Rinse and scrub clams under a thin stream of cold water. Discard any that are open or broken. Drain well.
Place the chiles, tomatoes and garlic cloves in a medium saucepan, cover with water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
Cook for 10 to 12 minutes, until the chiles have plumped and rehydrated and the garlic and tomatoes are fully cooked, soft and mushy, but not falling apart.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer the tomatoes, chiles and garlic to a blender, along with 1 cup of the cooking liquid, and allow to cool slightly. Add the cumin, oregano and 1 teaspoon salt. Puree until smooth. Set aside.
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil and 2 tablespoons butter over medium-high heat in a large casserole or saucepan with a lid. When the butter begins to foam add the onion, bell pepper, leek and carrot. Cook vegetables, stirring often, for about 5 to 6 minutes, until they have fully softened and begun to lightly brown along the edges.
Stir in the wine or beer and 1/2 teaspoon salt, and simmer for about 4 to 5 minutes, until the wine or beer has just about evaporated. The vegetables should be quite soft and moist but not wet.
Pour the tomato puree over the vegetables, bring to a boil and add all the clams. Cover the pot, reduce the heat to medium and cook for 7 to 8 minutes, until the shells open.
Turn off heat and let rest for 5 more minutes. Uncover and, using a slotted spoon or tongs, remove all the clams and place in a bowl. Transfer the sauce and vegetables to a bowl or a large heatproof measuring cup and wipe the casserole or sauté pan clean. Add enough water or broth to the sauce to measure 5 cups.
Remove about 3 dozen clams from the shells and discard the shells.
Heat the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat in the casserole or sauté pan until hot but not smoking. Add the rice and cook, stirring often for about 3 to 4 minutes. Rice will crackle and become milky white. Don’t let it brown.
Stir in the reserved sauce and veggies and the remaining teaspoon salt. Stir well, add all the clams, both shelled and those still in their shells, bring back to a boil, cover and reduce heat to low.
Cook for 15 minutes, until most of the liquid has evaporated and the rice has cooked. Taste the rice, and if all of the liquid has almost evaporated and rice is too al dente or not fully cooked, add another 1/4 to 1/2 cup water or broth, scrape the bottom, cover and cook for a few more minutes.
When ready to serve fluff with a fork, garnish with fresh parsley or cilantro or both. Serve and enjoy.
Cooking with shellfish can be intimidating. But fear not, you can always trust reputable vendors when getting fresh ingredients. They should have the location, date, and “use by” information readily available if the harvest tag isn’t already on the packaging. Speaking of packaging, make sure the clams can breathe — they should be in mesh or perforated bags. This also gives you the opportunity to smell the salty ocean air. If they smell fishy, walk away because they are past their prime.
Although we can find over 150 varieties, there are basic cooking principles that ring true for all hard-shelled clams. Use the clams when they are at their freshest — do not let them sit in the refrigerator for more than 48 hours. Double-check that the clams are alive just before cooking as well. Just give each one a tap to make sure they close up tightly. If you notice that any are chipped, cracked, or open, you’ll want to toss those out.
Can’t get enough seafood? This dish of Mexican Rice with Shrimp combines some of the same authentic flavors but delivers a completely different culinary experience! If that’s not enough, head over to Flavorful Seafood and Rice Dishes to satisfy your craving and discover new recipes to try.
Sautéing the rice only takes a couple of minutes but is a complete sensory experience. The rice will let you know when it’s ready, and constantly stirring ensures that you will pick up the signs. The mixture turns milky white, sizzles, and becomes a little more difficult to stir when it’s time to add the sauce.
Want to try more dishes from Pati Jinich? Using ingredients that you probably already have in your kitchen, her recipe for Lentils and Rice with Caramelized Onions is utterly delicious and a great way to mix fluffy Mahatma® Jasmine Rice with hearty legumes.