literary & philosophical nerds only
|M E D I U M|
|The Jean-Paul Sartre Cookbook|
|“We have recently been lucky enough to discover several previously lost diaries of French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre stuck in between the cushions of our office sofa. These diaries reveal a young Sartre obsessed not with the void, but with food. Aparently Sartre, before discovering philosophy, had hoped to write ‘a cookbook that will put to rest all notions of flavor forever.’ The diaries are excerpted here for your perusal.”|
random childhood memory
I memorized the letters on my pediatrician’s eye chart so I would be able to pass the vision test and not have to wear glasses. I did not get contact lenses until well into my pool playing years. I won three tournaments in a row right after.
Do waves ever catch a break?
I had warmed the cockles of my heart with New Zealand cockles the last time I visited my favorite fish market. This time, I went looking for a specific clam (not the soft-shell clam of my previous mission, but we’ll get around to those eventually — they can’t run away forever! They don’t have feet!) that I had eaten before — the tuatua clam (Paphies subtriangulata), also from New Zealand.
|Cockles prefer to live in calm mud and sand flats in subtidal areas. The tuatua (there on the left) are less suburban than cockles, preferring oceanfront property on clean, sandy beaches with plenty of exciting
|Tuatua, when threatened, will flee by digging quickly into the sand with its foot and/or squirting water out via its siphon.|
|There are three variaties of tuatua (all of them tasty, no doubt). The pipi is a smaller version also very popular for food. I like how all the names are repetitive. I would like to discover a delicious clam and name it the yumyum.|
|I was fortunate enough to get the largest of the three edible species. The ones I got ranged from 3 to 4 inches at their widest point. I had a little over a pound’s worth.|
I had tuatua only once or twice before. They were a relatively new import and often sold out before I could get to them (stupid foodies). I had the tuatua raw and compared to the less exotic and more patriotic littleneck clam (Mercenaria mercenaria, also known as the quahog, native to the east coast), they were firmer in texture and sweeter in taste.
And now, let us shimmy shimmy over to the cooking of tuatua.
The bright and briny New Zealand cockle was the focus of my last Cooking Class (“cockles of your heart”), and they were cooked in すばらしい Japanese style. Today, we return again to New Zealand for shelled molluscs, but we’re off to France for the style.
But, first, my standard educational litany about ingredients and such. (You may skip if you’re not into the whole neato-facto thing. The Dude abides.)
À la marinière means “in the style of the mariner”. It is a simple way of cooking using a few flavorful ingredients, as mariners would have done, seeing as how they’re usually on a boat. There are many variations, but they almost all agree on garlic, white wine, and herbs. Butter is the fat source.
|You are probably most familiar with marinière from the classic dish moules marinière, which is mussels cooked in this style. Moules marinière comes from northern France where mussels are plentiful, but not clams. (Mussels live on wave-beaten rocks, clams live on big expanses of level sand — the two don’t often appear together.)|
Wild mussels may be collected year-round where I am, but I prefer to collect from November 1 to April 30 which is when the toxic shellfish poisoning is very much less likely. Regardless, marinière is delicious on mussels and clams, and since wild mussel season just ended over here, clams it is — for now.
The standard herb for marinière, I believe, is parsley. I have used thyme as well as others, and even herb mixes, but my stone cold favorite, the absolute bomb-diggity, is fReSh TaRrAgOn. (← Did you see that? I like it so much I put it in bold font and crazy lettering. I’m seriously serious about it.)
|Parsley is good, but unremarkable. When I cooked à la marinière with dried thyme, it was — all right (meh). Definitely nothing to text/email/IM home about. Executed with fresh thyme, the taste improved dramatically. Cilantro lent an interesting flavor, but most of my friends are anti-cilantro (grrr). I came upon tarragon by chance when I went to get fresh thyme once and it was sold out.|
Tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus) is an herb related to wormwood, the herb used in the production of absinthe (something I mean to try someday, and it will have its own post — tee hee!). Tarragon has a sweet, very slightly licorice flavor that is not unlike fennel. I like it because it provides a unexpected taste dimension to a recipe that most people have only had with parsley.
Out of all my recent simple recipe posts, this one is by far my favorite. I wasn’t going to post this until next week but then I decided to be A Nice Person. Or perhaps I did not decide to be A Nice Person and really wanted to make you Very Hungry in the middle of the day. Muhahaha!
This recipe is f#cking great.
Heeeey there tuatua!
Although I had only a little over a pound of clams, I cooked as if I had 2 pounds. This is because having more sauce in this dish is NEVER, EVER a problem.
The sauce is what world peace would taste like.
As you may know, I have a tiny kitchen and I cannot fit a small chopping board on my counter which is about the size of a legal-size sheet of paper. If I use a chopping board, one end has to sit on the stovetop, which is raised, and I have to even things out with a towel under the other end. This all makes for clumsy cuttery (cluttery?).
|Unless it’s the hearts of my enemies, I hate chopping and mincing sh#t.|
|I caved to gadget pressure.|
|I got myself the gadget there on the left, the OXO Good Grips Mini Chopper. I like it a lot. It works GREAT for chopping garlic and shallots and has given me to motivation to make dishes like the one featured today. It’s a nicer version of the hilariously named (and hilariously commercial-ed) “Slap-Chop” (“You’ll LOVE my nuts!”).|
I don’t have a lot of gadgets but the ones I do have are usually made by OXO. My previous gadget purchase a few years ago was the Alligator Chopper, which is still useful as it makes a tinier mince than this chopper. One word of advice: for best results chopping shallots with this chopper, cut the shallot in half crosswise and then place the halves (or pieces) cut side down. Don’t place them in on their sides.
