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Flavorful recipes for clams, mussels, and oysters

These shellfish dishes are delicious and a sustainable choice, too.

Spanish-style clams with garlic and sherry.

Photograph by anthony tieuli; food styling by Sheila jarnes/Ennis inc.

Spanish-style clams with garlic and sherry.

Many seafood lovers know that fish stocks and marine habitats around the world are in jeopardy from careless practices and overfishing. Making environmentally sound choices can be difficult and complicated for consumers. Bivalve mollusks such as clams, mussels, and oysters, however, are considered excellent choices for sustainability. And — good news for us — they taste great.

SPANISH-STYLE CLAMS WITH GARLIC AND SHERRY

Serves 2 to 4 (as a main course)

Clams can be salty, of course, so salt the dish very conservatively. Serve a salad, plenty of good bread, and perhaps a glass of sherry alongside.

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3        tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1         medium onion, chopped

2        bay leaves

Salt and ground black pepper

1½    tablespoons pressed or grated garlic (about 6 or 7 medium cloves)

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Pinch crushed red pepper flakes

½      cup amontillado or fino sherry

4        dozen small littleneck clams, rinsed, or scrubbed if necessary

1         tablespoon fresh lemon juice, or more, to taste

2        tablespoons unsalted butter

3        tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

In a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the onion, bay leaves, and ¼ teaspoon salt and cook, stirring, until the onions are softened, about 4 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon of the garlic and the red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 45 seconds longer. Add ¼ cup of the sherry and bring it to a boil. Add the clams and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until they begin to open and give up some of their liquid, 5 to 10 minutes. With a large slotted spoon or spider skimmer, transfer the clams to a serving dish, cover them loosely with foil to keep warm, and set aside.

Add the remaining sherry to the pot, bring it to a boil, and cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced slightly, about 4 minutes. Add the lemon juice, remaining garlic, black pepper to taste, and butter and stir until it is melted and incorporated. Adjust the seasoning with salt, black pepper, or lemon juice if necessary. Add the parsley and stir to incorporate. Pour the sauce over the clams (taking care not to pour off any grit from the clams that may have collected at the bottom of the pot) and serve at once.

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COCONUT-STEAMED MUSSELS WITH SOUTHEAST ASIAN FLAVORS

Serves 4

2        tablespoons vegetable oil

1         large onion, chopped

Salt and ground black pepper

2        tablespoons pressed or grated garlic (about 10 medium cloves)

3        medium stalks fresh lemon grass, smashed, tough outer leaves removed, and cores and softer inner leaves very finely chopped (about 3 tablespoons)

1         3-by-1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled, cut into 5 pieces, each one smashed with the broad side of a knife

1         fresh serrano chili, halved lengthwise and each half smashed with the broad side of a knife

1         cup coconut milk

4        pounds mussels, rinsed or scrubbed, and debearded if necessary

¼      cup fresh lime juice, plus lime wedges for serving

½      cup chopped fresh basil

½      cup chopped fresh cilantro

In a large Dutch oven (preferably 8 quarts or more) over medium heat, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the onion and ½ teaspoon salt and cook, stirring, until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic, lemon grass, ginger, and serrano chili and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute longer. Add the coconut milk, adjust heat to high, and bring to a boil. Add the mussels, adjust heat to medium-high, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mussels open, about 7 minutes (discard any mussels that do not open after 9 minutes). If desired, discard the serrano chili and ginger pieces. Add the lime juice, most of the basil and cilantro, and stir to combine. Adjust the broth’s seasoning with salt and black pepper if necessary, sprinkle with remaining basil and cilantro, and serve at once with lime wedges, ideally in wide soup plates.

TIP: OYSTER SAFETY

 As you open your container of shucked oysters to make purloo, it may be tempting to pop one into your mouth. That’s not a good idea, according to Joe Damaso of Court House Seafood in Cambridge, who says raw oysters must be eaten within  two hours after they’re shucked. Unless you’re absolutely certain that’s the case, don’t eat them raw.

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As you open your container of shucked oysters to make purloo, it may be tempting to pop one into your mouth. That’s not a good idea, according to Joe Damaso of Court House Seafood in Cambridge, who says raw oysters must be eaten within two hours after they’re shucked. Unless you’re absolutely certain that’s the case, don’t eat them raw.

OYSTER AND MUSHROOM PURLOO

Makes about 6 cups

Though the oysters are drained, they introduce a lot of moisture to the dish, which is why the recipe uses less liquid than many similar ones.

1         pint freshly shucked oysters (about 30, depending on type), drained and liquid reserved

Low-sodium chicken broth or bottled clam juice, as necessary

6        slices bacon

12      ounces cremini mushrooms, trimmed and thinly sliced (about 6 cups)

Salt and ground black pepper

1   medium onion, finely chopped

¼      teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1         large bay leaf

1        cup long-grain white or basmati rice

1½    teaspoons fresh lemon juice, plus lemon wedges for serving

2        large scallions, greens thinly sliced (about 1/3 cup)

Wrap the lid of a large saucepan or straight-sided saute pan in a large, clean kitchen towel, stuffing the loose ends in the lid’s handle as much as possible, and set aside. Measure the amount of reserved oyster liquid and add enough chicken broth or clam juice to equal 1„ cups. Refrigerate the oysters and the broth mixture until needed.

In the pan over medium heat, fry the bacon until rendered and browned, about 8 minutes. Remove to paper towels to drain, and then crumble and set aside. Pour off and reserve all but 1 tablespoon of fat from the pan. Adjust the heat to medium-high, add the mushrooms and ¼ teaspoon salt, and cook until the mushrooms release their liquid, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to dissolve the fond. Continue to cook, stirring, until the mushroom liquid evaporates and the mushrooms brown, about 10 minutes; scrape the mushrooms into a bowl and set aside.

Adjust the heat to medium, add the remaining reserved bacon fat (about 2 tablespoons) and allow it to heat for a moment. Add the onion, red pepper flakes, bay leaf, and ¼ teaspoon salt and cook, stirring, until the onion begins to soften, about 3 minutes. Add the rice and cook, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan, until it smells nutty and fragrant, about 1½ minutes longer. Add the reserved broth mixture and 1 teaspoon salt, stir to mix, and bring to a simmer. Adjust the heat to low, cover the pan (take care to tuck the edges of the kitchen towel up away from the flame or burner), and simmer until the rice is tender and the liquid has been absorbed, about 15 minutes. Off heat and working quickly, remove the cover, add the reserved oysters in a single layer, sprinkle lightly with salt, and replace the cover; rest for 15 minutes longer (the oysters will cook gently in the residual heat). Remove the bay leaf if desired, add the reserved mushrooms, most of the reserved bacon, the lemon juice, and ground black pepper to taste and fluff the mixture with a fork to incorporate mushrooms, bacon, and oysters. Adjust the seasoning with salt and black pepper if necessary. Sprinkle with the scallions and remaining bacon and serve at once.

Adam Ried appears regularly on “America’s Test Kitchen.” Send comments to cooking@globe.com.
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