My all time favorite episode of No Reservations is the one where Anthony Bourdain visits Spain in Season 4. During the trip he declares, “Outside of Asia, Spain is the single greatest place for culinary achievement in the world.” He made this statement after eating Spanish canned seafood. That’s right- shellfish from a can, people.
I love it. I find the idea of peeling open a can and enjoying a beautifully preserved clam very romantic. For me, it’s a simple pleasure. Nothing fussy. You don’t even need proper silverware. A toothpick will do the trick. Isn’t there saying about elegance being found in simplicity?
For the Spain episode Anthony visits Villa Sal de Mar, a seaside village about thirty minutes north of Barcelona. It is here that he finds some of the most expensive and delicious seafood in Spain- canned. The idea is that seafood only gets better in the can, marinating in its own marine juices. Great care is taken to make a very special product. You can find razor clams, cockles, octopus, tuna, and more treated this way and available in the United States. One brand I’ve had success with is Conservas de Cambados, made in Galicia, Spain. Don’t be afraid to experiment and give a few different producers a try. It’s surprising what you can find in local specialty shops. In the Denver area, I pick up Spanish canned seafood at the Truffle Cheese Shop.
To wrap up clam week I thought we should enjoy a Spanish happy hour with canned clams. The sweet, briny bivalves need only a squeeze of lemon and they are perfect for these last hot days of summer.In keeping with the Spanish influence, I cooked the recipe for Wrinkled Potatoes Canary Island Style from José Andrés’ Made in Spain. For this traditional dish baby waxy potatoes are boiled in heavily salted water. Once tender the water is poured off and the potatoes are finished over high heat in the dry pan. This causes them to wrinkle and the salt crystallizes on the potato skins. It’s one of those amazing, why don’t I make this every single day recipes. Wrinkled potatoes are served with Mojo Rojo, a red pepper sauce for dipping. This sauce is easily made from pantry ingredients. Garlic, sea salt, cumin seeds, pimentón, and dried chile pepper are pounded into a paste using a mortar and pestle. Spanish extra-virgin olive oil and sherry vinegar are poured in to make a sauce. The sweet, smoky, exotic flavor is amazing with the wrinkled potatoes. To round out the menu I chose a chorizo style sausage from Denver salumi makers, Il Mondo Vecchio. Their dry cured Portuguese Longanzia is sweet and smokey. Pork and clams always get along well.
In order for happy hour to be happy, there must be wine. With the help of Chris from my neighborhood shop, Superior Liquor, I chose a Spanish bottle made from the Albariño grape. Valmiñor Albariño 2010 from Rias Baixas shows fruity aromas of peaches and melons but comes off very dry and crisp tasting. The refreshing acidity of an Albariño is a natural pairing for Galician seafood. This wine is widely available, reasonably priced ($17/bottle), and I encourage you to seek it out.
I hope you have a lovely, relaxing weekend. I’ll be sitting on the porch enjoying a Spanish happy hour at home with the husband. Thanks so much for reading!
Spanish Happy Hour
Valmiñor Albariño Rias Baixas 2010
Canned Clams with Lemon
Portuguese Longanzia from Il Mondo Vecchio