Littleneck Clams in Bacon Infused Cream

Aug 18, 2013 by

Littleneck_clams_with_Bacon_infused_cream

This July we had the pleasure of dining at Blackfish in Truro, Cape Cod.  As we sat waiting for a table to open up at this hidden, farm to table gem of a restaurant, we ate steamed littleneck clams in a bacon infused cream broth.  They were the divine nectar of the gods.

This imagined adaptation of Littleneck Clams in Bacon Infused Broth is my best attempt at channeling that dining experience into our own weekend table.  While I did not surpass the chef at Blackfish, I certainly tried.  Many guests last night gave rave reviews, referencing the word “food orgasm” in their descriptions of how this tasted. Those of us who had dined at Blackfish remarked that it was a very good attempt, although admittedly I did not nail it exactly.

littleneck_clams_with_bacon_infused_cream2

But I suppose its really not my fault I couldn’t achieve 100% accuracy.  That evening in July we had queried about the recipe.  The waitress, playing telephone between us and the chef, had tried to explain to us that it was a “quick chowder” preparation.  Whatever that was.  Bacon infused cream was poured into fish stock.  Was there white wine or sherry, we asked? Well, of course, every fish stock has that…we could taste thyme perhaps? or was that parsley?  The dinner menu did in fact reference thyme, but I suppose there were probably both.  Suffice it to say, we did not walk away with the recipe, only a few opaque clues.

My first round of experimentation went disasterously wrong.  Not enough wine in the fish stock (too fishy!), and I had sizzled the bacon until browned and then mistakenly added the cream and fish stock at the same time before steaming the clams.  I ended up with clams that wouldn’t open because they were submerged in too much liquid.  And while I was attempting to cook the clams, the cream boiled and, of course, curdled.  The clams were inedible and looked the part.

I did not give up.

A little googling led us to realize that bacon infusion required cooking the bacon and then adding it to cream and letting it sit in the cream over night in the refrigerator.  I also found a better fish stock recipe in the Food and Wine 2013 cookbook that called for a whole bottle of white wine, leeks, shallot, fennel and shallots.  That made a difference.

Instead of adding the cream while the clams cooked, I cooked them in the fish stock only and waited until they were opened before adding the cream.  As the clams cooked, I heated the bacon infused cream on low heat (so as to warm, but not to boil it) and then added the cream in at the last minute before serving.  It actually worked!

Now I have to say a few things about this recipe.  It is not the easiest that I have featured on this blog.  And it requires getting fish heads and bones from your local fish store and cutting them up at home — a task that will gross even the most adventurous home cooks out.  Although once you make the stock, you can freeze 3/4 of it to use the next time around.  The stock makes about 8 cups or more of stock, but you only need about 2 cups to steam the clams.  I suppose you could also buy fish stock from your fish store and make this a relatively easy preparation.

The bacon infusion is actually fairly simple.  Just saute bacon bits until browned and then add it to 2 cups of cream to the bacon and refrigerate overnight.  You need to let it infuse for at least 8 hours with 12-24 being optimal.

Two tweaks I would make next time around.  I would add thyme in addition to parsley in the fish broth.  I simply forgot to buy it at the store yesterday.  And I would splash in just a bit of sherry at the same time that I added the cream.

A final word of advice.  Sour dough bread was served at Blackfish and I recommend you find the very best sour dough bread you can afford and serve it along with these shellfish.  That sauce is too good not to mop up!

Littleneck Clams in Bacon Infused Cream
Author: 
Recipe type: Starter
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8
 
Ingredients
Bacon Infused Cream
  • 3 slices of center cut bacon
  • 2 cups whipping cream
Fish Stock
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 fennel bulb, finely chopped
  • 1 leek, finely chopped
  • 2 pounds fish head and bones (cut into 2 inch pieces)
  • 1 bottle (750 ml) of dry white wine
  • 8 cups of water
  • 1 bunch of parsley stems
  • 8 sprigs of thyme
  • Salt to taste
Clams
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 24 littleneck clams
  • splash of sherry
Instructions
  1. Saute center cut bacon in frying ban until browned and crispy, approximately 12-15 minutes.
  2. Transfer with a slotted spoon to cream and refrigerate overnight.
  3. Heat olive oil on medium high heat.
  4. Add onion, shallot, fennel, leek and fish heads and bones and saute for about 15 minutes until vegetables are softened.
  5. Add wine and bring to boil. Simmer for 20 minutes until wine is reduced by half.
  6. Add 8 cups of water and parsley and thyme. Bring back to a boil and simmer for 30 more minutes.
  7. Strain through fine colander. Salt to taste.
  8. If not using immediately, refrigerate or freeze fish stock (Will last up to 2 months in freezer).
  9. In a dutch oven, saute garlic until lightly browned. Add 2 cups of fish stock and bring to a boil. Add littleneck clams and cook for approximately 8 minutes, stirring occasionally until clams open. Discard any clams that have not opened.
  10. Add bacon infused cream and a splash of sherry. Serve immediately.

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1 Comment

  1. Ira

    Thanks so much for your version of the Blackfish restaurant’s steamed clams. We had decided to make a seafood dish for dinner when we discovered some leftover fingerling potatoes from the farmers market and thought of those wonderful steamed clams we have had many times at the Blackfish Restaurant in Truro. My memory of the specifics were pretty spotty however. (Was there some kind of sausage? Chorizo perhaps. What was the spice? Lemongrass or cilantro?) I found the menu on line, and this was helpful (smoky thyme broth, lardons), but we were still pretty much on our own. A little more googling brought us to your site, and that made all the difference. I had no memory of cream, which is key. More than that, your information from the waitress that it was based on a kind of quick chowder made me realize that the dish is an elegant version of clam chowder, using littleneck clams and adding extra smokiness and leeks. So here’s what we did—for a faster version of your recipe. Render the fat from good-quality bacon (we used Niman Ranch). Remove the bacon, pat on paper towels (I don’t know why we do this, given that the recipe is full of bacon fat) and cut into lardons. Then sweat onions, leeks, and celery in the bacon fat, followed by some sliced garlic. Add in the fingerling potatoes cut into maybe half-inch coins; coat in the fat and cook for a few minutes. Season potatoes with salt and—this really helped kick up the the smokiness—some smoked paprika. I think I used about a half a teaspoon. After the potatoes have spent a couple of minutes in the fat, add about two cups of hot water, a couple of tablespoons of dry white vermouth, and a few sprigs of fresh thyme. Typically, chowder recipes call for a bottle or two of clam juice, which certainly couldn’t hurt, but I’ve found that water works fine. Cook until the potatoes are just done. Here’s where we took a cocktail break on the deck. When I returned to the kitchen, I pulled out the thyme sprigs and most of the potatoes to keep them from overcooking and reheated the broth. Take the cleaned littleneck clams and add to the broth along with a bit of salt and fresh chopped thyme leaves. Cover and cook until the clams begin opening. Add back in the potatoes and as much cream as you like. We went for about half a cup. Continue to cook covered until the majority of clams are open. Scoop all vegetables and opened clams into heated bowls. Ladle over some broth, and serve with good bread for dunking. See what you think. We were quite pleased with the results.

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