Why my linguine with clam sauce tastes a bit dull?

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Joined Feb 26, 2018
I used can baby whole clams and followed the usual instructions:
1. olive oil and butter
2. garlic
3. 1/2 cup of white wine
4. then after awhile, added the clam sauce from the can clam
5. add chopped parsley
6. a pinch of oregano
7. a touch of dry basil
8. some salt of course
9. then a couple of squeezes of lemon

then I tasted the linguine but it tastes sort of dull, and lifeless. I added a bit more lemon juices it helped to brighten up the taste a bit but still pretty dull. I then added some sugar and it helped a little but the same, but I don't want to add too much sugar because I don't want it to taste too sweet.

My guess it probably I used the sauce from the can. Would it help if I used dedicated clam source from bottle? Maybe I have to use fresh clams? Maybe I should add a lot of chopped parsley? I didn't want to use too much parsley because I didn't want it to overwhelm the clam.

Anyway any help is appreciated. Thanks.
 
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Some possibilities.

Maybe you forgot to salt your pasta cooking water? Maybe your wine was not good?

But most likely it's because you didn't add any chili, and you didn't let the pasta and the sauce simmer together long enough to meld the flavours.

By the way, lemon juice is not usually added in this dish.
 

phatch

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Were your parsley and oregano also dried? If so, then I think that would be the culprit. This dish doesn't cook long enough to gain what dried herbs can offer.

The canned clams don't help but aren't an automatic point of failure.
 
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Your best bet would be to use fresh clams. Much, much better flavor. And make sure you season with salt. Both the pasta water and the pasta (not too much, clams can be salty on their own).
 
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Thanks for the suggestions.
Hm... there are too many possibilities ... I didn't know cooking can be this complicated.
 
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Hi John and welcome to ChefTalk.

About your bland dish. There is nothing wrong with using canned clams. Judging from your description and recipe I can see a couple things to try next time. Realize that recipes are guidelines that don't always describe the cooking process.
Linguine with clams and white wine is all about flavor. You're in command of the flavor, not the recipe. Saute that garlic in butter and olive oil until fragrant, but don't brown the garlic. Now add the herbs. Dry herbs should be added before so they have time to disseminate their flavor. Add the white wine and bring it to a simmer. Your "after a while" comment comes to light here. Allow that white wine to continue to simmer and evaporate, until you've cooked off almost half of the wine. This is where the flavor comes in. Add in the canned clams with their juice. Season with salt and pepper. You should see a remarkable difference.
I also agree with the comment about the lemon juice. The old idea that lemon juice pairs well with seafood has been shown to be not as good as was once thought. Try the recipe again....and remember that recipes are guidelines.
 

pete

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What kind of white wine did you use? There are a few white wines that I don't like to cook with as I feel they are too light bodied and light flavored, the main one being Pinot Grigio. I just find it lacking in so much flavor that unless I really, really reduce it, it doesn't provide much flavor.
 
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I don't think your alone in not getting your Clam sauce recipe full of flavor. I think one problem is sauce to pasta ratio. With the pasta coming right out of the pasta water it really sucks up the sauce. You want this, but you also want to make sure the sauce has a lot of flavor and it's still a bit soupy. I would get some bottled clam juice, use fresh garlic and make sure it's enough to flavor that sauce. Canned clams IMHO aren't real great. Just think of what flavors you want to taste in the sauce and increase the amount. Just because this is a Clam sauce recipe doesn't mean it's the right amounts or even good. I never have a problem if my pasta dish has to much sauce. I do have a problem if I don't have enough........Good Luck........ChefBillyB
 
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Chefross you get the prize, "Season with salt and pepper." I would use white pepper.
 
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Joined Feb 26, 2018
What kind of white wine did you use? There are a few white wines that I don't like to cook with as I feel they are too light bodied and light flavored, the main one being Pinot Grigio. I just find it lacking in so much flavor that unless I really, really reduce it, it doesn't provide much flavor.

I actually used Pinot Grigio. Which white wine would you recommend?
Thanks.
 
32
1
Joined Feb 26, 2018
Hi John and welcome to ChefTalk.

About your bland dish. There is nothing wrong with using canned clams. Judging from your description and recipe I can see a couple things to try next time. Realize that recipes are guidelines that don't always describe the cooking process.
Linguine with clams and white wine is all about flavor. You're in command of the flavor, not the recipe. Saute that garlic in butter and olive oil until fragrant, but don't brown the garlic. Now add the herbs. Dry herbs should be added before so they have time to disseminate their flavor. Add the white wine and bring it to a simmer. Your "after a while" comment comes to light here. Allow that white wine to continue to simmer and evaporate, until you've cooked off almost half of the wine. This is where the flavor comes in. Add in the canned clams with their juice. Season with salt and pepper. You should see a remarkable difference.
I also agree with the comment about the lemon juice. The old idea that lemon juice pairs well with seafood has been shown to be not as good as was once thought. Try the recipe again....and remember that recipes are guidelines.

Thanks. I figure the step order and having the right amount each ingredient could making a world of difference but from my experience finding the right balance of flavor can be pretty difficult. For a newbie, it can take sometimes and lots of cooking so I guess there is no other ways. I also think the clam sauce coming from the can is probably not the most flavorful either. Maybe I should get a few bottles of clam sauce which hopefully should make things a bit easy as far as adding flavor.
 
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Joined Aug 15, 2003
You are finishing your pasta in the sauce as well, I hope? The pasta needs to absorb the sauce in order to flavor the noodles...that is what that whole dish is about. If you are just pouring your sauce over the cooked noodles, you are doing it 100% wrong.

And yes, there is nothing "wrong" with using canned clams, but you'll get much, much better flavor with fresh.
 
32
1
Joined Feb 26, 2018
You are finishing your pasta in the sauce as well, I hope? The pasta needs to absorb the sauce in order to flavor the noodles...that is what that whole dish is about. If you are just pouring your sauce over the cooked noodles, you are doing it 100% wrong.

And yes, there is nothing "wrong" with using canned clams, but you'll get much, much better flavor with fresh.

Actually I am not sure about pouring the pasta the sauce at the end vs. pouring the sauce to the pasta. I think there is pros and cons to both approach. I actually favor pouring the sauce to the pasta.

After the pasta finished cooking, there is a bit too much moisture in the pasta that can dilute the flavor of the sauce. Therefore I would prefer to keep them separated.
 
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Joined Aug 15, 2003
Actually I am not sure about pouring the pasta the sauce at the end vs. pouring the sauce to the pasta. I think there is pros and cons to both approach. I actually favor pouring the sauce to the pasta.

After the pasta finished cooking, there is a bit too much moisture in the pasta that can dilute the flavor of the sauce. Therefore I would prefer to keep them separated.

Well, then you are 100% wrong and that is a big reason why your pasta was no good.
 
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You can vary the recipe any way you want (less oil, less/more garlic, no tomatoes, etc) but the basic technique is described and demonstrated here by Mario Batali. I would recommend something very similar to what he does here.

 
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Joined Feb 8, 2009
You can vary the recipe any way you want (less oil, less/more garlic, no tomatoes, etc) but the basic technique is described and demonstrated here by Mario Batali. I would recommend something very similar to what he does here.

Someday, I didn't see you drop the mic and walk off stage. Thats the fun part when your 100% right.......
 

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