Thursday, September 26, 2013

Linguini with White Clam Sauce and Howard Johnson's

 Howard Johnson's is not a place I frequent very often. In fact, I'm not sure I've been to one since I was an under age teenager in Kankakee. For that matter, I'm not even sure Ho Jo's still exists. But when it did-well, let's just say it sufficed. I have good memories of Howard Johnson's.

It looked something like this!
(In case you have no idea what I'm talking about-Howard Johnson's was a motel chain that had a restaurant attached.) I remember that it had a strong turquoise and orange color palate and many natural materials, like vinyl, that covered the booths. When you walked in there was a large ice cream counter. Kankakee didn't have a lot of choices when it came to ice cream and my mom was an ice cream fanatic. I think when Baskin Robbins moved to town that about did poor Ho Jo's in. We would make a trip to get ice cream after certain school events; such as a play or a musical performance-those all called for ice cream, and away we would go to Ho Jo's. 

I never knew Ho Jo's had 28 flavors, too!
I also remember Ho Jo's because it stayed open late. After making it to high school and having friends that drove, we always seemed to need something to do. So, getting a second dinner was one way we would waste our money. It was at Ho Jo's, I believe, that I first had a clam roll.

I know it's hard to read, but 1st thing on the left hand side-Clam's! And the ice cream is in the middle!

Kankakee wasn't exactly on the water unless you count the river, and no clams or seafood were coming from that river. Perhaps a catfish, but I wouldn't have eaten it. And clams were not something my mom would have ever made so, yes, it must have been Howard Johnson's where I first had clams. I remember really liking the fried itsy bitsy clams that came on a soft white bun with  white tartar sauce. They were so sweet and crispy and totally satisfied for a second dinner, which was eaten about midnight, when you needed something to soak up all the beer in your tummy, before you made the drive home, snuck in the house and hoped your parents were sound asleep. Yeah, that's how I remember Ho Jo's.

And that is how I remember clams. I never had linguini with clam sauce until I left home. Mom didn't make any pasta except spaghetti that I remember. I had to rely on my friends' Italian mothers to introduce me to other versions of pasta. Their homes are where I first discovered lasagne and manicotti and ziti and  rigatoni and cannoli. I had no idea there was such a plethora of Italian food. I thought Italian food consisted of spaghetti and meatballs and pizza. Well, pasta and I soon became best friends, especially when I went off to college. There I made my first lasagna, really my first everything. And there I bought my first issue of Bon Appetit and started to cook for all my friends. I discovered that I enjoyed cooking and more importantly, I enjoyed eating.

OK. Finally, the linguini... When I graduated college, a family friend gave me several, very good, cookbooks. One was Marcella Hazan's, Classic Italian cookbook, 1976, and I have enjoyed that book ever since.

 It was that recipe I chose when I decided to make linguini with white clam sauce. Oh, mama mia. Never having lived where fresh clams are available, I love this recipe because it can be made with canned clams. I have made this for countless occasions because it is quick and easy and full of garlic and wine. And a bit of butter and cheese which is rarely used in Italian clam sauces,though Marcella would tell you that it adds smoothness and delicacy to the sauce.  I have made it for my kids, like forever! and I remember telling them it was chicken just like I told them calamari was chicken and they have loved both ever since. I don't remember when I told them that  the chicken was really clams, but that didn't faze them and as for calamari, well, who knows what a squid is-except my son who does have a private joke on this that I can't repeat. Here anyway.

So, it is time to post this recipe. My kids love it. Zoe especially tells me when I haven't posted what she wants. Yes I know, we still have to do goat cheese chile rellano peppers. I will get to them, I promise. But today, it is linguini. Mangia!

Linguini with White Clam Sauce
(Serves 4 in less than 1/2 an hour)
 Adapted from Marcella to use canned clams-horrors!
1 10 oz can baby clams
1 T chopped shallots or yellow onion
1/2 c olive oil
1 t chopped garlic
2 T chopped fresh Italian parsley
1/4 t dried hot pepper flakes
1/4 c dry white wine
1 T butter
2 T freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 lb good linguine cooked al dente ( Nothing ruins a pasta dish more than overcooked pasta. Use a timer and cook according to package directions. Always salt your water to give the pasta flavor. And never rinse. Ever. Just drain.)
Put the shallots in a small pot with the oil and saute over medium high heat until translucent. Add the garlic and saute until lightly colored. Add the parsley and dried hot pepper flakes, stir three or four times, then add the wine. Boil until wine has reduced by about half. Estimate, please! Now if you want to stop here for a break you can. This will keep for a few hours if the kids are late from soccer practice.

Now strain the can of clams into a measuring cup, and save the clam juice. You should have about 2/3 of a cup. If there is more discard it. Add the juice to the sauce and boil until this is reduced by half.

Add the clams, turn them quickly in the hot sauce and turn off the heat. Add the butter and cheese and mix well. Taste and correct for salt. Usually this is good without extra salt.

Toss cooked pasta with sauce and serve immediately with extra cheese.

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  1. I remember Howard Johnson's! Loved their hot dog buns - their cross section was more square than round, which I thought was amazing when I was a kid. And I remember their fried clams, too. ;-) I sometimes make a canned white clam sauce too, and mine is almost identical to yours. I use more garlic and red pepper flakes, and omit the onion and butter. And almost never include the Parmesan. Yours looks good - I'll have to try it sometime. ;-)

    1. Hot dog buns don't remember! Everything can always use more garlic and pepper in my opinion! Marcella says parmesan, which I know is weird for a seafood dish!

  2. After seeing this linguini, I think I will have to prepare this dish for myself...

    1. Definitely, Denise. It is one of my faves!

  3. Now I know about Howard Johnson. Yes I love linguini with claim, yummy. Love your recipe.

  4. It has been at least 20 years since l last had clam you have me crave for some!

    1. Definitely time, Angie. Satisfy the craving is what I say!

  5. What a delicious looking pasta! You are making me so hungry, I love this!

  6. I feel like linguini with a raging passion now :P


  7. I feel like linguini with a raging passion now :D