Inspired by Hog Island Oyster Company, San Francisco, California
Combining steamed clams and gigantes is a genius idea. Gigantes soak up rich clam broth, ensuring none of it goes to waste. Feel free to substitute canned cannellini beans or even diced cooked potatoes for gigantes. If you don’t eat butter, this dish is also delicious made with extra-virgin olive oil. Gigantes may be cooked several days ahead, in which case this is a deliciously quick mid-week meal. How long to cook the beans depends on their freshness. Pre-soaked beans from a recent harvest can be tender after boiling for 30-40 minutes. Older beans can take up to an hour or more. I test gigantes after 30 minutes and then in 5 or 10 minute increments to make sure they don’t overcook and get mushy. Clams are primarily farm-raised these days, and are readily available in Alaska (and likely throughout the US). In Anchorage, Sagaya usually has live clams and Costco brings them in regularly. If given a choice, I prefer Alaska-grown littlenecks or other cold-water clams, but Manila clams and New Zealand green cockles also work.
- 1 cup dried gigantes or other large white beans (3 cups cooked gigantes or 2 15-ounce cans cannellini beans)
- 3 dried bay leaves
- 4 pounds fresh littleneck or manila clams
- 1/4 cup butter or extra virgin olive oil
- 1 cup diced red onion, 1/4” dice
- 2 Tbsp. minced garlic
- 1 1/2 cups dry white wine
- 1 cup minced green onion, both white and green parts
- 2 Tbsp. minced fresh thyme
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
Cook Beans: Place beans in large pot, cover with 2 quarts water mixed with 2 Tbsp. salt, and let soak overnight.
The next day, drain and rinse beans. Return them to pot; add bay leaves and enough water to cover beans by 3 inches. Bring water to a boil, cover, turn heat down to low, and simmer beans 30-60 minutes (see headnote), just until flesh is tender. Drain beans.
If using canned beans, drain and rinse.
Make Clams and Beans: Wash off clam shells to remove any sand or dirt; discard any that won’t close or have broken shells.
Using Dutch oven or other large pot with lid, sauté red onion in butter until it softens and starts to turn golden. Stir in garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add beans, clams, wine, green onions, thyme, freshly ground black pepper, and fresh lemon juice. Stir to evenly distribute ingredients. Bring liquid to a boil, cover, turn heat to medium, and cook just until clams open; this only takes a few minutes. Discard any clams that don’t open. Taste broth and add salt, freshly ground black pepper, or lemon juice, as needed.
Serve immediately with plenty of crusty bread to soak up the delicious broth.