Serves 6 to 8 as an appetizer or 4 for dinner
Finally, a recipe that uses black pepper as less of a given and more of the bracing, kicky spice that it is. There's a lot of pepper in here-enough to give it real heat-but it's offset so nicely by the lemon and the richness of bacon. When we tested this recipe from Seattle's Steelhead Diner, we found ourselves going back, and back, and back again to dip another clam out of the bowl until the clams were gone. They were that good. Pernod is an anise-flavored liquor that adds nice depth. You don't taste it per se, but you'll notice if you leave it out.
Lemon Bread Crumbs
1/2 cup dried bread crumbs
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 pound bacon, diced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup finely diced celery
1/4 cup finely diced carrot
1/4 finely diced onion
1/2 cup finely diced fennel bulb
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
3 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds Manila clams, washed well
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup pernod
Cook the bacon in a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat until crisp and the fat is rendered, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove the bacon to paper towels to drain. Pour off the fat and reserve.
Heat the olive oil in the same pot over medium heat. Add the celery, carrot, onion, and fennel and cook until tender. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant. Stir in the pepper, then add the clams, butter, salt to taste, lemon juice, and Pernod. Sprinkle with bacon and the reserved zest and cover with a tight-fitting lid.
Cook until all the clams open. Transfer them with a slotted spoon to a warmed platter. Reduce the remaining liquid by half over high heat. Taste the broth and adjust the seasoning. Finally, ladle the vegetable mixture, bacon, and broth over the clams and sprinkle with the lemon bread crumbs, trying to get a bit inside each clam.
From In the Kitchen with the Pike Place Fish Guys by The Crew of Pike Place Fish, © 2013 Viking Studio