One of the best parts of living in New England is the vast variety of cold water sea food we have available. Interestingly enough, it actually mirrors that which is available in St. Michael, Azores. How lucky am I?
Little Necks in Garlic Wine Sauce is a quintessential Portuguese starter. 9 times out of 10 when we sit down to dinner at a Portuguese restaurant with friends, this is the first thing we order. It’s a two-part experience really. First you get to eat the clams that are cooked in a garlic wine broth and then again drenched in garlic, white wine and olive oil. But then, some may argue the best part of the dish is next… it’s the part when you get to sop up that delectable garlic wine sauce with a crusty piece of Portuguese bread… OMG, so good!
This dish is best served hot and brought right to the table. A couple of things you will want to have ready before you start is a good loaf of Portuguese bread, some hot sauce and a bowl to throw the emptied shells into (as you need to not crowd your plate with that so that you can get to the sauce with that bread!)
There are sooo many varieties of clams available in the world. These are called Little Necks, they are actually the second to smallest size clam that is legally harvestable in the U.S. Some people call these Northern Quohogs and some call them round clams or chowder clams. What makes these clams special is that, as it’s name indicates, they have an itty bitty neck, unlike it’s cousin the Steamer clam with it’s long neck that sticks out of it’s shell. Also, unlike the Steamer clam, Little Necks don’t have much to speak of in their bellies. It’s really mostly flesh, yum!
The first step, as with ANY clam you use, is to wash it inside and out. This may sound odd, but clams are generally sold with some sand and salt residue still remaining on the outside and there is nothing worst than biting into a clam and crunching on sand. Although, a sandy inside is not usually a huge issue with Little Necks, I still like to err on the side of caution. So, clams are zipped up pretty tightly… how do you get the inside clean you ask? Well, its simple, you need to provide them with an environment in which they might feel comfortable opening up their shells to take in some water. I do this with cold cold cold tap water and salt. And it works every time. Sometimes I throw some black pepper in there to make them sneeze, mostly I just do that with Steamer clams though.
Here are the main ingredients you will need.
While the washing is taking place, it’s a good time to prep your ingredients. Chop an onion into thin quartered slices.
Saute in olive oil over medium heat. Add in a pinch of kosher salt.
Next, you will need quite a bit of garlic for this recipe. Chop up about 6-8 cloves of garlic.
Add in to the onions once the onions have softened a bit.
Now add in the juice of half a lemon, the lemon half itself, some chopped flat leaf parsley and about 1 cup of dry white wine.
Simmer the ingredients together bringing to a boil over high heat.
Drain your cleaning water from the clams and add the clams to your pot.
Cover. Keep your burner on high and do not remove your lid. The cooking process is a steam.
This is the pot 8 minutes into cooking. Do not remove lid!
This is the pot 10 minutes into cooking… If you look at the clams, some are starting to open, but not all. Do not remove the lid! But, start watching the pot, you don’t want to over cook shellfish, it will get tough. Little Necks are tough to start off with, they don’t need any more help getting there.
Ah, 12 minutes in and finally! All the clams have opened up. Now, turn off your burner. Still, do not remove the lid! Give it about two minutes in the steam. Then they are ready!
Add in some lemon slices and more chopped parsley, and don’t forget the broth!
Recipe for Little Necks in Garlic Wine Sauce (Ameijoas à Bulhão Pato):
(serves 10 – 12)
4 lbs. Little Neck Clams
4 Tbs. olive oil
1 c. dry white wine
1 lemon, 1/2 reserved and sliced for garnish
6-8 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 medium onions, quartered and thinly sliced
6 Tbs. parsley, chopped, 1/2 reserved for garnish
Wash clams with cold water and a good amount of kosher salt (1-2 Tbs.). Let sit in salted water for about 15 mins.
Saute onions in olive oil over medium heat, add in a pinch of salt. Add in garlic, continue to saute. When softened add in the juice of half a lemon plus the lemon shell itself, parsley and about a cup of dry white wine. Bring to a boil.
Drain clams from their cleaning salt water. Add clams to boiling liquid. Cover immediately. Check on them every few minutes until they are all open. This is best done with a clear lid. If you don’t have a clear lid, don’t bother checking until 10 minutes into the cooking time. After about 12 minutes all the clams should be opened. Keep lid on the pot and turn off the burner.
Serve and enjoy!
*note: this is a gluten-free dish.
It is nice to have either a separate pot at a party with sauce… But, I like to build my own… Here is what I do.
I like to put some olive oil in my plate.
Then I add in some of the cooked onions, garlic and parsley.
I personally like to add in some hot sauce. If you are doing this in a bowl for people to add themselves, I would leave the hot sauce on the side. Mix this together a bit.
Add some broth, lemon, some more parsley and a nice piece of bread.