I have a thing for clams. Clam chowder. Fried clams. Clams in pasta. My love for clams began with the frozen box you stick in the oven with some ketchup or tartar sauce. You know. The kind your mom feeds you when you’re a kid. Oh better yet. Long John Silvers. My parents used to work late nights during the school week when we were kids, and my Dad would always bring home the kids meals from there filled with fried clams, popcorn shrimp, fries, and hush puppies. Yes! Hush puppies! Oh how we change as we get older.
Cooking clams? They are seriously one of my favorite things to cook. I love watching the clam shells open on their own. It’s like magic to me. I’ve tried clams many different ways, but never with pearl couscous and prosciutto. It looks fancy. It looks like something “Heck no. No way can I cook that”, but yes you can because it’s simple. Truly simple and most importantly delicious.
Pearl couscous takes a bit longer to cook than regular couscous. If using pre-package couscous, simply cook the couscous according to the instructions on the box.
Only a pinch of saffron is needed for this dish. If you don’t have saffron, no worries. The clam flavor slightly overpowers the saffron flavor. No need to waste money on this delicate spice. It’s expensive.
Prosciutto de parma is roughly chopped and sauteed. It adds a little more protein to the dish and of course a nice salty bite. Who doesn’t love that?
Here comes the fun part.
Make sure the lid is tightly fitted so the steam doesn’t escape. The steam is what causes the clams to open.
After the clams open, remove them and set them aside. Time to stir in the cooked couscous. Add some red pepper flakes for heat and parsley for a touch of flavor and greenery. There you go. Now you have a fancy dish.
Pearl Couscous with Clams and Prosciutto
adapted from Molto Batali
1 1/2 cups pearl (Israeli) couscous (see note below)
1 tablespoon plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 shallot, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 slices prosciutto, chopped
1/2 cup white cooking wine
pinch of saffron threads
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon tomato paste
12 to 16 littleneck clams, scrubbed and rinsed (see previous post for cleaning clams)
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley leaves
Bring 2 1/4 cups of water, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and couscous to a boil in a small sauce pan. Reduce heat to a simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally for about 12 minutes until couscous is tender. Remove pan from heat and cover with a lid and let stand for 5 minutes. Remove the lid. Using a spoon or fork, fluff up the couscous and set aside.
In a large, deep saute pan heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallot, garlic, and prosciutto and saute for about 3 minutes until shallots soften. Add the white wine, saffron, chicken broth, and tomato paste. Stir with a wooden spoon. Once the broth begins to boil around the edges, add the clams, and cover with a tight fitted lid. Cook the clams for 5 to 8 minutes until all clams have opened. Discard any unopened clams. Turn off the heat. Transfer clams to a serving bowl. Add the cooked couscous, red pepper flakes, and parsley to the broth and stir until coated. Add the couscous mixture to the serving bowl with the clams and serve.
Note: If using pre-packaged pearl couscous, cook the couscous according to the instructions on the package.