Japan meets Italy: Asian-fusion pasta dish perfect for casual summer entertaining
Is there really any other style of entertaining than casual during the summer months? Even for the most formal occasions my team and I focus on a warm, relaxed feeling this time of year. Same goes for at-home cooks. And that doesn't just apply to meals that you cook outside on the grill.
Indoors, too, casual style food is the right way to go in August. As a matter of fact, one of the most appealing main dishes I've come across recently captures the relaxed pleasures of summer in a unique new way. It's a recipe from Dylan Hallas, chef de cuisine at Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill in the MGM Grand Hotel, Las Vegas.
The following dish perfectly combines the home-style pleasures of a classic Italian pasta dish with the kind of sit-back-and-enjoy-yourself fare served in izakayas, the popular Japanese pubs that specialize in foods meant to be eaten with lots of beer, the rice wine known as sake or the potent distilled beverage called shochu.
Hallas' inspiration for the dish was linguine with clams. It's something you'll see many people enjoying in Italian trattorias: Fresh clams in the shell, quickly steamed with olive oil or butter, lots of garlic and white wine, and then tossed with linguine.
Instead of the usual garlic, however, Hallas' recipe substitutes leeks, scallions and shishito peppers, the long, dark-green, mildly spicy Japanese chilies, now widely available in well-stocked markets, that have recently become the rage when seared as an appetizer. Adding more flavor and rich body to the sauce: a generous splash of sake and a couple of teaspoons of white miso paste, which you'll find in the refrigerated section of many markets. All those ingredients join together to capture a savory, undeniably appealing quality the Japanese define with the word: umami. Or, as Hallas puts it, "they give this typically Italian dish a very distinct Japanese flavor profile."
I'm very proud that such a simple, yet creative recipe developed within one of my restaurants. It reflects a spirit of openness to new flavors and culinary experimentation that harks back to the early days of my Chinois on Main restaurant in Santa Monica, where in 1983 my chefs and I began combining Chinese traditions, contemporary French cooking techniques and fresh California ingredients to create a cuisine that came to be known as Asian-fusion.
I hope this recipe will inspire you, too, as you entertain casually, not just right now but throughout the year.
JAPANESE-STYLE LINGUINE WITH CLAMS
3 pounds (1.5 kg) fresh Manila or littleneck clams