These delicious clams swim in a bath of white wine, cream and saffron while the baby potatoes make the dish hearty enough to be a main. I like to serve it garnished with some chopped fresh herbs and some pieces of crusty bread to mop up the sauce (of which there is plenty!). You can use any type of medium- to large sized clam you like and even some simple mussels would go really well in this.
The fishmonger at Varvakeios market in Athens where I usually buy my clams always claims that “this clam goes really well with pasta”, which seems to be the case for any type of clam he sells – big, tiny, smooth, or ridged – as he really never fails to mention it. I mean, I don’t think he is wrong (and I believe he just really likes pasta… who can blame him?), but for this dish I didn’t follow his kind suggestion and added some baby potatoes. There is just something very comforting about knife-tender potatoes and cream, don’t you think? Then again, you might agree with the fishmonger and feel the same way about pasta. In that case, you might want to replace the potatoes for a couple of handfulls of cooked pasta instead.
Clams and Potatoes in Saffron Cream Sauce
- 1kg medium- to large clams (venus clams, smooth clams, or even mussels, etc.)
- Large pinch of saffron threads
- 250ml water, boiled
- 300g baby potatoes
- 30g butter
- 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
- 150ml dry white wine
- 200ml double cream
- salt and pepper
- few tablespoons of chopped fine herbs such as parsley, dill, celery leaves, fennel frond, or chervil (or a mix).
- crusty bread, to serve
Methodnote: prep time does not include the 2 hours needed to de-grit the clams.
- Prep: Brush the clams under cold running water and place them in a bowl with cold water and sea salt. Leave refrigerated for two hours then discard sand and salty water and rinse clams under cold running water. In the meantime, steep the saffron in 250ml of boiled water for the same amount of time. Finely chop the onion.
- Brush the baby potatoes to clean them and slice larger ones in half. Place in a saucepan or stockpot and cover with cold water then bring to a boil. Boil potatoes for about 10 minutes until cooked through. Drain and set aside.
- Melt the butter in a stockpot (without the potatoes inside) and sauté the chopped onion until translucent and soft, but not brown.
- Add wine and the saffron water to the stockpot and bring to a simmer. Once the liquids come to a boil, add the potatoes and clams and cover with a lid. Cook until all or most clams have opened* for a few minutes.
- Add cream and allow to come back to a near simmer, but don’t allow the sauce to boil as it might split. Season with salt and pepper, but watch out with salt as the clam stock may already have been salty.
- Once warm, serve immediately with fresh herbs sprinkled on top and some crusty bread on the side.