Preparing the clams:
A few things about fresh clams I learned along the way... Preferably, cook clams the same day you buy them. Do not store them inside the plastic bag from the supermarket the day you buy them thinking you will cook them 2 days later... or you will suffocate them...like I did the first time;) So, buy your clams same day and when ready to cook, rinse them well in cold water. In a large mixing bowl, make a brine by adding 1/3 cup of NON IODIZED salt ( iodine will kill your fresh clams...) to a gallon of cold water...stir and add clams and let them soak for 20 minutes or so...this helps them release any sand/grit that they might have inside their shells. Rinse well under cold running water, toss any clams that have cracked shells and clean any shells that may have debris attached. Then, set aside while you begin cooking the sauce.
1/4 cup of Extra virgin olive oil
2 large onions, finely diced
Button mushrooms, thick sliced
6 garlic cloves, finely diced
1 small jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced ( or, you can substitute red pepper flakes)
I large can of diced tomatoes
2 cups dry white wine
3/4 cup of water
2 bay leaves
Seafood: 1 big bag of fresh clams
1 big piece of white fish (I used cod but tilapia would be nice) cut into 1-inch chunks
fresh basil, fresh italian parsley chopped well
salt and pepper to taste
Pasta of your choice...I like orecchiette with this dish because they are like little scoops that catch the broth really nicely... much easier to eat than spaghetti.
Boil water to cook pasta of your choice. Heavily salt the water once it comes to a rolling boil.
On Medium high heat, heat olive oil in a large pot. Add the onion and mushrooms and cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently. Add garlic and jalapeno pepper and cook 5 minutes, stirring frequently so the garlic does not burn. Add the wine and cook for another 3-4 minutes. You want it bubbling so the alcohol boils out a bit.
Turn the heat down... then add in the can of tomatoes, water, bay leaves, salt and pepper to taste... simmer over medium low heat for 15 minutes.
Turn the heat back up to medium high and add the fish...cook 3-4 minutes. It will flake nicely into the sauce as it cooks. Add in the clams, cover the pot and cook for another 5-8 minutes. Stir once or twice. The clams will begin to open up as they cook. Cooking time is dependent on the type of clams you are using, but generally, when most have popped open wide, it's done. You don't want to overcook clams or they will get rubbery. Discard any clam whose shell has not opened as that means the clam inside was probably not happy and healthy from the start.
Plating (Make it pretty, people...)
Use a bowl as this is a brothy meal. Layer Orecchiette pasta into bottom of bowl. Spoon red sauce and clams over the pasta. Sprinkle with fresh basil and fresh Italian parsley. Add a light squeeze of lemon. Garnish with nice crusty french bread... I like to brush the bread with olive oil, a little dusting of garlic powder and fresh parmesan cheese...broil until golden brown.