Stewed Clams with Sausage, Ham and Tomatoes
Ameijoas Na Cataplanta - Portugal
Serves 4

The name for this dish from the Algarve comes from the clam-shaped copper cooking vessel, known as a cataplana, in which it is classically cooked. Serve this popular tasca dish as a light supper or lunch, accompanied with lots of bread for soaking up any extra juices, or spoon it over rice or alongside boiled potatoes for a more substantial main course. Serve chili pepper sauce on the side.

2 1/2 lb (1.25 kg) small clams in the shell such as Manilas
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 yellow or red (Spanish) onions, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 1/2 tablespoons red pepper flakes or 2 fresh small hot chili peppers, seeded and finely chopped (optional)
1 bay leaf, crumbled
1/4 lb (125 g) smoked ham or prosciutto, diced
1/4 lb (125 g) chourišo sausages, casing removed and crumbled
1/2 cup (4 fl oz/125 ml) dry white wine
2 cups (12 oz/375 g) diced canned tomatoes and their juices
1/2 cup ( 3/4 oz/20 g) chopped fresh flat-leaf (Italian) parsley
Freshly ground black pepper
Lemon wedges

Discard any clams that do not close to the touch. Scrub the clams well under running water, place in a bowl of water, and refrigerate until needed.

In a large sautÚ pan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the onions and sautÚ until tender, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and the red pepper flakes, if using, and sautÚ for 3 minutes longer. Add the fresh chilies (if using), the bay leaf, ham or prosciutto, sausage, wine and tomatoes. Stir well and simmer over low heat, uncovered, for 25 minutes.

Add the clams, hinge sides down, and cover the pan. Raise the heat to high and cook until the clams open, 3-5 minutes. Discard any clams that have not opened.

Ladle into warmed soup bowls, sprinkle with parsley and top with a liberal grinding of black pepper. Serve hot with lemon wedges.