Friday, March 6, 2009

Market Day 3 in the south of France. Discovering Tellines, the tiny baby clams from the Camargue region.


A French specialty in Provence, tellines are tiny baby clams no bigger than your fingernail. They are harvested by fisherman in the nearby Camargue region south of Arles. The lady selling the tellines in the market gave us her special recipe. The only problem was she spoke no English. Understanding a few French words along with hand gestures, we understood that the clams were sandy and should be rinsed well and prepared with olive oil, garlic and parsley. We purchased a demi kilo (one pound) and headed home to give them a try. There's Italian parsley growing in the tiny herb garden at our house so we'll snip a little and proceed with the recipe.

The owners converted an old well into an herb garden.



French Tellines

Wash, rinse and soak tellines in salt water for several hours to remove the sand. Drain well. Toss in a skillet over medium heat with a small splash each of extra virgin olive oil and white wine (our addition). Cook for about 1 – 2 minutes until they open, taking care not to overcook.



Toss some chopped fresh parsley and garlic in the skillet and stir to incorporate with clams. Serve immediately in bowls with plenty of napkins.



Let's go to the terrace and try the Tellines.





Bon Appetit


Join us next time on our tour of Provence as we visit one of Patricia Wells’ favorite bistros – Le Bistrot du Paradou. While we were dining there we met Fran Warde, author of numerous cookbooks, including My French Kitchen, coauthored with Joanna Harris. Until then, bonne chance - have a good day.

19 comments:

  1. Those clams look excellent! I'm enjoying your tour of Provence!

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  2. I am thoroughly enjoying your tour through Provence. If I can't be there I will visist virtually through your blog:D

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  3. I am enjoying your tour too. I'd love to sample a couple of clams - they look delicious!

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  4. You write beautifully and your photographs are remarkable. I'm looking forward to your next installment - I'm a Patricia Wells groupie.

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  5. 5 Star Foodie, Bellini, Katherine & Mary, I'm so glad you're enjoying Provence with us. I wish we were there right now, except it is cold there in March.

    I love Patricia Wells also. I took three of her cookbooks with us on this trip. My husband thought I was crazy but the cookbooks came in very handy for reference and he used them also.

    Sam

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  6. Those clams look amazing - I love Patricia Wells too, do you have her Vegetable Harvest book? The recipes are quite simple, but so good.

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  7. Man! I wish I was sitting with you eating those clams. I would love to tour around test, tasting and cooking food all around the world.

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  8. Please tell me when this tour is finished, then I will return to this blog, because this is killing me.....just joking!!!!! I am just so envious of all the places that you visit!!!!!

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  9. Sam,
    Hope you will be willing to give us advice when we go to Provence next year. We want to rent a house.
    Penny

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  10. I would love to taste those clams. We buy the smallest clams we can find (Littleneck)when they're available wild caught, not farm raised, and I cook them the same way and serve them over pasta. The white wine is a critical component.

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  11. I have cooked many recipes from the Provence area years ago in my work, I have a friend who goes to France at least once a year and when we lived near her, she would bring me gifts like fresh dried herbs, oils, and other goodies!

    I am going one day, I went through France once in my early twenties on a train to Holland...

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  12. Sam,
    I'm enjoying your tour and wish I could go there. This dish looks really good. I enjoy your blog and look forward to the dishes and photos that you post.

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  13. I'm so glad you stopped by my blog so I could find yours...it's wonderful! Such beautiful little clams...can't wait to read more! :)

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  14. What adorable little clams!! And that herb garden looks so cool. Oh, you are living a dream!

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  15. Hi Carolina Kitchen, aren't the French tellines the same little clams called coquina that we have all up and down the Carolina coast? If they aren't exactly the same, they are very similar.

    Ken

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  16. Ken – That’s an interesting point. When we were at the market in France, the vendor there told us Tellines were unique to Provence and that her husband was a professional fisherman who gathered them in the sandy soil of the Camargue south of nearby Arles. When we returned to our cottage we looked up Tellines in Patricia Wells “Provence Cookbook,” written in 2004, which we had taken with us. In it Patricia says Tellines are a French specialty found only in Provence and she serves them at her home in France as appetizers. So, not knowing much about different types of clams myself, being a visitor to the area, and based on what I considered local knowledgeable sources at the time, I never gave it another thought.

    Your comment prompted me to google Tellines. I found on one site a visitor like myself to France was in Arles and her host there told her that Tellines are native to the Mediterranean coast of the Camargue. She went on to say that when she returned home she googled Tellines and found that they can also be found in Italy. In further research I’ve discovered that they are called Arselle in Italian and are abundant along the southern coast of Lazio. The same site says the Arselle clams are called Wedge clams in English, which led me to get out my shell book. It says Wedge clams are found in nearly every temperate and tropical beach and lists the Atlantic coquina among the Wedge clams.

    Further research on the Wedge clams found that they come in a variety of colors and are found on both sides of the Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea. It went on to say that one variety of wedge shells are the Tellines, a specialty of the Camargue, the Rhone delta. They are cumbersome to harvest and to eat. In the US and Canada they are virtually unknown as delicacies but in France, Spain, Portugal and Italy it’s quite a different story.

    All interesting stuff which made me wonder how Patricia’s Provence Cookbook could have been wrong. I googled her current site, went to the glossary and found Tellines. It said they are “seen” in Provence and the Camargue, which is inconsistent to the cookbook’s “a specialty found only in Provence” statement.

    Ken, I appreciate your bringing up this interesting discussion and apologize for my confusion.

    Now you’ve got me wondering if the French Tellines are related to the Sunrise Tellin shells which we found in abundance on the beaches when we lived in the Bahamas. The Sunrise Tellins are larger than the Tellines, but it would be a shame to think we lived there all of those years and missed something as delicious as this.
    Sam

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  17. "co·qui·na n. 1. Any of various small marine clams of the genus Donax that are common in the coastal waters of the eastern and southern United States and have variously colored, often striped or banded shells."

    That's from the American Heritage Dictionary.

    Wikipedia's French version says that tellines are Donax trunculus, so they are definitely related.

    I imagine that the Sunrise Tellin shells in the Bahamas are another member of the family, and North Carolina coquina shells often have the sunrise pattern on their shells. If anything, they are even smaller than the tellines in your pictures.

    When I was growing up 50 years ago there were millions of coquinae on our beaches near Morehead City. I don't know if they are still here. And I've never cooked them, but I've seen recipes for making clam chowder out of them. Let me look through my N.C. coastal cookbooks.

    Here's a blog post I did a while back on the subject of shellfish for sale in a poissonnerie in central Paris.

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  18. Ken, thank you for all of this terrific information. I enjoyed your tour of the Poissonnerie in Paris. It sounds like you are leading "la bonne vie" in France. We hope to return there soon.
    Sam

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I enjoy reading each and every comment. I appreciate your taking the time to visit my blog and I hope you'll return again soon.
Sam