Little Nicks Steamed in Herbed White Wine Broth
October 15, 2006
Uncle Nick used to date a dock worker in Southern Maine. In September, my mom would drive us up to spend some time by the water and enjoy the briny air. Nick’s girlfriend Lydia was a tiny little woman, but working the boats and the docks had made her a salty dog. She beat Nick and every one of his friends in arm wrestling matches and when they were all passed out on the bar, she was still throwing quarters in the juke box. She chain smoked and cursed incessantly. I think she was Scottish. Even though she always smelled of day old fish, I thought she was the coolest. The summer I turned 12, I also thought she was the sexiest. If I stared hard enough, I could almost see the outline of her breasts through her thick Woolrich. To top it off, she would cook the day’s catch into the most delectable soups and stews, then bake crispy loaves of bread to dunk in the broth.
That was the last summer we visited Uncle Nick. He didn’t talk to my mom much after his car crash. Lydia moved North and opened a lobster pound in Jonesport. I went to visit her when I nailed my driving test. The hole in her throat through which she smoked and the buzzbox with which she spoke didn’t have quite the same amorous effect until I tasted her clams. The broth was piquant with fresh herbs, tasted delicately of the sea and was bright with lemon juice and basil.
2 pounds live clams
1 large onion, diced
4 cloves rocambole garlic, smashed
peels of 1 lemon
10 sprigs thyme
4 sprigs sage
4 sprigs rosemary
1 bay leaf
1 bottle of French chardonnay or any dry white wine you’re not afraid to drink.
1 cayenne pepper, deseeded
1 cup chopped basil
1/2 cup chopped parsley
juice of 1 lemon
3 TBS olive oil
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes cut in half
several crisp baguettes
Soak the clams in cold water for 20 mins, then scrub with a man brush. Sautee the onion, olive oil and cayenne for 3 mins. Add the garlic and lemon peel. Saute for 5 mins more. Add the bottle of white wine, thyme, sage, rosemary and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the clams, parsley, lemon juice and 1/2 the basil. If you need additional liquid add a cup of vegetable stock. Put the lid on the pot and simmer for 6-8 minutes. Discard any clams that don’t open. Serve the clams in large bowls ladled with broth. Garnish with the remainder of the basil and cherry tomatoes. Serve with a wedge of lemon and wear a Woolrich.