Monday, May 9, 2011

What Nonna can learn from Obaasan!

The recipe for spaghetti with clams is justifiably a classic.

However, there's a subtle way in which it can be improved, and we have the Japanese to thank for that.

The classic Italian (or French) way is to dump all the clams in, toss in some wine, and let them steam. Fish them out as they open, and then reduce the broth to get it to its logical clamminess.

The classic Japanese way improves on this in many many ways. It's subtle and it works because it interleaves the two steps to make it all better.

The CC first learnt about this trick when he was making asari gohan — an elementally simple dish of clams served over rice. Very simple and eminently suitable for a day when only a simple home-cooked meal will do.

When he first read the instructions, he was a little mystified but decided to follow them anyway. The logic of the procedure jumped out with such immense force that he realized rapidly that it would enable him to take his Italian clam recipes to the next level.

The trick is very very simple.

Instead of steaming the clams all at once, we are going to steam them in batches. Typically 3-4 batches depending on the number of clams. The idea is that each batch not just steams in the previous clam's broth but that the broth reduces at the same time so that there is very little wastage of time. What seems at first like "taking longer" is actually a very clever way of combining the two steps. Each batch steams, opens up, and releases the juices. Meanwhile the next batch steams while the previous clam broth reduces itself.

The moral must be that even Italian grandmas, as talented as they are, have something to learn from the rest of the world.

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