from Eric Giesbrecht
Beach, pasture and forest royalty combine to become, by far, my favourite steamed clam dish of all time. Clams, bacon and hedgehog mushrooms. This dish comes with a nod of my cap to Brent Petkau, Mr. Oysterman on Cortez Island, BC, who inspired me to recognize the virtues of one of the world’s most overlooked, and undercooked, sources of protein on the planet – the clam. When you imbibe the smoky ocean nectar with the silky rub of the mushroom on your palate, it’s all over.
3 T. butter
2 shallots, finely diced
1/2 lb. thick-cut bacon, chopped
2 lbs. hedgehog mushrooms, left whole and cleaned (or button mushrooms)
5 lbs. Manila clams* (because one pound per person just isn’t enough)
1-2 c. chicken stock
butter, to taste (yes, I just said that)
1/2 head flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
Inspect your clams, taking the time to smell and sniff your way around the whole lot. I say this because once a bad clam opens and its contents are released, it’s near impossible to recover from and the whole dish may be ruined. What are you trying to smell for? Trust me, you will know.
Melt the butter in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepot and let it brown a bit. Add the shallots, and when soft, add the bacon but don’t fry it crisp – we’re just looking for a rendering of the fat, not bacon bits. To the new layer of fat in the pan, add the mushrooms and sauté them over medium heat to bring out their water, then reduce the heat.
I originally cooked this recipe with summer chanterelles from Saskatchewan, but as I write this, hedgehogs are in season and making silly food puns is fun. This recipe is for you, Pierre Lamielle. When you, Palate readers, see this recipe, the Saskie chanties might soon be back. So keep this one in your back pocket and talk to your aunt in La Ronge.
Once the mushroom water has evaporated, add enough chicken stock to the pot to make about 1/2 inch of liquid and quickly bring to a boil. Add the clams and cover the pot with the heat on high. (You don’t want to cover the clams with the broth – it’s the steam from the boiling stock that allows the clams to open quickly and not overcook the tender meat.) The clams will take 4-5 minutes to steam open, but once you see some gaping, simply shake the pot around and the vigorous bumping will help open the rest of them much sooner. Then, add 3-4 knobs of butter because it tastes amazing and it’s good for you. Toss out any clams that haven’t opened.
Give your best Emeril impersonation with the parsley and serve immediately in deep bowls, with good-sized spoons, remembering to bring an extra bowl to the table for spitoon-ing the discarded shells. Also, you’ll want a toothsome bread to help sop up the good juices. Serves 4.
*Ask for ocean-purged clams - if your fishmonger knoweth not of which you speak, find a new fishmonger.