Very often, when I go out to eat, I know in advance what I am going to order. I associate a restaurant with a dish I’ve had there before and I look forward to it. This has been going on at The West Bank Café (407 W.42nd St. Tel: 212 695 6909) for the last few years. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven every time I ordered their Linguine with Clam Sauce. The West Bank is across the street from Playwright’s Horizons, where we’ve had an annual subscription forever. It’s not only convenient, it’s well-priced, the food is good and they throw in a glass of wine for Playwright’s subscribers. (In my case, they throw in two glasses of wine since I’m fortunate enough to be joined by two non-drinkers.) But can you imagine my disappointment when they changed the recipe for my beloved Linguine.
They started using Crème Fraiche for some unknown reason. What it basically has done is dried out the dish. There’s none of the wonderful juice floating around the bottom of the bowl. So instead of sopping up, you end up scraping up what ever’s leftover. Not good at all. So on my last visit, I switched over to their excellent grilled skirt steak with creamed spinach and onion rings. But I was determined not to give up my Linguine and so I put together my own version. And I have to admit, it’s every bit as good as theirs…maybe even better. This recipe is for 4 servings but you can certainly cut it in half for two.
Recipe for Linguine with Clams
1 lb. dried Linguine
2 tbsp. olive oil
3 oz. of pancetta, cubed
3 shallots, thinly sliced
3 thinly-sliced garlic cloves
1 tsp. dried oregano
½ tsp. salt
2 lbs. Little Neck clams, scrubbed and purged in cold water
½ cup dry white wine
½ cup clam juice
¼ cup finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 tbsp. unsalted butter, diced into small cubes
1 lemon, zested, for garnish.
1. In a large, heavy sauté pan, heat the oil medium heat. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring until it is crisp, about 3-5 minutes.
Add the shallots and cook, stirring until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic, oregano, salt and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring for 1 minute. Add the wine and clam juice and cook for 1 minute. Add the calms, cover, and shaking occasionally, cook until the clams open, about 5 minutes. Add the cream, stir well and summer for 1 minute.
2. Simultaneously, while cooking the sauce, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the linguine and cook until al dente, 8-9 minutes. Reserve a half cup of the cooking liquid then drain pasta in a colander, return pasta and liquid to cooking pot. Cover and set aside.
Add the cooked pasta to the sauce and toss to coat. Add the parsley and butter and toss to coat. Divide among serving bowls and zest the lemon over the dish. Serve at once.