Spicy Braised Clams with Sausage and Corn

Welcome Summer!!!  It’s felt like Summer for a few weeks.  It’s been Summer (officially) for a few days.  It’s not Summer for me until the first of the local tomatoes and local white corn appear at the farmers’ market.  Hothouse vegetables don’t count.  So, now it’s Summer!  This first dish with the early produce is some of the best food I’ve ever eaten.  Ever.  Anywhere.  A. Maz. Ing.

This is so good I don’t even know where to start.  It’s just a few simple ingredients, but they’re all local.  The tomatoes and corn were picked on Friday so barely more than 48 hours off the plant.  The herbs and jalapeno (the first of the season!) came out of my garden.  The sausage was made by the pork geniuses at SausageCraft.  Tonight’s selection was the San Miniato.  It’s probably the simplest sausage they make – just garlic, salt and pepper – which made it exactly right for this dish.  The clams came from the good folks at Barham Seafood.  I have to say, I got 25 clams and you know how many opened?  25.  Every single one.  I don’t think that’s ever happened before.  I usually have to throw out one or two.  So, everything in this dish (except the wine) either came from the farmers’ market or my own yard.  You just can’t beat it.

The flavors in this are so clean and so well balanced that I wouldn’t change a thing.  Honestly it’s not really spicy at all.  You might consider using a couple of jalapenos or a little crushed red pepper, but don’t add too much.  You don’t want to overwhelm the lovely tomato, sweet corn and briny clams with a lot of pepper.  I did add some onion.  I just don’t understand dishes that have garlic and peppers, but no onion.  I have only one other recommendation.  Once the sausage is mostly cooked take it out of the pot and drain all but 1 tablespoon of the grease. You just don’t need more than that.   I also had to steam the clams 7-8 minutes instead of the 5 in the directions so don’t panic if you check after 5 and they aren’t all open.

The flavor isn’t the only fabulous thing about this dinner.  It takes about 30 minutes start to finish so it’s completely do-able for a weeknight dinner.  And the price is pretty decent.  All total it’s less than $10 a serving.  In a restaurant you’d easily pay $25.  You could bring the price down by skimping on the ingredients, but I don’t recommend it.  Make this a special occasion meal if the price is too high for every day.  The only thing that could have made this dinner any better would be eating it in my favorite cutoffs sitting on a dock.

Good? I can’t even describe how good.
Easy? Absolutely. And only one pot to wash.
Good for company? You bet, but you might not want to share.
Special shopping? Get good ingredients from nearby if you can. It’s Summer! You barely need the grocery store at all if you’ve got a good farmers’ market within a reasonable distance.

Spicy Braised Clams with Sausage and Corn

Ingredients

1 teaspoon olive oil
8 ounces Italian sausage
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 chopped, seeded jalapeño pepper
1/2 large onion, diced
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 cups chopped fresh tomato (about 4 tomatoes)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil, divided
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups fresh corn kernels (about 2 ears)
1 1/2 pounds littleneck clams (about 2 dozen)

Directions

1. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Remove casings from sausage. Add sausage to pan; cook 4 minutes, stirring to crumble. Add garlic, onion and jalapeño; cook 1 minute, stirring frequently. Add wine; cook 2 minutes or until liquid reduces by 1/3 to 1/2, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Stir in tomato, oregano, 1 tablespoon basil, salt, and black pepper; bring mixture to a simmer. Cover and cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in corn; cover and cook 2 minutes.

2. Increase heat to medium-high; stir in clams. Cover and cook 7-8 minutes or until clams open; discard any unopened shells. Divide mixture evenly among 4 bowls; sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon basil.

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