Portuguese-Style Steamed Clams

Portuguese-Style Steamed Clams
Photo by Penny De Los Santos

When Portuguese immigrants arrived in Northern California around the turn of the 20th century, they found Dungeness crab easy to catch along the Pacific coast in Sonoma and Mendocino counties. They also discovered abundant shellfish, like clams, that could be harvested during low tide. This recipe, a classic from San Francisco’s Hayes Street Grill, is quick and easy to make. It incorporates spicy Portuguese-style chouriço sausage and tomatoes, which make it richer and deeper than simple clams. It works as a starter, but it’s substantial enough for a main course.

Courtesy Patricia Unterman, Hayes Street Grill, San Francisco

Farm to Table, Vine to Glass California Pairings

  • ¹⁄₃ cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 cups chopped yellow onion
  • 3 cups chopped red bell pepper
  • 8 ounces chouriço or Spanish-style chorizo, diced
  • 1½ cups dry white wine
  • 5 cups fish or chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • Dried red pepper flakes, to taste

In large sauté pan or skillet, warm oil over medium heat. Add garlic, onions, pepper and sausage. Sauté until sausage is browned, about 12–15 minutes. Add wine and scrape bottom of pan with wooden spatula. Add stock, and cook until mixture is slightly thickened. Using slotted spoon, skim any fat off surface. Add pepper flakes to taste, and add chopped tomato. (This can all be done ahead of time and refrigerated until just before serving time.)

About 15 minutes before serving, bring broth to boil. Add clams and cover skillet. Cook until clams have opened, about 6–10 minutes. Ladle into individual bowls. Garnish with parsley. Serve with toasted or crusty bread, with spoon for broth and fork for clams. Serves 6.

Pair It

Here’s your excuse to enjoy a sleek red wine with shellfish. The slight fattiness of the sausage in the broth will meet the moderate tannins of the Mendocino-grown Lioco 2014 Sativa Carignan. The grape variety is called Carinhana in Portuguese, which was likely drank by the immigrant Portuguese fishermen who settled along the coast. Made from 70-year-old vines grown more than 2,000 feet above sea level and fermented with the stems, the wine is dark, dry and medium bodied.
But it’s very fruity and direct, too.

Published on February 22, 2017