We love to make this soup when we go on kayak trips to Tomales Bay. We have a very particular island where we like to camp, because there is exactly one single tent space there and no restrooms -- so that means we are pretty much left completely alone for the entire weekend.
The only exception is in the wee morning hours when the clammers arrive. Sometimes they're quiet and unobtrusive -- like a very sweet father-son-grandsons outing we watched a few years ago. But sometimes they're obnoxious, letting their dogs bark for two hours at a time, and allowing their tiny kids to run around on the not-very-safe rocks that border the little island beach.
Regardless of their etiquette, or lack thereof, the clamming must be good because we've seen buckets of the things in their boats. We don't hunt for clams, but we do pack them with us to make this remarkable soup, since kayaking allows us the luxury of not really caring about how much our food or equipment weighs. We eat this the first night we arrive, to avoid running the risk of too many of them dying before the second night.
This soup cooks up in one pot, making it perfect for camping. Serve this with a loaf of really great sourdough bread and a nice rose (actually, I think we opened a bottle of Veuve Clicquot brut once with this soup). Awesome.
1 t olive oil
1 shallot, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 pint cherry tomatoes
3 cups chicken stock
small pinch saffron threads
1/4 t pepper flakes (or more, depending on your taste)
1/2 cup white wine (or whatever wine you plan to drink with your dinner. The Veuve Clicquot champagne worked very well, too)
24-36 clams, scrubbed (discard any that don't close within a minute or so when you flick the shells)
1 large handful fresh basil, in chiffonade (click HERE to learn how to do this)
Salt and pepper
- Heat olive oil in your main soup pot. Add shallots and cook until translucent but do not allow to brown -- about three minutes. Add garlic and cook one more minute.
- Add cherry tomatoes and cook until tomatoes blister.
- Add stock, saffron, pepper flakes, and white wine. Bring to a simmer.
- Add clams and cover pot. Cook approximately 7 minutes. Don't peek.
- Remove lid and discard any clams that have not opened. Add basil and stir well.
- Season with salt and pepper. Serve with quartered lemons.
This is one soup that requires no preparation ahead of time; however, if you have the time and opportunity, you can do the following:
- Cut the shallots and mince the garlic. Seal together in a vacuum bag or regular zip-loc plastic baggie (if you don't mind the extra plastic, seal them separately since the shallots take longer to cook. If plastic is a problem, go ahead and bag them together).
- Measure spices and seal them with the stock and wine.
- Prep basil and seal. NOTE: Basil will turn brown, but if you eat it the first night you're out, it'll be fine.
- Quarter lemon and seal.