Kramer and I had quite the weekend! Our friend Clarisa came up to visit, which was a lot of fun and the perfect excuse to go around eating at delicious restaurants. We went to One If By Land, Two If By Sea for Restaurant Week, where I had some unbelievably delicious red snapper. The next night, we went to Réunion Surf Bar with my friend Valerie (her suggestion), where I highly recommend the spicy tuna tartare and the frozen mojitos. The following night, we went to Les Halles with Clarisa, our friend Phil, Morgan, and Jess. I had the duck confit there, which was, of course, incredible, and Kramer got the mixed grill, which featured a bit of everything and then some (for example, two amazing slices of the thickest-cut bacon I’ve ever seen). We also saw The Other Guys, which was, without a doubt, the funniest movie I have seen this year. I highly recommend it; it has everything that I look for in a movie: comedy and awesome action sequences with giant explosions. How was everyone else’s weekend?
I love seafood in the summer time. It’s fresh, clean, and takes very little preparation to cook. It also makes a dish hearty and satisfying, without leaving you feeling heavy at the end of a meal. A lot of seafood pastas with be done in a rich or creamy sauce, but I decided to stick with my summer theme and do something a bit lighter. I still added a bit of cream to the sauce, but I opted for crème fraiche, which is similar to sour cream, but it has a less tangy flavor and is a bit thicker. It added a wonderful, velvety texture to the flavorful, lightly spicy tomato sauce. The clams opened up beautifully, and the meat inside was tender and perfectly seasoned by the steam coming from the sauce. I had never cooked with octopus before, so I decided to start small and go for the baby octopus. They were so adorable, how could I resist? I fully prepared myself to come home and clean them, but to my surprise, they were already cleaned at the store (thanks, Whole Foods). Despite this, I have included instructions on how to properly clean a baby octopus; it’s quite easy and not at all intimidating. I enjoyed the octopus quite a bit, as it added a nice flavor along with the littleneck clams and paired well with the slight spiciness of the tomato sauce. For me, this pasta is all about texture, from the plump, juicy clams, to the welcome bite of the octopus, to the soft, buttery onions, garlic, and tomatoes. This is a great dish to cook on a warm summer night and enjoy with friends and family outdoors or in a cool living room or standing around in the kitchen, especially if you have a piece of crusty bread to mop up the bottom of the bowl with. It’s fun to sit around a table, talk, and pry the clams open a bit, just enough to scoop out the meat and slurp the remaining juices and sauces that are left behind. You and your dining companions will be going back for seconds, if there are any left!
Your ingredients. Your clams should be off to the side, soaking in a bowl of flour and water to rid them of as much sand as possible (I forgot to take a photo – oops!).
Now, I bought my octopus and fully intended to come home clean it (which is easy enough), but I was surprised to unwrap it and find that it had already been cleaned. Thanks, Whole Foods!
When you do need to clean baby octopus, though, it’s not complicated. Slice the head off just below the base, then slice off the tentacles just above the base. You will want to slice out the middle bit, where there are some more chewy bits. You will remove the beak by cutting into it and simply popping it out; it will look like a popcorn kernel.
If you are cleaning the octopus, take the head and flip it inside out (make a small slit in the side of the baby octopus if it is hard to flip inside out). Simply pull away the bits of brain and whatnot; there will not be a lot. Rinse it under water and rub it with your fingers to ensure that it is clean.
Cut the tentacles into fourths and cut the heads in half (if you want to). Place your cleaned baby octopus in a small bowl and pour 1/4 cup olive oil over it. Add in 2 cloves of minced garlic. Stir everything to combine, then allow to marinate in the fridge for an hour or so, while you finish prepping.
Dice your onion and mince your garlic. Also begin to boil the water for the pasta.
Melt two tablespoons of unsalted butter in a large pan, then add in the onion. Saute for 5 minutes or so over medium-high heat, then turn the heat down to medium and add in the garlic. Saute for another minute or so, until fragrant.
Add in your white wine, diced tomatoes, salt, pepper, crushed red pepper, basil, oregano, thyme, and cayenne pepper. Stir to combine and allow to cook for 5 minutes or so over medium heat, just so the flavors can come together.
Add in the cleaned, marinated baby octopus and the cleaned clams. Stir to combine and cook, over medium heat, for 8-10 minutes, until all of the clams have opened up.
Cook your pasta while the seafood cooks.
Remove the lid from the sauce and taste. Adjust seasonings as necessary.
Place 1/4 cup of crème fraiche (or sour cream) in a small bowl and add about 1/2 cup of sauce. Whisk together until the crème fraiche is fully incorporated with the sauce. Add this to the sauce. This will make the sauce creamier, but not shock the dairy and keep it from clumping (as it would do if it were added straight to the sauce). This is called “tempering”.
Add the pasta to the sauce and toss. Serve with a bit of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and squeeze a bit of lemon over everything.
- ½ pound pasta, your choice (I would like to try using a small pasta next time, like orecchiette)
- 1 pound littleneck clams, cleaned
- ½ to ¾ cup flour
- water (for soaking the clams)
- 2 baby octopus, cleaned
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 large onion, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ cup white wine (you can also use vegetable broth)
- 1 24.5-ounce can diced tomatoes
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (I used 1 teaspoon, maybe even 1½ teaspoons, because I like it spicy)
- ¼ teaspoon dried basil
- pinch cayenne pepper
- ¼ cup crème fraiche or sour cream
- ½ lemon (optional)
- Parmigiano-Reggiano (optional)
- Place your clams in a large bowl. Sprinkle ½ cup of flour over them, then fill the bowl to the brim with cold water. Toss to combine the flour and water, and add a bit more if you feel there is too much water in the bowl. This will help to draw any sand out of the clams. Allow them to sit like this on your counter for 30-45 minutes.
- Clean your baby octopus, if needed. Separate the head from the body, then flip the head inside out and clean off the brains. Rinse under water and flip back the right way (you can cut a small slit in the side of the head if it's hard to flip inside out). Cut off the top inch of the body and discard it. Cut the beak out of the body by gently slicing it out with the tip of your knife. It should look like a popcorn kernel and come out fairly easily. Cut the body into quarters, then rinse. Place the baby octopus in a small bowl and pour ¼ cup olive oil over it. Add in 2 minced cloves of garlic and stir to combine. Allow to sit in the fridge to marinate while you finish prepping. Begin to boil the water (with about 2 tablespoons of salt in it, if you like) for your pasta at this time, too.
- Dice your onion and mince the rest of your garlic. Rinse your clams and scrub off any sand or flour with a rough sponge. Add 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter to a large pan and melt over medium heat. Turn the heat up to medium-high, add the onions, and saute for 5 minutes or so. Turn the heat back down to medium and add in the garlic, sauteing for another minute or so, until fragrant.
- Add in the white wine, diced tomatoes, oregano, thyme, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, basil, and cayenne pepper. Stir to combine and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes or so, just so all of the flavors can come together. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Add in the octopus (with whatever garlic and olive oil sticks to it) and the cleaned clams. Cover and cook for 8-10 minutes, until the clams have opened up.
- Place ¼ cup of crème fraiche in a bowl and add in about ½ cup of the sauce. Stir to combine, then add it back into the sauce. Add in the pasta a bit at a time and toss to coat. Serve with some grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, freshly ground black pepper, and a squeeze of lemon. Serves 3.