Experiment: Clams with White Wine and Basil

I have three bags of the Mirabel Brand Frozen Clams I featured in a recent ‘Foodstuffs’ post and I thought I would use a couple to make a nice light meal for me and the wife. The first time I used this product, which was only a few weeks before I started writing this blog, I steamed a bag of the clams in a rich liquor made up of soy, ginger, garlic, sugar and rice wine, along with a small bunch of fresh basil. For this experiment, I wanted to use Basil again (as I still have some which needs to be used up) and I thought I might try something a little more delicate using white wine… 

By the way, the basic recipe I decided upon for this dish is largely the same as I have been using for steamed mussels for many years (although I usually just use Parsley rather than Basil). One twist I added for this experiment was a little trick I saw in a recipe I came across on the Internet somewhere. I can’t find it again unfortunately, but in that recipe the author thickened the broth for some steamed shellfish with cornstarch. I am going to try that here but only using just a minimal amount of cornstarch, as I am not trying to aim for too thick a result…

The Ingredients

  • 2 pints of frozen small Clams
  • 1 bunch of Basil
  • 2/3 cup White Wine
  • 6 large cloves of Garlic, finely sliced
  • ½ small Onion, finely sliced
  • 3 tbsp. Butter
  • 1 tsp. Black Peppercorns
  • 1 tsp. White Mustard Seed
  • 1 tsp. Cornstarch blended with 2 tbsp. Water

The Method

Thaw the Clams but reserve the liquor they throw off. There should be a good half-cup or so with two pints of clams. Next, remove the basil leaves from the stems and discard any discolored ones.

Heat the butter in a deep pan large enough to hold the clams and when it is melted add the mustard seed and the peppercorns. Stir for a moment or so then add the garlic and keep stirring until the garlic is just getting soft but not yet brown. Toss in a splash or so of wine and the pour out the contents of the pan into a small bowl. Set this aside and remove the pan from your burner.

Next add the clams to the pot and scatter over the onion, the butter and garlic mixture from the small bowl and the basil leaves. If it is necessary to stack the clams in layers then add the other ingredients in layers as well. Finally, mix the cornstarch mixture with the wine and pour it all over the contents of the pan along with the reserved clam liquor.

Now, turn your burner to high and when it is fully hot, put the pan on and cover it. The idea here is to get the liquid in the pan to bubble furiously up around the clams. Unless you have a glass cover and can see this, you will need to listen carefully for the liquid to come to a bubbling boil. Once it reaches this state, let everything continue to cook for no more than a minute or so and remove the pan from the heat. Let it sit covered for a minute or two and then transfer the clams to serving bowls. Serve along with some nice crusty bread to sop up the broth.

The Verdict

These were absolutely delicious. The broth was as sweet and tasty as it could be and I have to say that I enjoyed this dish as much as any steamed mussels I have ever had. The idea of using a little cornstarch really worked well here, I thought… It didn’t turn the broth into a noticeably thick ‘gravy’; rather it just gave it a nice full body that enhanced the heartiness of the dish.

My wife enjoyed it every bit as much as I did and we both agreed that we each could the whole thing all over again. If you can lay your hands on nice little clams like these Mirabel Brand ones I used you really ought to give this recipe a try…

5 thoughts on “Experiment: Clams with White Wine and Basil”

  1. I never would have thought of basil with clams… but now I do think about it, it sounds a splendid combination.. and your pictures are wonderful! By the way, my mother-in-law was a great fan of the judicial use of cornflour as we call it, and I think it is a most useful ingredient, carefully used!

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