Jim Hillibish’s Boiling Point column. With recipes.
Food prices, stable for many years, are climbing fast. Futures prices on the grain staples are near records.
This impacts breads, pastas and any meat fed by grain. Milk and dairy are exploding. Fruits and vegetables probably are next.
You can throw your hands up as you pay up, or you can get busy cutting your bill with a little kitchen creativity.
I judge costs by price per serving. How about 30 cents for clams? Can’t beat that.
Fresh clams are hard to come by and expensive. Canned are always available, delicious and, last check, about a dollar for three servings.
Of course, nobody just heats the can and plates them. You need some creative recipes to take advantage of this exceptional value.
Don’t Cook Them
Canned clams are already cooked. Wherever you use them, remember you never really cook them. You simply heat them for a few minutes, usually less than three. Overcooking is a disaster, converting their delicate texture to chewy rubber.
I find myself skipping the expensive beef in my favorite Italian tomato sauce and dumping in the clams at the last moment. Don’t forget the juice.
This is great stuff, a welcome change from the usual meatballs.
White clam sauce is not to be missed. It is clams gently heated in olive oil with garlic, herbs and hot red-pepper flakes, excellent tossed with pasta.
Linguine is the favorite here.
Clams are classic on the appetizer tray. A few piled onto chunks of Italian bread with asiago cheese, run under the broiler, are memorable. Bet your guests won’t realize they’re canned.
When I cannot do without fresh clams, I save their shells. These can be stuffed later with canned ones and reused over and over.
Canned clams contain sodium, about 15 percent of your daily amount per serving. On the plus side, they are free of saturated and trans fats and a paltry 30 calories per serving.
1 can (6.5 ounces) clams, with juice
1 tablespoon green pepper, minced
1 tablespoon minced celery
1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs
2 bacon strips, fried and crumbled
1 egg, beaten egg
1 teaspoon butter or margarine
1 teaspoon prepared mustard
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup asiago cheese, finely diced
Mix all but the cheese. Stuff empty and washed clam or scallop shells or mound on 1-inch pieces of bread or toast. Top with cheese and run under the broiler until the cheese melts. Serves 3-4.
WHITE CLAM SAUCE
1 (16 ounce) package linguine or fettuccine pasta
1/2 cup olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon dried oregano or basil
1/2 teaspoon or more dried red pepper flakes
2 (6.5 ounce) cans minced clams, with juice
Salt and pepper to taste
In a saucepan, heat oil and gently cook garlic until translucent, not browned. Lower heat and add remaining ingredients. Cook 3-to-4 minutes. Toss with 16 ounces of cooked pasta and serve. Serves 6.