Don't Eat The Unopened Clams!

I'm on some kind of a fish kick right now. It probably has to do with the amount of meat I consumed over the holidays. I've been craving fish and salads, so I'm going with it.

Just after my salade nicoise evening, I decided to make some clams served over a saffron rice. Just before I began to cook, I realized there was no saffron in the house. Gran Fran is always very innovative when it comes to missing ingredients. I thought for a minute, went through my spice cabinet and pulled out the smoky Spanish paprika I love.

Gran Fran uses anisette or vermouth in her saffron rice preparation, but again, I came up empty. A bottle of nice white wine with lots of fennel seed added to the pot, along with some clam juice and lemon juice, saved the day. My McGyver-type survival skills will do Gran Fran proud.

I've often watched her make clams, but I rarely do so myself. If memory serves, Gran Fran would flip out if more than just one or two of the clams she had steamed didn't open up when cooked. Her take on this, I think, was that all of the clams were tainted and maybe we shouldn't eat them because who knows what kind of disease one might get? Botulism? Salmonella? I'd like to point out right here and now that we all made it through, just by avoiding those unopened clams along the way.

But, her fears did come bubbling up within me when I prepared to cook these clams last night. What if I didn't cook them long enough? What about those diseases, or worse yet some unknown hazard came up? I tried to channel the other side of Gran Fran in the kitchen: the devil-may-care cook who throws ingredients in a pan with reckless abandon and comes up with wonderfully delicious dishes in the end.

It worked. The clams turned out great, it was fast and simple and the broth was really interesting with the extra hit of paprika in the end. The rice turned out well, too, though different in flavor than my beloved saffron rice, it was a hit. No one got sick, and the food was delicious.

Steamed Clams with Fennel and Red Rice

serves 4


  • 1 pound clams, cleaned and soaked in cold water
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1/2 cup clam juice
  • 2 tbsps lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp dried fennel seeds
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic chopped roughly


  • Put everything in a large pan and cover with a lid.
  • Bring the mixture to a boil.
  • Cook for 10 minutes.
  • Lift the lid and check to see if all (or almost all) of the clams have opened up.
  • If not, cover and cook for another two minutes.
  • Serve over rice (see below).

Steamed Red Rice


  • 1 cup white Basmati Rice
  • 1 cup Water
  • 1/3 cup Clam Juice
  • 3 Tbsps Lemon Juice
  • 3 Tbsps Butter
  • 2 tsps Smoked Spanish Paprika
  • 3 cloves Garlic chopped
  • 2 tsps Fennel Seeds
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • Salt and Pepper to Taste


  • Put all ingredients except for the rice in a large pot that has a lid.
  • Boil the mixture,then lower it to a simmer for 10 minutes.
  • Add the rice.
  • Return the pot to the boil.
  • Stir once.
  • Reduce the heat to low.
  • Cover the pan and cook for 12 minutes.
  • Turn off the heat and allow to stand for 6 to 8 more minutes until the rice is cooked through.
  • Serve with the clams, using some of the broth the further flavor the rice.