Clams with Country Ham Vinaigrette and Candied Orange
Halcyon - Flavors from the Earth, Charlotte, NC
In this single-slurp hors d’oeuvre, sweet orange zest and a salty vinaigrette are beguiling counterpoints to fresh, briny clams.
- 3 pounds clams
- 1 gallon water
- 1 cup cornmeal
- 1/3 cup kosher salt
- 3 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 small white onion, coarsely chopped
- 3 small garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 bottle dry white wine
- Dash red pepper flakes
- 6 parsley stems
- Candied Orange:
- 2 1/2 cups water, divided
- 3 oranges, preferably Valencia
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 tablespoon Gran Galla or other orange liqueur
- Country Ham Vinaigrette:
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/4 pound country ham, cut into large dice
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
- 3/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 3/4 teaspoon honey
- 3/4 teaspoon prepared horseradish
- 1 dash Tabasco sauce
- Black pepper to taste
To make the clams, tap on the shells; if a shell doesn’t close, throw the clam away. Combine the water, cornmeal, and salt in a large bowl. Soak the clams for 2 hours in the mixture.
Meanwhile, make the candied orange, bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a small saucepan. Using a vegetable peeler, remove the zest of the oranges in strips, leaving behind as much of the pith as possible. Add the zest to the boiling water and simmer for 2 minutes. Prepare an ice bath while the zest cooks. When the zest is done, transfer it to the ice bath to stop the cooking. Remove the zest from the ice bath and reserve.
In the same saucepan, bring the remaining water, sugar, and orange liqueur to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 3 minutes. Add the orange zest and continue simmering until the zest is translucent, about 10 minutes.
Remove the syrup from the stove and let rest for 5 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove the zest from the syrup. Place the zest on parchment paper and let dry. Store in an airtight container until needed. (Can be stored for up to 3 weeks.)
To make the vinaigrette, heat the olive oil in a small saucepan over low heat. Add the country ham and simmer very gently for 40 minutes. Strain the oil through a fine-mesh sieve, reserving the ham and setting aside a few pieces to use for garnish. Let the oil cool to room temperature.
In a food processor, combine the reserved ham, egg yolk, cider vinegar, Dijon mustard, honey, horseradish, Tabasco, and black pepper. Process the mixture at medium speed while slowly drizzling in the country ham-infused oil. Refrigerate the dressing until serving.
When the clams are done soaking, scrub them with a vegetable brush under cold running water.
In a large pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and sauté until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the white wine and red pepper flakes and bring to a slow boil. Add the clams and parsley stems; cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid. Cook over low heat until the clams open, about 7 to 10 minutes.
Discard any clams that don’t open. Remove the unattached half of the shell with a paring knife or kitchen shears. Keep the clams on the half shells for serving.
To serve, drizzle the clams with country ham vinaigrette. Garnish with candied orange and reserved ham pieces.