Nigel Slater's Kitchen Diaries
Nigel Slater's Chicken and Rice Salad

Nigel Slater's Clams with Ham and Sherry


I actually don't know what to call this post. Because I took inspiration, yes, from Nigel Slater's recipe for Clams with Ham and Sherry, but then, so inspired by his slapdash manner, I found myself improvising everything. I ended up with a succulent, savory bowlful of New Zealand cockles and chorizo. So, here's my compromise. You go and buy The Kitchen Diaries so you have Slater's original recipe, and below you'll find my interpretation of it. Deal?

I made this dish on Saturday night, after I had bulldozed my way through Slater's book and found myself overcome with a craving for shellfish and pork. To be totally honest, I had meant to make Russ Parsons' Monkfish and Clams with Chorizo for dinner, but Whole Foods had no monkfish and I was left to improvise. Also, I received a distinctly lukewarm message from Ben on the subject of fish stews, so it was probably just as well.

I hunted down chorizo in the meat department, but the only thing I could find was a fresh sausage, and I'm thinking that this recipe was perhaps meant to be made using the dried, Spanish version. But it didn't matter. This is one of those liberating recipes that really leaves everything up to your whimsy. The fresh chorizo is Mexican (right?), so there are some faint cumin notes in there, too.

The best part is that this thing is all about instant gratification. I guarantee that there are few other recipes that cook up so quickly and deliver so potently on flavor and rustic elegance. I dumped my cockles and chorizo into one bowl and served it at the table with a crusty Tom Cat baguette (for dipping in the pot liquor).

With a nice, lightly dressed salad for afterwards, this could actually be a fantastic little dinner for two. The cockles were tender and sweet, and the crumbled chorizo gave each sweet bite a pleasant kick of flavor. The parsley smoothed out the edges. It was, in two words, completely satisfying. And the kind of thing you can make once and keep in your memorized repertoire forever after. And for that alone, the book is worth buying.

And now I leave you to bite my nails over Montana and Virginia. I can barely stand it, people.

Cockles with Chorizo
Serves 4 as an appetizer

1 pound of New Zealand cockles or small clams
1 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 chorizo sausage
1/2 cup dry white wine (I used the remains of a Muscadet)
1 handful of chopped flatleaf parsley

1. Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat, then add in the garlic and the sliced and diced chorizo. Cook the chorizo until the fat has rendered and the sausage is browned.

2. When everything is sizzling, add the white wine and the washed clams. Cover with a lid and let it cook for two to three minutes, until the clams have opened. Top with the chopped parsley and check for seasoning (it might need black pepper, but will need no salt).

3. Serve, in one big bowl, or in several individual ones, with lots of fresh, crusty bread for dipping.