TWO NATION PEPPER JELLY CLAMS

Diversity is one of the great strengths of American cuisine as each arriving immigrant groups adds their hereditary dishes to the ever evolving culinary menu.

Traditionally immigrant groups have settled in supportive areas: the Irish in Boston, the Swedes in Wisconsin. For many Vietnamese that city was la belle New Orleans. The choice at first might seem a strange one until one remembers that both regions were once French colonies, having as a result an in depth appreciation of fine creative food.

Today many outstanding immigrant-owned restaurants crowd New Orleans’ West Bank. There the Vietnamese love of shellfish comfortably blends with New Orleans’ legendary French flair. One such dish is Pepper Jelly Clams, so outstanding one New Orleans used it to court (and win) his charming wife!

Pepper Jelly Clams
Serves 6

INGREDIENTS

  • ½ cup coconut oil
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh ginger, minced
  • 2 Tbsp. garlic, minced
  • 3 Tbsp. shallots, minced
  • 2 tsp. Thai chili paste
  • 84 fresh Taylor Manila Clams
  • 2 cups white wine
  • 2 cups sweet cooking mirin
  • ½ stalk lemongrass, crushed
  • 2 cups coconut milk
  • 3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 2 cups pepper jelly, divided
  • juice and zest of one lime
  • 10 mint leaves, torn
  • salt, to taste
  • 12 strips crispy bacon, for garnish
  • 1 cup fried shallot rings, for garnish (Available at Asian food markets)
  • fresh mint leaves, for garnish

DIRECTIONS

  1. Heat coconut oil in a large braising pan set over medium-high.
  2. Lightly toast the ginger, garlic, shallots, and Thai chili paste.
  3. When the aromatics become golden brown, add the rinsed clams followed by the white wine, mirin, and lemongrass stalk.
  4. Cover the pan and simmer until the clams open, about seven minutes.  
  5. Once clams have opened, remove the lid and add coconut milk, butter, and 1 cup of the pepper jelly.
  6. Simmer the clams for an additional one minute and then add lime juice, zest, and mint leaves.
  7. Season with salt to taste.  
  8. To serve, remove the crushed lemongrass stalk and portion the clams and broth into bowls.
  9. Garnish with shaved bacon, crispy shallots, fresh mint leaves, and a few dollops of the remaining pepper jelly. 
  10. Serve with warm crusty bread for dipping and enjoy!