Mariner’s-Style Clams (Vongole Alla Marinara)

De Arbol (Capsicum Annuum) means tree like in Spanish. The plant has thick, upright, woody stems and the chile itself is narrow, curved and bright red in color. Believed to be closely related to the pequin, the De Arbol is thin fleshed, with tannic, smoky, grassy flavor and searing heat. This chile has a heat range of 7.5 on the heat scale of 1-10. De Arbol Chiles are comparable to a Cayenne Pepper. Scoville heat units 15,000 to 30,000.

Suggested Use:
De Arbol is a hot chile and a staple in Southwest kitchens. Add some heat to your next salsa or Mexican dish. Be adventurous and add them to your next stew or chili along with the other spices Add some heat to your next salsa or Mexican dish.

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4 dozen littleneck clams, or 4 pounds West Coast steamer clams or cockles
1 Tbsp. coarse salt
extra-virgin olive oil for frying or drizzling, plus 3 Tbsp.
8 slices sturdy French or Italian bread, crusts trimmed
1/4 cup water
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 or 3 de arbol chile peppers,
1-1/2 cup dry white wine
1-1/2 tsp. sea salt, or to taste
1/4 cup or more chopped fresh Italian parsley


Put the clams in a large bowl of water with the coarse salt for 1 hour before you are ready to cook them. Scrub them well under cold running water.

In a large skillet, heat 1/2″ of olive oil over medium heat until it is fragrant and fry the bread on each side until golden and crisp, about 8 minutes total. Or, toast the bread and drizzle each slice generously with olive oil. Put 2 slices of bread in the bottom of each of 4 shallow soup bowls.

In a large skillet with a tight-fitting cover, combine the salted water and clams. Add the 1/4 cup of water to the pot, then add the clams. Cover tightly and place the pot over high heat and cook until the clams open, about 4 minutes. Transfer the clams to a large bowl, discarding any of the clams that have not opened. Pour the clam broth through a sieve lined with cheesecloth or a paper towel set over a bowl. Rinse the pot.

In the same pot, warm the 3 Tbsp. of olive oil with the garlic and red chile peppers over low heat until the garlic colors nicely, about 2 minutes. Press on the cloves as they saute to force their juices out. Add the reserved clam broth, wine and sea salt. Bring the pot to a boil over medium heat. Increase the heat to high and add the clams to the pot and toss well. Cover tightly and cook, tossing frequently, until heated through, about 7 minutes. Remove from the heat and sprinkle with the parsley. Ladle the clams and their liquid over the bread in the bowls and serve at once.

Yields 4 servings..

Recipe from Julia Della Croces “Roma” from Chronicle Books.