Seafood and I have come a long way. As a child and into my teenage years, I generally avoided it (except for the occasional tempura shrimp or in “fish and chip” form). Then when I was in college, I had several seafood dishes that expanded my horizons and changed my attitude towards things of the sea. One of them was the Garlic Baked Clams at Brophy Bros. Restaurant & Clam Bar, out on the Santa Barbara wharf. Over glasses of white wine, my friend Lauren and I enjoyed this irresistible appetizer with a basket of sourdough bread one evening towards the end of our college careers. It was official – I was a clam convert.
So, last weekend on a blustery, rainy evening, the girl who used to avoid seafood was craving a big pot of steamed clams, with some crusty bread, and two of our best friends. There were a lot of clams, 7 lbs in fact, but we made short work of them. They were steamed in sake, topped with a Sriracha compound butter, a dash of togarashi (a Japanese spice blend of cayenne, orange peel, sesame seeds, and seaweed), and a scattering of scallions. We soaked up the flavorful broth, now enriched by the melted Sriracha butter, with a Gayle’s Capitola Sourdough baguette. It was a heavenly meal.
The original recipe calls for plain, unsalted butter that you put on top of the hot clams, but the idea of a Sriracha butter entered my brain (these are the friends with whom we do our “Sriracha Dinners” – if you remember such meals as the Ultimate Sriracha Burger, Camarones a la Diabla, or Miso-Sriracha Glazed Salmon with Spicy Slaw). It seemed right to continue the tradition, and we thought the Sriracha compound butter (recipe from The Sriracha Cookbook) added a little extra zip to the clams and a depth of flavor once it melted and incorporated into the broth. It was also pretty amazing spread on the sourdough bread
The recipe below serves 4 as a main dish.
Sake-Steamed Clams with Sriracha Compound Butter
(Slightly adapted from Food & Wine; recipe contributed by Nobuo Fukuda)
4 TBS. butter (1/2 a stick), at room temperature*
1 TBS. Sriracha
1 small garlic clove, minced
7 lbs. Manila clams, scrubbed
3 1/2 cups Sake (roughly 1-750 ml bottle)**
3 1/2 cups water
2 scallions, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
a couple pinches of togarashi
* If you find yourself with leftover Sriracha compound butter, try using it to cook your fried eggs in the morning (yum), spread it on a bagel, top grilled steak or fish, or melt and drizzle onto popcorn. You really can’t go wrong.
** Chef Fukuda suggests using a cooking sake, or ryori, such as Shochikubai brand. We used a Gekkeikan sake from Trader Joe’s – just make sure whatever you choose is a dry sake.
- Fill a medium bowl with cold water and add 1 tablespoon of salt. Add the clams and let stand for 1 hour. Drain the clams and rinse them well.
- Meanwhile, make the Sriracha compound butter: Using a wooden spoon, mix the butter with the Sriracha and garlic until evenly incorporated. Scrape the butter out onto a large sheet of plastic wrap. Using the plastic wrap as a barrier between your hands and the butter, form the butter into a log shape, about 1 inch in diameter. Roll the butter up tightly, adjusting and maintaining the log form. Refrigerate for at least an hour to allow the butter to set up and the flavors to meld.
- In a large, deep pot, combine the sake with the water and bring to a boil. Add the clams, cover the skillet tightly and cook, shaking the pan occasionally, until most of the clams have opened, about 4 minutes (ours took about twice as long to open, but maybe that’s because we were cooking 7 lbs instead of 2 lbs!)
- Spoon the clams and broth into 4 bowls. Top each bowl of clams with a slice of the Sriracha compound butter, garnish with the scallions and togarashi and serve immediately, along with sourdough bread to soak up the broth.