to do with clams and mussels. A lot, actually. You have to pick the right ones and take the time to draw out their quirks, both delicate and vital processes.
There are few foods that are guilt-free while remaining tasty. Luckily, shellfish manages to fit that bill quite nicely. Unfortunately, the thought of preparing it at home scares the living bejesus out of many of us. Fear no more. I aim to demystify the process of picking and cooking shellfish in 10 easy steps; it may be 12, but 10 sounds much better. Remember, today we're talking shells -- clams and mussels.
As a side note, I went to the H-E-B Mothership (I-10 & Blaylock) for my shells; I've seen the steamer clams before and decided to make their acquaintance. I walked away with one pound of steamers and two pounds of mussels.
1. Make eye contact: check those shells out. You're looking for the quiet and demure types, a bit shy and tight-lipped. Be suspicious of the ones that are open and putting it all out there, as well as any broken or missing pieces.
2. Tap, tap that shell. If you come across one that is a bit on the fast side, give it a tap. A good shell will close it right up.
3. Get closer and take a whiff. Contrary to popular belief, seafood/shellfish shouldn't smell fishy. If you can smell it, leave it behind.
4. Get to know each other, extract all the dirty little secrets before you commit. To rid them of the grit and dirt of the world, drop them in clean, salted water, add cornstarch or cornmeal to encourage purging and let them get comfortable for an hour or two or overnight.
5. They're ready to meet the family, but don't just dump them in. Instead, pull each clam/mussel out of the water, scrub it with a vegetable brush and rinse under cool running water. Set aside.
Now that you have nice and clean clams and/or mussels, they're ready to be cooked, steamed and devoured. Steps 6 through 10 are the yummy ones.
6. Spice things up. Let's face it, every relationship needs some help. Adding aromatics is always a plus. Garlic, parsley, thyme, or any herb that tickles your fancy will do.
7. You may want to start off softening some garlic and herbs in a bit of butter, then add some white wine and a bit of water. Bring it all to a good boil before adding the shells.
8. Add the shells and let them hang out and get all hot and bothered. Make sure to cover the skillet/pan with a tight-fitting lid to trap all those flavors and heat.
9. Turn off the heat and allow them to steam for about 5-10 minutes
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10. Serve with some crusty French bread and a glass of Rosé or a Sauvignon Blanc and relish your time together.
Have you had your clams today?