And now, let us continue with this shindig.
|You’ll need dry white wine (sauvignon blanc, pinot grigio), shallot(s), garlic, and a FRESH herb of your choice. That’s tarragon over there to the left.|
|I like to cook using ratios when possible. Cooking by ratio makes it easy to remember, and to multiply, a dish.|
|I use 2 large cloves of garlic per pound of clams.|
|I use one LARGE shallot per pound of clams. You can also use a small onion if you do not have shallots handy, but shallots really do taste best.|
|Herb-wise, I use 1 to 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh herbs per pound of clams. I enjoy the flavor of tarragon so I use the upper end of the range.|
|The shallots and garlic have been chopped via the chopper.|
|I stripped the tarrgon leaves from the tough stems before mincing them (admittedly not very well because I was lazy) with a knife.|
|I recommend anywhere between 1/2 to 3/4 cup of wine per pound of clams. If it that seems like very little liquid, it is because you are steaming the clams, not boiling them. Boiling tends to make clams tough.|
|Perennial favorite Butter joins the party as well.|
|Heat your pan or pot over high heat and drop in 1 to 2 tablespoons of butter. Swish it around until it is all melted and sizzlin’.|
|Add the chopped garlic and shallots. Cook, stirring constantly, over high heat until shallots are translucent. On my stove, it took me just a little over a minute.|
|DO NOT caramelize the shallots. Watch that you don’t burn the garlic, either. (Cuz burned garlic be nasty.)|
|If you have a very powerful Mount Doom kind of burner, reduce the heat if you have to in order to prevent caramelization and/or burning.|
|Add the chopped fresh herbs and stir, cooking for another minute. You’ll enjoy the aroma. This part is when my neighbors start sniffing the air when they go out into the courtyard.|
|Add the wine and stir.|
|Wait for things to come to a boil.|
Add the clams and shake the pot to make sure they all settle into one layer (if possible). If you have a lot of clams and a smaller pot, no worries — you’ll shake them again in a bit.
|Cover the pot tightly.|
|Since I had all the clams in one layer, I cooked them for a total of 3 to 4 minutes, shaking the pot once when midway through.|
|Depending on how many clams you have, you may need to cook for longer, perhaps 6 minutes. The clams are done when they pop open and you’ll see (and maybe hear) that happen (if you have a glass lid — that’s why I love glass lids).|
If at the end of the cooking time, if you see some clams that are not open, take out the opened clams and let the closed ones cook for another minute. If after another minute they are still not open, you can try yet another minute. At the end of that minute, if they are still not open, they are rude bastards who had the gall to die before you starting cooking, in which case you should toss them out (that’ll learn ’em!).
|Put the cooked clams in shallow dishes or soup bowls.|
|Let us now turn our attention to the sauce.|
|You have here a wonderfully fragrant elixir composed of garlic, shallots, herbs, white wine, and clam liquor (liquor sounds more refined than “juice” or “broth of death”).|
|Add two tablespoons of butter (you don’t have to drop it in as a dairy monolith like I did — I just like to pretend it’s the Ross Ice Shelf suffering from global warming) and let it melt over medium high heat.|
|If you have a whisk you can use in your pot (don’t derp it — use nylon whisks for nonstick pots), whisk the butter in as it melts.|
At this point, I like to whisk in just a squeeze of Meyer lemon juice (about 1 scant teaspoon).
|Off Topic/Full Disclosure:|
|I am currently an unapologetic lemon snob. I freaking love Meyer lemons. Meyer lemons are lemon-orange hybrids that have thinner skin, more juice, and a sweeter taste than your standard lemons.|
|I recently found out that the lemons of my childhood, which were from my aunt’s tree, were Meyer lemons. I used to wonder why the lemons of my adult life were never as good as those of my childhood. Now I know: my childhood lemons really were tastier.|
|End of lemon rave/rant.|
Regular lemons would work just as well here. I cut a lemon lengthwise into quarters, and then cut each quarter into eighths. I squeeze one eighth over this sauce in the last stages of cooking. The rest of the quarters I cut into eighths for serving/garnish.
I know I said place the clams in a shallow bowl. I did not have one, thanks to that pottery company that refused to sell me one at the faire (THOSE COMPLETE AND TOTAL BASTARDS), so I recycled the dish set from my previous clam post.
Pour the sauce over the clams and add a lemon section or two.
Serve with buttered baguette slices for dipping in the broth after the clams are eaten. Buttered baguettes are the best, but if you’re health conscious all of a sudden, you can skip the butter. Lightly brush the baguette slices with good olive oil for a substitute.
You can hardly be mad at anything while eating this dish.
As a frequently-angry person, I should know.
When the clams run out, so does my benevolence.
Standard serving size is 1 pound of clams per person. OMG serving size is 3 pounds per person.
- 2 pounds clams (littlenecks, manila, soft-shell, etc.) or cockles of your choice
- 2 to 4 cloves garlic
- 2 large shallots or 1 small onion
- 2 to 4 tablespoons chopped fresh herb(s) of your choice (parsley, thyme, tarragon, etc.)
- 1 to 1-1/2 cups dry white wine (sauvignon blanc, pinot grigio)
- unsalted butter
- lemon (optional)
If you enjoy my cooking posts, pass them on to your fellow food connoisseurs!