Habanero clams overhead

I’ve always disliked the notion that there are magical quick fixes. That the kitchen and the time you spend there caring for your ingredients is actually just time spent waiting for the right work-around. Put that crap in a box or a jar or a cookbook, put some famous face on it and call it progress. Call it a shortcut. Call it a life hack, if you need everyone to know you’re too smart for your own good. I’ll keep calling it what it is: bullshit.

And don’t gimme that overly cheery crap about “No one can tell the difference!” I can tell the difference. My two year old can tell the difference. And when I cook, that’s what matters.

Good food requires care and attention to detail.

But that’s not to necessarily say that it requires a ton of time. Which is why I love clams. They’re delicious. They’re relatively cheap. And they cook up into a damn fine meal in no time flat.

Additionally, clams are versatile. They can be scaled back to something simple and light or tuned up to knock you flat on your ass with pork fat, garlic and heat. I almost always end up preferring the latter, but hey, options are nice when selecting your ingredients.

Habanero Clams board 2

This recipe was a case of getting lucky. I had an idea, the usual bits of sausage and wine lying around, some hot peppers and anchovies, and it actually worked pretty damn nicely. In fact, it worked so well that these clams with sausage, wine and habaneros are now in regular rotation for me. They go beautifully with pasta if you just up the tomato a bit and let most of the wine evaporate. Otherwise, a little toasted and buttered sourdough puts you right in business.

This recipe is very open to improvisation, any kind of flavorful sausage will do. And just about any kind of heat will get you there, although the bright fruitiness of the habaneros really does make it. You could probably even use beer instead of wine. Just don’t dump in a tin of soup, a hot dog and a bunch of fuckin’ Hamburger Helper and call it a day, please.

Clams finished

*As an aside, you may notice my photos getting on the better side of mediocre here. A quick thanks to Judy and Clyde for my new 50mm lens, it makes a world of difference. It’s not every mother-in-law that reads the phrase “pig-fucker” in relation to soup and actually decides to contribute to your delinquency.

Clams with Sausage and Hot Peppers
1lb live clams, like littleneck, rinsed well
1/3lb hot Italian sausage
2 chopped anchovies
½ onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, sliced thin
1-2 habaneros, sliced thin
Fresh oregano
White wine
½ cup tomato sauce or diced tomatoes

In a large heavy skillet with a lid, brown your sausage thoroughly. Add in your anchovies, onions, garlic and ¾ of the habaneros. Cook till the onions are translucent. Throw in a little oregano, your tomatoes and splash in a little white wine. (I keep frozen tomato sauce on hand, which works really well. Or if you’re making a pasta sauce, just crush a can of San Marzanos and toss them in) Bring to an aggressive simmer, add your clams and cover. Cook, checking after a few minutes to see if the clams have begun to open. When they just begin to open-up, kill the flame and let them sit covered for another minute or so, you just don’t want to overcook them. Sprinkle with a few extra habanero slices. Toss with pasta or eat straight out of the pan with buttered bread. Enjoy, then fantasize about kicking the Pilsbury dough guy in the face.

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