Friday, May 30, 2014

Clams in Pernod Cream Sauce with Pasta

Do you ever daydream about a special dish, something you ate somewhere, sometime? For me, the where and time are hazy but the something is a vivid memory of a clam dish with licorice-flavored cream sauce. I found clams drifting in and out of my thoughts this week. Clams are familiar friends in my galley, requiring little preparation for a tasty bucket of steamers or a fine chowder. Clams with a Garlicky White Wine Caper Sauce add great flavor to a bowl of pasta, and have even topped pizza. Cataplana Clams add chorizo and colorful peppers to the mix. All good recipes, yet my all-time favorite clam dish has been one ordered in a restaurant some time ago, a richly decadent offering of clams bathed in a Pernod-flavored cream sauce. Based on my taste memory of that terrific appetizer (or maybe it was an entrĂ©e), plus a little inspiration from a collection of old, clipped recipes stashed in a 3-ring binder on board, I set out to recreate that remarkable dish.

 When we spend long days traveling, meals are simple, often one pan creations with few ingredients. However when we’re in port for several days at a time, or hang on anchor waiting out stormy weather like our Khutze stay this week (link), it’s fun to spend more time playing in the galley. Ingredients on hand dictate the possibilities, and this week the pantry and fridge offered some fine choices. The prime players in this tasty pasta dish were a large carton of fresh frozen clams, some heavy cream and a new bottle of Pernod. Thick rashers of bacon, green and white onions, fresh garlic, fresh herbs from the garden (thyme, basil, Italian parsley) and shredded Parmesan helped boost the flavor. Wow! I could have tasted my way through the entire pan of sauce all by myself, spoonful by spoonful, without any pasta or maybe even clams. What’s not to like about bacon, cream, Pernod, garlic and fresh herbs?! This recipe was a two-thumbs up winner we will definitely enjoy again.

Now I need to work on a healthier version, less guilt inducing yet still full-flavored. Any suggestions?

Clams in Pernod Cream Sauce
4 generous servings

Ingredients: with some best-guess quantities noted as I remember them
4 thick strips bacon
1 small onion (1/4 cup), sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup Pernod
2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Salt and freshly ground pepper (optional)
2 cups clam meat
chopped fresh Italian parsley
julienned fresh basil
fresh thyme leaves
Spring onions, green & white parts, chopped
Fresh Parmesan cheese, shredded
Additional Pernod
Cooked fettucine

1. Use a large skillet and cook the bacon until crisp. Remove from the pan and chop. Reserve 2 tablespoons drippings in the pan, plus any crispy bits. In the same pan cook the onion slices until soft. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant.

2. Add Pernod to the pan and over medium heat cook down by half. Add the cream and thyme and cook until slightly thickened, about 8 minutes on my galley stove. Season with salt (optional) and freshly ground pepper to taste.

3. Place the clam meat in the skillet and cook for a few minutes to heat through.

4. Stir in the chopped bacon pieces, fresh herbs, Spring onions. Add cooked fettucine to the pan, stir in another glug or two of Pernod to pop the flavor, and sprinkle with freshly shredded Parmesan cheese. Toss to blend.

5. Serve and enjoy.

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