Trilogie de coquillages persillés

Shellfish with parsley and garlic

Three kinds of shellfish — mussels, clams and razor clams — make up this trilogy from the south of France. The shells are cooked over dry heat just until they open, and are then coated in a pungent persillade sauce combining parsley, garlic and olive oil.

For best results, the shellfish must be extremely fresh. If you can’t get hold of razor clams, you can substitute large fresh shrimp (gambas). The sauce may be made up to an hour ahead of time. For extra bite, add a little cayenne.

This dish may be served as a main dish, preceded by a starter (for example, tapenade, spicy eggplant caviar or an oyster plate), and followed by a salad, cheese and dessert, perhaps a plum tart. It also makes a fine first course. The quantites below will serve 2.

8 large mussels
12 small to medium clams (palourdes)
12 razor clams (couteaux)
1 cup loosely packed flat-leaf parsley leaves
3 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
1/4 cup (60 cl) plus 2 tbsp. olive oil
pinch of salt
freshly ground black pepper

Begin by cleaning and soaking the shellfish to allow them to release any sand. Scrub the mussels and remove their beards. Rinse and drain. Refrigerate. Rinse the clams and immerse in a bowl of cold water. Refrigerate. Rinse the razor clams and immerse in a bowl of cold salted water. Refrigerate.

Now make the persillade. Combine the parsley leaves, garlic, 1/4 cup olive oil, salt and pepper in a blender. Go easy on the salt, as the shellfish are already salty. Pulse until the parsley is finely chopped and the sauce well blended.

You will now cook the shellfish. For this you will need two large skillets. Place 1 tbsp. of olive oil in each and set over high heat. When the oil is sizzling, add the mussels and clams to one skillet. Cover the skillet. Add the razor clams to the other skillet and do not cover.

Check the first skillet from time to time. As soon as the shells have opened, turn off the heat. Stir the razor clams in their skillet until they have opened up and are starting to brown. Turn off the heat.

The shellfish will release a lot of juice. Pour most of it off into a container — it is delicious and can be put to another use, for example added to spaghetti sauce.

Combine all the shellfish in the largest skillet. Turn the heat back on to medium high and add the persillade. Stir to blend. Serve piping hot, with a little lemon on the side. Serves 2.

Optional: If you like, you can run the shellfish under the broiler for a minute or two after adding the persillade. This helps the sauce to adhere.

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