Clams with Girolles
Updated: Aug 23, 2020
“If you feel all damp and lonely like a mushroom, find the thick, creamy soup of joyfulness and just dive into it in order to make life tastier”
Munia Khan, poet (1981-)
This dish is not only inspired, it's sensational! It's an amalgamation of a recipe from Mark Sargent's "My Kind of Cooking" and one from "The River Cottage Fish Book" by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Nick Fisher. The two recipes are in fact quite similar so it would seem a remarkable coincidence if one had not provoked the other.
At first glance the combination of clams and wild mushrooms doesn't perhaps seem like a viable one. But thinking about it a little more... Clams, garlic, white wine and parsley: check! Mushrooms, garlic, white wine and parsley: check! So the only question remaining is clams and wild mushrooms? Well, I'm pleased to say the answer is: winner! I think what it is is that the texture of the briefly stewed mushrooms is very similar to that of the clams, so the end result is quite harmonious.
Anyway, I am by no means a wild mushroom expert - in fact, they are not something I have ever really got particularly excited about. The limits of my knowledge are that they are more of an autumnal than an early summer ingredient, though I have been reliably informed that they become increasingly available as the summer rolls along. Regardless, I happened to come across some girolles in my local fishmonger (at quite a price, I must say!) and, with the clam fishery almost back in full swing for the year, this was a recipe I could not resist, and is one that will clearly remain in season for a number of months to come.
It's difficult to pin down exactly how and when you might want to serve this. With some nice bread and butter I would say it is just a light meal of its own - much like a plate of Almejas a la Marinera, or Moules Marinières. That settled I suggest it is eaten spoon in right hand and buttered bread in left. Or vice versa if you're left-handed.
Although I haven't tried (but I will and will update the post) I am pretty confident this dish would work fine with other wild and also cultivated mushrooms. The reason for my confidence is simply that Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Nick Fisher advocate the use of chanterelles, whilst Mark Sargent favours girolles, ceps as an alternative, or any mushroom in the absence of the wild variety.
This is really quite quick to prepare - less than 15 minutes from pot to plate - so it's a good idea to have all your kit handy before you start. Try to resist the temptation to add salt to the mushrooms as you fry them. The liquor from the clams might already be quite salty so once the liquor has been reduced the end result may not require any additional salt. If it does there's always the opportunity to correct the seasoning at the end.
Clams with Girolles
Ingredients (Serves 2)
1kg clams, cleaned
250g girolles, or other mushrooms, trimmed and wiped, large ones cut in half
2 good knobs of unsalted butter
1 fat garlic clove, finely chopped
1 thyme sprig
2 tbsp (30ml) white wine
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Lemon juice, quantity to taste
2-3 tsp finely chopped parsley
Put one knob of butter, the chopped garlic and the thyme sprig in a saucepan for which you have a lid and heat it until the garlic has sweated for a minute or so without colouring. Add the white wine, turn the heat up to high, and once the wine is boiling throw in the clams, put the lid on the pan and give it a good shake. Allow the clams to steam for 2-3 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally, until they have all just opened then immediately drain them through a colander set over a sieve to catch the cooking juices.
Return the cooking juices to the saucepan (the last couple of teaspoons may contain some grit so omit it) and, over a medium-high heat, reduce the quantity by half. Meanwhile remove the clam meats from the shells (leaving a few in their shells for presentation) and keep them aside.
Heat the second knob of butter in a frying pan until it has fizzed for a few seconds and add the mushrooms with a grind or two of pepper, and fry them over a medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes or until they taken on some colour. Add the reduced clam cooking liquor to the mushrooms and bring to the boil. Allow the liquor to reduce for a few minutes to create a slightly thickened, glossy sauce, adding the clams for the last minute or so just to warm through.
Taste the sauce for seasoning. It will probably already be quite salty but correct as necessary and add pepper and lemon juice to taste. The saltier the sauce is the more lemon juice will likely be needed. Stir in the chopped parsley and serve immediately in shallow bowls and accompanied by some good bread and butter.
"My Kind of Cooking", Mark Sargent (2011), pp. 104: https://www.amazon.co.uk/My-Kind-Cooking-Mark-Sargeant/dp/0857381652
"The River Cottage Fish Book", Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (2007), pp. 278: https://www.amazon.co.uk/River-Cottage-Fish-Book/dp/1408814293
Almejas a la Marinera, Bute St Seafoodie