Creamy Saffron Clams. Potatoes and saffron add depth of flavour to this deliciously creamy clam recipe.
There is so much I could say about clams and each of them has a back story. Now you know I love a back story, I love a good waffle and the chance to prattle away about food and food memories. But that wouldn't get you the recipe for these creamy saffron clams.
But my love of clams (and this saffron clam dish) has so many food memories attached to it. So to save you from another very long wordy post (Did you read my chicken burger post? It was almost a mini essay 😳 ) I thought I would try and compress my stories. They say that it is a great skill to have. Taking a long piece of text and pulling out the relevant information. That doesn't sit well with my 'why say 10 words when you could say 100' philosophy so bare with me as this could all go very wrong.
Here are the random thoughts that my brain links to clams (mostly for obvious reasons)
- A seaside restaurant just outside of La Rochelle where although I ordered mussels I was served clams.
- Enjoying clams cooked in foil on a disposable BBQ sitting on a beach.
- Billy Joels 'Scenes from an Italian Restaurant' as the line 'perhaps a bottle of rosé instead' always reminds me of hot grilled seafood and carafes of wine.
- Cooking clams in my tiny top floor apartment kitchen and having to scrub them clean using a nail brush as I knocked the kitchen one out of the window behind the sink.
- Watching Ina Garten cook clam chowder and just falling in love with her kitchen.
- Eating a tomato based broth filled with clams, mussels and cod at a new wine bar in Exeter when I went back to visit my University town 5 years after I graduated.
Well that wasn't too bad, I had to rein myself in but I think I managed to be concise 😉
This saffron clam recipe takes its inspiration from bouillabaisse, but it is a creamy softer recipe that sits somewhere between being a clam chowder and clams in sauce. The potatoes soak up the creamy saffron sauce and turn this into a meal. It is important that you use a waxy potato, I use the kipfler potatoes, but anya, fingerlings or nadine would work well. The waxy potatoes hold their shape, with a softer potato you find the flesh starts to fall apart and adds an unpleasant grainy texture to the broth.
I have tried this with fresh clams and also the vacuum packed cooked clams that you can buy in the supermarkets (omega is the brand that my local Woolworths sells). Both work, given the choice I would pick the fresh clams, but the vacuum packed ones still taste great. They also have the added bonus that someone else has clean them.
When buying fresh clams it is best to buy them and eat them but they will keep for a day or two, if you place them a large bowl and cover with a damp tea towel. Before you cook them, gently tip them into the sink and sort through, throwing any that have a broken or damaged shell. Use a small scrubbing brush (a nail brush works well too 😉 ) to clean the outside of each shell. If you find one that is open, gently tap the clam on the side of the sink. It should close up. If it doesn't then throw it out. It is dead and you shouldn't eat it.
Rinse them under cold running water and then place a plug in the sink and cover with cold water. Leave them to sit for 20 minutes. During this time they should spit any sand or grit out. The sand will sink to the bottom of the sink, so when you remove them from the sink, gently pick each clam out and place it back into your bowl. This way you will leave the sand behind.
You are now ready to cook them. If you are using the pre-cooked vacuum packed clams miss out step 5-7, just give the clams a quick rinse and then gently heat them through in the broth as per step 11.
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Creamy Saffron Clams
- 8 washed kipfler potatoes or other small waxy potato
- 1 small onion
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 100 ml white wine
- 1 kg cleaned clams
- 1 large pinch saffron threads
- 400 ml fish stock or vegetable stock
- ¼ tsp ground fennel
- 200 ml cream
- Salt and white pepper
- 1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley (To serve)
- 1 tsp chopped fresh dill or the fronds of a fennel bulb, To serve
- pinch cayenne pepper (To serve)
- Slice the potatoes in half and place in a small saucepan. Cover with boiling water and cook for 10 minutes until almost cooked.
- Meanwhile finely chop the onion.
- Using a large pan, gently heat the olive oil up and sweat off the onions until translucent but not coloured.
- Add the wine and bring to the boil.
- Once it comes to the boil add the clams. Put a tightly fitting lid on and cook for 5-7 minutes until they are all open. The cooking time depends on the size, clams will only open when cooked through so if they haven't opened you need to cook them for longer. Check them at 5 minutes, if they are still closed cook for a further 2 minutes. If you find one or two that haven't opened when all the rest have, discard them as they aren't edible.
- Pour the clams and onions into a colander set over a bowl.
- Return any juice to the pan ensuring that any dirt remains in the bowl.
- Add the saffron threads and stir gently.
- Pour in the fish stock, add the fennel, cream, cooked potatoes and season with salt and white pepper.
- Bring to the boil and then turn down the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
- Add the clams back in and stir to heat through.
- Enjoy sprinkled with parsley, dill and the optional sprinkling of cayenne pepper