12/5/06 | Chicken of the Sea Clams
[ Currently Eating: Leftover Hong Kong Chicken Steak ]
It’s been an awful long time since we had a recipe on Cheap Eats. It’s not that I haven’t been cooking – just that it takes awhile to figure out or even remember exactly what I put in dishes.
This one is from a few months ago, but I think it’s semi-accurate. It’s Clam Spaghetti, one of my favorite things to make for a quick lunch if I happen to have the clams on hand. You’ll note that the popular pasta to use for a dish like this is actually linguini – I actually like the thinner noodles and I’ll often use the even thinner spaghettini.
The title of this post is “Chicken of the Sea Clams” instead of Clam Spaghetti, and that’s because it was originally meant as a review of the Chicken of the Sea Whole Baby Clams in the foil pouches. You’ve probably seen the tuna, clams and possibly oysters in these foil pouches. They do tend to taste a little better to me than the canned variety, but are definitely more pricey.
The other day I happened to see the clams on sale for a buck each so I picked up a few pouches to make spaghetti. These pouches are pretty small – only 100 grams worth of clams – so you need 2 pouches to actually make enough clam spaghetti for two people.
Before I get into the quality of the clams – here’s the approximate recipe for those who are too impatient:
2 3.5 oz pouches of baby clams — $2.00
2 tbsp e.v. olive oil — $0.10
3-4 cloves minced garlic — $0.07
1/2 lb dry spaghetti / spaghettini — $0.50
1-2 tbsp chopped parsley — $0.05
1/2 cup chicken stock — $0.15
1 tbsp grated parmesan cheese – $0.10
red pepper flakes — optional
salt, pepper, water – negligible
Get a pot of water for the spaghetti going on high. Mince up the parsley and set aside. Mince the garlic and set that aside. Open the pouches and drain the clams, reserving the liquids.
Wait until water boils, then add the dry spaghetti. Start melting the butter in the olive oil in a skillet on medium. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and saute for 1-2 minutes. Add the reserved clam liquid and chicken stock and simmer for 3-5 minutes. (Keep and eye on the spaghetti so it doesn’t get overcooked!) Some people also put in a few tablespoons of Chardonnay or other white wine as well. If you do so, add that first and make sure to cook it out before adding the chicken stock and clam juice.
Add the clams to the skillet (do NOT cook this for too long – ). When the spaghetti is al dente, I like to take it out with tongs and put it directly into the pan. Then whack the parsley in there along with the parm cheese and salt/pepper to taste. If it’s too dry, add a bit of the pasta cooking water. Toss it a bit and serve.
Ok, so here is the biggest issue with any type of packaged clams. The SAND. This added ingredient is somewhat unavoidable. I haven’t yet had a can or package of clams that don’t have the sand. I’ve come to accept it. What you can do is drain the clams and then rinse them to get rid of as much sand as possible. However, I feel that washing the clams sometimes has an effect on the taste.
In addition, that liquid you drain off is a lot of flavor lost in a dish like this. You COULD use bottled clam juice, but that’s quite pricey. You can actually try and strain it out with a cheese cloth or paper towel – I haven’t tried that.
No, I usually just say to hell with it and just think of the sand as a necessity – like beach sand in your picnic food.
To Chicken of the Sea’s credit – I found that the “sand” contained in their baby clams in a pouch was much, much smaller than the type I’ve had in other canned brands. The baby clams themselves are pretty decent quality. They aren’t grainy or overprocessed like some I’ve had and for the most part they are whole and fairly tender. The color looks like what you’d expect for clams of this size.
I know a lot of folks don’t like clams. I’m partial to smaller clams… once they get any bigger than a quarter, they start to become gross and squishy (I hate mussels, by the way). Have you ever had raw clams? I had it once at a sushi restaurant in SF. I had to spit it out in a napkin in order to refrain from blowing chunks.
So back to the recipe – I just like it because it’s simple. You can make a pretty nice clam spaghetti lunch in about 1/2 hour. Other additions to consider are mushrooms, brown onion, tomatoes and other seafood like shrimp. The addition of some wine helps the flavor a ton, but I didn’t list it as a major ingredient because I only use it if I happen to have an open bottle around. Just make sure to cook the alcohol out of it.
I sometimes use Asiago or Romano cheese instead of parmesan if that’s around as well. If you like creamier sauces you could easily make an alfredo out of it, or add some cream / milk to thicken it up. I sort of like this dish in it’s lighter form.
The recipe squeaked by just under $3. The score of 6 is for the Chicken of the Sea Clams – they’re just too much of a luxury item even though they’re useful. You can also use them in clam chowders and dips for parties (sour cream, ranch seasoning, water chestnuts and green onion). I really like the foil packs as opposed to canned variety – but it needs to go on sale before I’ll buy them.
Price: $2.97 for recipe, $1.00 per 3.5 oz pack
Cheap Eats Score: 6/10