Don't get me wrong – no one can replace New York Italians in my heart. The ones on Arthur Ave. who sell olive bread and sliced prosciutto. Huge toasted paninis and hot slices. But here in London there are Italians straight from Italy – the first generation immigrants that most NYC shops have grown out of. Just like in the Bronx, they're accompanied by Eastern Europeans in droves, who smile while they sell salami and the brightest green pesto. The Da Mario deli in Highbury Barn is a ray of sunshine in my grocery shopping life here in gray London. Not only do they have fresh pasta (they say it's delivered from Italy) and a huge selection of meats – they also have good bagels, which have rendered any diet attempts useless.
The fresh tagliatelle that sells out so quickly at Da Mario is always begging me for the perfect sauce. A slowly brewed sausage ragu or an eggy carbonara. This time, I was craving clams, and the Meek & Wild Fishmonger across the street seemed to have just the thing. They also tempted me with some peachy looking langoustines – a crustacean that's like a cross between a lobster and a shrimp that I never see at home in the States. Charlie says I never know how much things cost when I buy them, and he's right. Two (just 2) langoustines at Meek & Wild cost us 8 quid – that's USD $12. The clams were something like £11 themselves. If I knew, I would have rethought my plan. Good thing I didn't know.
We've never cooked langoustines before, but common sense said they could either be sauteed like a shrimp or steamed like a lobster. We threw them in for a quick boil before throwing them in to finish off the with clams and tomatoes, and used the resulting briny water to bring the fresh tag to a tender touch.
The result was a meal that showcased the best fresh produce from Highbury's local shops and simultaneously required the use of a hammer to consume. The garlic and white wine sauce became salty with clam juice, and the tomatoes – left on the vine for the visual – were stewed sweet from the bottom up. Red pepper flakes and parmesan on top and this meal was (something we won't be making frequently because $$$) perfection.
Fresh Tagliatelle with Clams, Langoustines and Cherry Tomatoes
Ingredients (serves 4)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 white onion, diced
1.5 cups white wine
1 big ole bunch of clams, rinsed
4 langoustines (one per person)
3 vines of ripe cherry tomatoes, rinsed
1lb fresh pasta (a long and wide pasta takes the sauce really nicely)
1 bunch of fresh basil, chopped roughly!
1. Give your hot frying pan a good glug of olive oil and add garlic and onion. Toss to coat, and sautee on medium-high heat until the onions are translucent, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes.
2. Add wine and stir to deglaze. Add tomatoes (still on the vine) and simmer for a minute before adding clams.
3. In a separate pot, boil a bunch of water and add the langoustines. Cook for 2-4 minutes until they get a bit pinker. Move langoustines into the clam pan and add pasta to the boiling water. Boil for three minutes. Drain and dish into four bowls.
4. Continue to mix around clams and sauce until all of the clams are open, tomato skins have split and everything is generally steamy. Add chopped basil and dish out on top of pasta, pouring sauce over the clams before serving. Don't forget a flurry of grated parm!