I love clams. Growing up in New England how could you not? Some of my best childhood memories are of the few times we went clamming in Cape Cod, an adventurous experience that involved a speed boat and hours of digging. But we were always rewarded by a festive clambake, complete with the fresh, sweet clams we’d caught– which obviously tasted better because of all the work involved!
Here in Spain there are wonderful clams all over the country and almejas a la marinera is a staple dish at my mother-in-law’s house, especially around the holidays. Marinera in Spanish simply means that it relates to the sea, and unlike the US version of the Italian marinara sauce, salsa marinera doesn’t generally use tomatoes. Nonetheless, it’s a delicious Spanish sauce and these clams are a very easy dish to prepare!
- 2 pounds (about 900 grams) of small clams (make sure they are all closed and throw out any open ones)
- ½ cup (about 120 ml) of dry white wine (dry Spanish sherry works well here)
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 heaping tablespoon of bread crumbs
- 2 teaspoons of sweet Spanish paprika
- 1 fresh spicy pepper, cut into thin rings (optional-- level of spicy is up to you)
- 1 small onion, small dice
- Fresh parsley, chopped
- ½ lemon
- Bay leaf
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- Place the clams in a big bowl of salted water for a few hours (or even overnight) in the refrigerator. This will ideally remove any sand that was inside of the clam.
- Add ½ cup of water and the bay leaf to a large heavy pot and put over a medium high heat. Add about 6-8 clams at a time, cooking just until they open-- remember, if one stays shut it's dead! This is a technique so that no clam overcooks and no dead clam ruins the flavor.
- Save the water when finished and reserve the par-cooked clams in a bowl.
- In another pot, add about four tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and the cut up onion, garlic, pepper and parsley. Cook over medium high until the onions are translucent.
- Add the breadcrumbs and paprika and sauté.
- Add the white wine and allow it to reduce.
- Add back the liquid from cooking the clams and cook for about 5 minutes. Taste for salt, add salt if necessary.
- Add back the clams and cover for no more than 5 minutes on low.
- Sprinkle with more fresh parsley, a squeeze of lemon and enjoy immediately!
These Spanish style clams are usually served around the holidays, often as one of many appetizers. Spaniards are sure to have plenty of bread for sopping up the delicious sauce, and pair the dish with a dry white wine like fino or manzanilla sherry.
Have you tried almejas a la marinera? What’s your favorite Spanish seafood recipe?