When I was 9, my uncle had a clam bake. He drove four hours in his banana-yellow 1965 Chevy pickup truck to the Massachusetts coast and filled the back with bushel baskets of clams packed in ice and seaweed. Then he returned to his house in Vermont where he’d invited about 100 folks and hired a local rock band to play while he baked clams and steamed huge cauldrons of corn over big fire pits. It was a hot July night and just at dusk it began to rain so hard we had to put a tent over the fire pit, which made for delicious, smoky corn. This is just another one of the great rules of the kitchen, that from mishaps you often discover wonderful things. I know that gastro-nostalgic moment influenced the way I make corn. Sweet corn with smoky pimentón always take me back to that rainy July night.
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- 1/2 Cup diced slab bacon
- 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 24 littleneck clams
- 2 ears sweet corn, shucked and cut into 2-inch lengths
- 3/4 Cups dry white wine
- 2 Teaspoons pimentón
- Aleppo pepper
- Handful fresh basil leaves, torn
- Healthy drizzle of olive oil
In a large heavy-bottomed pot, sweat the bacon over medium heat. Once it begins to render, about 2 minutes, add the garlic and sweat until translucent. Add the clams, corn, and white wine and stir in the pimentón. Increase the heat to high and cook, uncovered, for about 30 seconds, until the alcohol has evaporated. Reduce the heat to medium low, cover, and steam until all the clams have opened and the corn is tender, 5-8 minutes. Discard any clams that don’t open.
I like to serve this dish in a large earthenware bowl, with a sprinkle of Aleppo pepper, torn basil, and a generous drizzle of fruity olive oil.