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My father used to ask chefs for their recipes on a pretty regular basis. Or at least that's how it seemed to me when I was little. And convinced of his own prowess in the kitchen, he'd take these perfectly enjoyable meals and add broccoli while eliminating everything else.  Pasta Salad and Chinese Chicken Noodle Salad suffered this fate and became abominations. But for some reason I don't remember this happening to Spaghetti with Clam Sauce. 

So it was something of a thrill when, in the early 90s or late 80s, Dad started to make it. Now that I've recreated it, I can see why. The recipe is simple and flavorful enough to please adults without becoming so fancy that a picky little kid would haughtily reject it. Or, if we're talking about my preferences as a child, declare his preference for peanut butter and croutons. Because I was weird. 

Anyway, here's the recipe. 

Herbs and spices: pre-stirring. Stirring is essential to a satisfactory outcome when making this dish. 
Post-stir, and with various fluids added. 
Pictured: alcohol not actually leaving the pan.
Linguini and Clam Sauce, with thanks to A. Campana

3/4 Cup olive oil
clam juice (from cans of clams)
1/2 cup of sauterne wine or 1/4 cup of sauterne and 1/4 cup of dry vermouth*
3-5 medium sized cloves of garlic (minced)**
1/2 to 1 and 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 to 1 tablespoon dry basil
1/2 to 1 tablespoon dry oregano
1 tablespoon or so pesto sauce if available***
8-10 drops of Tabasco sauce or more to taste. This does seem to make a difference.
6-8 tablespoons of dry parsley. Cilantro might be good too. 
2-3 6 or 10 oz. cans of minced or chopped clams. Generally the more the better within reason.****

Place oil in sauce pan and heat until hot. Lightly saute minced garlic therein. Cool down for approximately 5 min. Add all herbs and spices and stir. Add wine and clam juice and bring to boil for 3-5 min***** (Wine alcohol will froth as boiling continues and alcohol distills off -- froth will diminish substan[tially] but not entirely.******). Add drained clams and bring to slow boil fo min. [sic] or until liquid is reduced to a suitable volume.******* Pour linguine which has been cooked al dente (1 lb.). Serve with bo [sic] grated romano cheese and crushed red pepper. 

You can also add shrimp and to this [sic]. If you w[illegible] sauce add a can of tomato[illegible]. 
The final product! It isn't as gross as it looks.
* I used only vermouth because sauterne wine wasn't at the two liquor stores I checked. It probably would be better if you could find some, since it is a type of wine made from grapes that have noble rot on them. Apparently it is quite a distinctive flavor. 

** I got lazy and used pre-minced garlic. Normally this would embarrass me, but I was at peace with this decision because the recipe makes exclusive use of dried herbs anyway, so it isn't like I was starting with the best of ingredients. 

*** I had some pine nuts kicking around in my freezer, so I used those and added a bit more basil. This is a shoddy replacement for actual pesto, but after the failure to find sauterne wine I figured I was allowed some liberty with the other ingredients. 

**** This is the most hilarious part of this recipe. That my Dad would actually write "the more the better within reason" is like reading "meth is good in moderation." When my Dad decides he enjoys a food, like clams, it goes into everything and in huge amounts. That's why all his food becomes broccoli or tuna fish. I'm sure his view is that the most exciting aspect of genetic research is the potential to make the broccoli fish, so that he wouldn't need to waste time enjoying them separately. 

***** This is the first and only footnote in the original recipe. I'm really using a lot of them at this point, and sometimes you just gotta go where your heart tells you, so I've included it in the body text above as a parenthetical instead of here. Now you've read this comment and you've gained nothing but a mild sense of frustration because I wasted your time. But I'm glad we could share this moment together. We've grown closer. 

****** Ok, so that last footnote was going to be my last, but I have to add one more to point out that alcohol does not, in fact, burn off that quickly when used in food. It actually can take a couple of hours. Here's a famous hippie doctor explaining in more detail

******* Man, another footnote? What am I, some sort of an archivis. . . oh, right. Anyway, this shouldn't take too long to get to a boil, but you'll probably want it to simmer for a little bit at low heat after raising it a boil to allow all the flavors to mingle at the saucepan soiree. Don't do it so long that the clams start to get gross and rubbery though. 

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    August 2012


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