by Sean Keeley, culinary specialist, Lincoln Land Community College
Working in kitchens and around many other chefs this question often comes up, “What would your last meal be if you knew it was your last?” This was a conversation starter in my Food Production class at Lincoln Land Community College this semester. Students were asked if they were to be sent on a mission to the other side of the world and were offered a meal of their choosing with anyone and anywhere, what would they choose? It was a great way to learn about each other.
There have been so many memorable meals I have had the opportunity to experience. So unforgettable and most often unrepeatable – this is the magic of cuisine. A blend of random ingredients that just happened to be in the pantry and garden at the same time and will never be in that order again.
And then there’s comfort food. Those dishes that take you back in time; in just one bite you are back at grandma’s table. The great thing about cuisine is that this happens all over the world. What pot roast and gravy do for me might be a bowl of curry for someone else, or maybe some noodles in a fragrant broth.
I think for most, filet mignon and lobster may what they choose for a last, special meal. For me it’s comfort food, but not pot roast and gravy or chicken and noodles. It’s linguini and clams. Just a few ingredients combine to make something I consider art. The most important ingredient of any recipe is to put your soul into it. It’s what makes a dish stand out from a box dinner. When someone loves you and lovingly prepares a meal for you, it just makes it taste that much better. It makes it memorable.
This is a very simple dish, and the recipe is also very simple, but if you think of the ones you love while you cook, it becomes magical.
Linguini & Clams – serves 4
1 pound box linguini
Kosher or sea salt to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1 to 1 ½ teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
12 ounces of canned chopped clams
¼ cup Italian parsley, minced
½ cup of pasta water (after the pasta has cooked)
Kosher or sea salt to taste
Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add enough salt to the water that you can taste it. Salt makes the water take longer to boil, but allows it to boil at 214°F instead of 212°F. It also seasons the pasta as it cooks. The pasta goes in and cooks for eight to 10 minutes. It should be al dente, which means it is still a little underdone.
While the water is boiling and the pasta is cooking, heat a large skillet over medium. Have your clams open and ready. Add the olive oil and allow to warm up, then add the garlic and crushed red pepper. Sauté for a minute, and do not allow the garlic to brown. Once you get a good whiff of garlic and pepper together, add the clams and their liquid and bring to a simmer. When your pasta is ready, ladle in about four ounces of the pasta water. Drain the pasta and add the noodles to the skillet. Sprinkle in the minced parsley and toss altogether, taste for seasoning and add salt if needed. Serve immediately!
If you would like to fancy it up, try adding a couple of cups of shrimp, fresh clams or mussels, and let them simmer in the broth for a few minutes before adding the pasta. For me, I like it with the clams and some garlic bread on the side. If I have ever made you linguini and clams then you know I love you – and if I haven’t, well then just ask!
Want to know more?
Lincoln Land Community College offers associate degree programs in Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management and academic credit certificates in Culinary Arts and Baking/Pastry. For more information call 217-786-4613 or visit www.llcc.edu/hospitality-culinary-arts.