I always thought I was repelled by clams and mussels and generally anything in a shell. After working at Piatti (Italian style restaurant) and sampling their Vongole (clams) I was mad after shellfish and tried to replicate their recipe at home. I came up with something I really enjoy.
Clams and/or mussels in the shell generally about 1/2 pound per person serving
fresh garlic, peeled and slivered
one small onion, sliced thinly
one lemon, roll on counter to release juices
red chili flakes to taste (Unless you can get your hands on some lovely Calabrian chilis, then use those. I buy mine from Piatti, you might try a local Italian restaurant or a specialty food store. However, chili flakes work perfectly fine)
one cup-ish of dry white wine
1-2 Tbls of butter
tomatoes, cored and diced
fresh parsley, cleaned and chopped finely
cracked black pepper
Cleaning the shellfish
Normally when you buy fresh clams, the store has already cleaned off the beards and the dirt but not the mussels (why? I have no idea). Therefore I tend to prefer clams but fresh mussels have such a wonderful flavor that sometimes the extra work is useful. Anyway, it never hurts to give the clams an extra scrub. So this is how to clean off your shellfish:
Fill a sink with cold water and liberally sprinkle with salt
Dump all clams and/or mussels in and let soak for 5-10 minutes. The salt helps get the sand out of the inside of the shell.
With a scratchy pad or some sort (not the kind with soap in it) sorta 'sand' off the shell for any dirt or anything else on there. Don't be afraid to use a little force.
If the shell still has a beard (green clingy hair things where the shell opens) just take a knife and pull it all off. When I first tried to do this I was afraid I would somehow hurt the little mussel inside but you have to be forceful or it won't all come out.
Once all of your shellfish is clean, rinse it off and set aside (if you are doing this step early on in the day just put the clams/mussels back in the fridge.
Heat skillet to medium/medium high and then cover the surface lightly with olive oil and put in garlic, onion, chili flakes and black pepper. Saute ingredients until the onions and the garlic start to caramelize (This happens when they start to turn slightly brown, it means they are releasing their sugars, giving them a sweeter flavor.) then add the white wine and butter, and squeeze the lemon into the mix. Simmer for a few minutes then add the shellfish and cover. Steam the clams/mussels until they start to open. Add the chopped tomatoes and parsley (reserving a bit of parsley to garnish with) and simmer until all the shells are open. Remove from stove.
Server either over linguine, or just in bowls with some French bread for soaking up the broth. A nice touch is to give everyone a lemon wedge or two to squeeze over their broth. Garnish with remaining parsley.
All of the ingredients in this dish can be modified to fit your tastes. Feel free to experiment on your own.