When I am hanging around my friend Joe Bavuso, as my family and I did for the better part of the past week, I am sure to eat very, very well. He is simply the finest non-professional cook that I know. Now, my other non-professional cook friends should not take this as a slight. It is not. I have quite a few friends, who can cook really well and whose food I enjoy tremendously, but Joe is just that good. I am more than happy to be his sous in the kitchen and help out as much as I can, but invariably, but mostly I just try to stay out of his way. His attention to detail, knowledge and impeccable technique most likely owe a lot to the fact that his father was a professional chef. It is clear that he paid attention.
The list of great meals and dishes from the week is long including wonderful fried fresh Montauk squid, 2" thick Lewis-Waite pork chops with fig/peach sauce, the previously blogged about fried peppers,mozzarella and sausages, Sea Scallop ceviche, cauliflower, poached eggs, Pepe's Pizza, Sripraphai and more. However, when one eats one of the finest versions ever of one of one's all-time favorite dishes, how could that not rate a Taste of the Week?
In this case, as we were celebrating my son's 10th birthday, he requested "Linguine with White Clam Sauce," which happens to be one of my best dishes and one of my all-time favorites. Well, being in Joe's kitchen meant that he would prepare the dish and since I am not crazy, I didn't argue, though I did help.
The clams (about 4 dozen littlenecks and topnecks mixed) were soaked in the sink for 30 minutes or so in cold, salty water to purge any remaining sediment, then they I scrubbed them, while Joe started sauteing garlic in olive oil and white wine (French Muscat). He added the clams to the oil and covered them. It was my job after a couple of minutes to pick out each clam just as they were opening. I generally prefer to do this in a hot pan without the oil, but given the results, I'm not arguing. Once I collected the clams, I opened them being careful to retain all of their juices.
The juices were added to the pan while the pasta (a bit less than a full kilo of Setaro linguine fine) was put into the heavily salted boiling water until they were quite al dente, at which point they were retrieved and added to the sauce, to finish cooking there. Once the pasta was ready, Joe added the clams and some chopped parsley, bringing the pasta to the table in the hot pan. Calabrian red pepper flakes were available for anyone who wanted a little extra kick. The pasta did not last long!