razor clams with garlic and pancetta

this is a mark hix recipe again, with a few modifications. for example, he uses wild boar bacon. i can’t see that one being available in a supermarket near you any time soon, so best use pancetta or bacon instead. also, the original recipe calls for hedgerow garlic leaves, which i don’t have, so i substitute half a clove from the marinade. it’s not quite the same as the flavour is a lot stronger – hedgerow garlic has quite a delicate garlicky perfume - but it will do. funnily enough, when we go for a walk by the grand union canal the day after, the grass verges are overgrown with the tiny white flowers of the wild stuff. bloody typical.

it’s the first time we’ve cooked clams at home. they’re not too expensive – maybe a pound each, and we have four altogether. they’re still alive when we start cooking – their feet poke out of shells like strange muscular tongues when you squeeze them (as r of course does – once a scientist, always a scientist) or when you run water over them. also, if you direct water straight into their weird little mouths, they squirt it back out in a quite a powerful jet. you can imagine them taking over your kitchen, horror movie-style.

i loved this dish. the clams taste like a cross between squid and scallops, with the texture of the latter, and the taste of the former. the crispy pancetta is a nice contrast in texture and flavour - i guess it’s the same idea as serving black pudding with scallops: something porcine, meaty and salty to accompany the delicate seafood base.

finally, don’t be tempted to skip the butter at the end. it matters to the final taste of the dish and it would all be too dry otherwise. serve with some salad leaves – we have some lightly dressed peppery watercress which is perfect for cutting through the fat. i think rocket would work , or just some plain leaves sharpened with a little vinaigratte.

for two

4 razor clams
1 sprig thyme
a few stalks of flat leaf parsley
1/2 glass of white wine
2 small cloves of garlic
75g pancetta or bacon, cubed
25g butter
some hedgerow garlic or save half a clove or so from the marinade above

put a serving dish in the oven to warm up. wash the clams under running water for 10 minutes. when done, place them in a pan with the wine, parsley, thyme, garlic and seasoning and bring to the boil. cover and cook for 2 minutes or until the shells start opening. ours did in no time at all, probably less than a minute. 

take the clams out of shells and discard the black stuff (it's the stomach, and the black stuff is just sand). cut each clam into two or three pieces and place back in their shells.

in the meantime, fry the pancetta (or bacon) in a bit of olive oil until crispy, add the butter and the garlic and let it melt to form a sauce.

put the clams into your warmed serving dish, pour the butter and pancetta on top and put in a warm oven for a couple of minutes to warm up.


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