Makes:2 light meals or 4 starters
At one time, you could find salt cod—fish preserved by drying and salting—on Viking ships. Now you can find it in specialty food stores.
What to buy: Look for salt cod near the fish counter in specialty food stores. It often comes in wooden 1-pound boxes.
Game plan: Be sure to start soaking the cod and beans 1 day ahead.
1/2 pound salt cod
2 cups dried white beans, such as Great Northern or cannellini
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 quart whole milk
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 teaspoons minced garlic (from about 2 medium cloves)
1/2 cup diced carrot (from about 1 large carrot)
1 1/2 cups chopped leeks (white and light green parts only)
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme
1 pound manila clams, scrubbed
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
Place the salt cod in a large glass or plastic mixing bowl with enough cold water to cover it and let it soak for 24 hours in the refrigerator, changing the water 2 or 3 times. Put the beans in another bowl, cover with cold water, and let soak for 24 hours in the refrigerator.
Drain the beans, transfer them to a medium saucepan, and add fresh cold water to cover. Bring to a simmer and cook gently (do not boil) until the beans are tender, about 40 minutes. Add the salt after 20 minutes. Strain the beans and reserve some of the cooking liquid.
Drain the salt cod and trim off any brown flesh. Place the fish in a medium saucepan and add the milk, peppercorns, and bay leaves. Simmer over medium-low heat until the cod is soft and flakes easily, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat, strain the fish from the pan, and place in a bowl. Use a fork to flake the cod into bite-size pieces. Discard the milk and seasonings.
Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic, carrot, leeks, and thyme and cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the clams and wine, stir, and cover. Cook just until the clams open, about 7 to 10 minutes. (Discard any clams that do not open.)
Add the reserved cod and beans, lemon zest, and parsley and stir; add some of the bean-cooking liquid if the stew seems too thick. Ladle the stew into small bowls, drizzle with olive oil, and serve.
Beverage pairing:Lustau Fino Sherry Jarana, Spain. There’s a sweet richness at the heart of good salt cod and clams that needs to be addressed by the wine, but the brininess can’t be ignored. Fino sherry, always great for salty things, has enough rich fruit to do the trick. Serve it chilled.