In "Fast Times at Ridgemont High," Mike Damone explains his five-point plan for success with women to the less experienced Mark "Rat" Ratner.
"No. 4: When ordering food, you find out what she wants and then order - Now, the lady will have the Linguine and White Clam Sauce and a Coke with no ice."
Of course, No. 5 is a bit of advice every guy my age remembers: "When it comes to making out - play Side 1 of 'Led Zeppelin IV.'" Damone never let us down on that one. (For you kids out there, "Side 1" refers to a vinyl record album. Ask your grandparents about it.)
As for No. 4, I went to the grocery store the other day to get pork chops to grill, and I spotted a seafood bargain - a pile of clams at a reasonable price. To a guy raised in Maine, they looked irresistible.
Damone was my muse. I was going to make my version of Linguine with Clam Sauce. So I bought the cherry stone clams at 70 cents each.
A prime component of the dish is garlic, which I can't eat. I love it, but it doesn't love me. A night of garlic means 15 minutes of sleep and another 45 of restless tossing and turning per hour. After a night of this torture, try going to work. No fun.
Another note - I didn't use linguine. I opted to use some fresh fettuccine I already had. Purists may balk, but this was just for me and in this instance, noodles are noodles.
I adapted my recipe from one for Clams with Angel Hair Pasta in Seafood (Williams-Sonoma, $16.95). It didn't call for a white sauce, which was fine with me. I was looking for something a little lighter than Damone's romantic meal. Here's my version.
Fettuccine and Clam Sauce
(for one person)
Bring 2-1/2 quarts of water seasoned with kosher salt to a boil.
Put 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. When it's warm, add red pepper flakes (I sprinkled liberally - maybe 1-1/2 tablespoons). If you use garlic, put 2 minced cloves in with the red pepper flakes and saute for a minute. Then add two diced plum tomatoes, having reserved the juice to add at the same time.
After cooking this in the skillet for 2 to 3 minutes, add 10 clams, cover, to steam.
Now, cook the pasta in boiling water.
The rest of the cooking takes four minutes once the clams are in the pan. At the two-minute mark, check to see which clams have opened and put them in a covered bowl.
At the three-minute mark, remove the pasta from the water, reserving some of the water.
The rest of the clams should have opened by the four-minute point.
Place them in the bowl. Put the pasta in the tomato broth in the skillet. Season with 2 tablespoons each of minced flat leaf parsley and minced mint. Stir and put the clams back in the skillet. Stir to mingle the flavors, then serve in a large pasta bowl.
The dish was beyond fantastic. The mint and red pepper flakes made up for the missing garlic. (OK, it could have used the garlic.)
I kicked myself for forgetting to buy bread. It would have been perfect for dipping up the remaining broth when all the pasta and clams were gone. Instead, I just grabbed a spoon and enjoyed the broth like a soup. I wasn't wasting a drop of this stuff.
Macdonald is a food writer for Morris Communications in Jacksonville, Fla.