Friday, October 23, 2009

Clams Diavolo: Vampires Beware

One of a man's genetic duties is to protect the family.  In our current environment, there is one threat we must take seriously.
I speak, of course, of vampires.
Our culture has been overrun with vampires of late.  This happens periodically.  Not sure why werewolf books, movies and TV shows do not have the same following.
But if a man is going to keep his family safe in this cultural milieu, he needs more than just a wooden stake and mallet.  He needs that most formidable of weapons: Garlic.
We go through a lot of garlic in this house and I am proud to say that we do not have a single vampire attack among us.  We put garlic in virtually everything and even serve it in olive oil as a condiment at the table.  On those "garlic and oil" nights I often suspect an outbreak of vampirism.  Everyone at social events struggles in talking with us until they run screaming to wash out their eyes and gulp oxygen from a tank.
But, they don't bite.
Clams Diavolo features garlic, and then more garlic.  There's a couple clams in there as well.  The Diavolo sauce can basically go with anything. I often use it with fresh mussels, but it could also go with grilled shrimp, chicken or what have you.  On this particular night, dinner needed to be quick so I just opened up a few cans of clams I had in the pantry (and yes, fresh clams would be hoitier and toitier if you have them).  The croutons help make the meal, so be extra careful not to burn them under the broiler.  For me, "extra careful" equates to having my wife see to the croutons.

For the croutons:
1 baguette, sliced into half-inch rounds
1 wife willing to make sure they don't get burned

For the sauce:
2 or 3 slices pancetta (Italian bacon), sliced into small dice
A pinch of red pepper flakes
Half a small onion cut into small dice
As much garlic as you can stand (I use about two bulbs, depending on size)
About a half cup or so of white wine
2 15 oz. cans diced tomatoes
3 cans minced clams
Fresh herbs (I use basil and oregano)

Choose a decent sized pot and put it over low to medium heat.  Toss the pancetta in and you want to slowly render the bacon fat out of it.  This will also cook the bacon.  When the bacon is cooked, remove it with whatever slotted gadget you might have and put it on a paper towel to drain.  You do not need much more than a tablespoon of the fat from here on, so pour any excess off.  Toss the onion and the pepper flakes in and saute until the onion is translucent.  With whatever shovel you have handy, add your garlic.  The garlic does not need to cook that long before moving on.  If you hold a canary over the pot and it gets dizzy, you are ready to add the wine.
Let the wine cook until almost dry and then add the tomatoes with their juices.  Stir it and cook just long enough for the tomatoes to blend in and the juices to reduce a bit.  In truth, this will make more a "diavolo broth" than a sauce but that's what you want in this rendition.  If you're ultimately putting this with pasta or something like that, you want to cook it down to a saucier consistency.
Finish it with the herbs and then toss in your clams and heat through.
Paint the baguette with olive oil or spray it with whatever (hopefully chemical free) cooking spray you prefer.  Run them under the broiler until they toast nicely on one side and then flip them for the other side (and in my case, don't be offended when your wife reminds you of all the croutons you've reduced to radioactive slag and completely ignores you during this process).
Serve the broth in a bowl with the croutons on the side.  Sprinkle some of the crisp bacon over the broth at the table.  Scoop up the broth, clams, bacon and garlic on your croutons and enjoy.  Then you can go trick or treating with no worries.

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