Clam roast for one
Firing up the oven this weekend didn't seem like a good idea. Temperatures hovered in the low 90s, my air conditioner hummed constantly, and neither the dog nor I could walk far without panting. I wanted to stay on the couch with a book and a tall glass of ice water. But I had clams — perfectly shaped, off-the-boat fresh, hard-shelled clams — and I wanted, needed, just had to roast them. Even if it meant roasting a little bit, myself.
I must thank my friend Lisa for the clam bounty. Smart, personable, and open-minded, Lisa is up for most anything. Except bivalve mollusks. I'm sad for her, but it worked to my advantage. Lisa is a member of Walking Fish, a community-supported fishery (CSF), based on the community-supported agriculture (CSA) model. Each week she picks up her share of seafood, freshly delivered from the North Carolina coast. This week's delivery included the dreaded clam, which I was happy to take off her hands. Roasted in a cast iron skillet with potato, onion, garlic and tomato, clams make a perfect meal — simple, easy, and straightforward, but most importantly, delicious.
My former employer, chef Jody Adams, is the genius behind this dish. I learned a tremendous amount about all things food when I cooked at Rialto years ago, but working with New England fish and shellfish in Jody's kitchen was especially enlightening. I grew up in a less-than-adventurous family. Seafood didn't make it to our land-locked dinner table, so there was a lot to absorb on the job. Jody's clear, clean flavors and beautifully balanced palate are exemplified in this dish, published in the Gourmet Today cookbook. It's a perfect meal for the home cook.
In typical Lynn fashion, I didn't have all of the required ingredients on hand and wasn't willing to make another trip to the grocery to procure them. I substituted grape tomatoes for plum tomatoes, adding them later in the cooking process than described to make up for their small size. I had far fewer clams than called for in the original recipe, and made adjustments accordingly. Also, I'm a huge garlic fan, so the quantity listed below isn't on par with Jody's recipe — but it made for incredible snacking. I hope you'll try it.
Cast-Iron Roasted Clams
Adapted from Gourmet Today
2 medium red potatoes, sliced into 1/4-inch thick half moons
1/2 of 1 large red onion, cut into 1/4-inch thick wedges, root ends intact
10 cloves of garlic, peeled
scant 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 1/4 pounds small hard-shelled clams, scrubbed
1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
Place a rack in the center of the oven and heat to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.
Toss the potatoes, onions and garlic in olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place them in a large cast-iron skillet (10-12 inches is fine for this number of clams) and roast for 15 minutes. Add the scrubbed clams to the pan and cover with a lid or a piece of foil. Continue to roast for another 8 minutes. Add the halved cherry tomatoes to the pan and roast another 3-4 minutes, covered.
Remove the skillet from the oven and check to see that all of the clams are open. Discard any that remain closed. Add hot red pepper flakes, toss to combine, and sprinkle with chopped parsley.