On the terrace of their 1950's farmhouse in the lush Portuguese countryside, Veronica and Victor served dinner to ten aspiring photographers and two brilliant artists, Eva and Milly. The feast's highlight was a towering bowl of wine simmered, harvested that morning, cockles. Cockles are literally the sweet hearts of the shellfish world. Heart-shaped ribbed mollusks, they are prized for their petit, sweet, tender meat. A simple broth backdrop of parsley, garlic, and white wine proved just the right base for sopping up cockle flavored juices. While any dry, white wine may be substituted, a young slightly effervescent Portuguese crisp, full-bodied, wood-aged white wine from the Vinho Verde region makes this bivalve dish authentic.
8 minced garlic cloves
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 bottle Vinho Verde wine
4 pounds live cockles
1 large bunch cilantro, finely chopped
1 lemon, cut into wedges
1. In a large colander, run cold water over the cockles for several minutes to remove sand. Scrub them carefully with a clean sponge to eliminate any algae or dirt on the shells. Throw out any opened cockles.
2. Heat a large DUTCH OVEN over medium heat, add the olive oil and then the garlic. Heat the garlic until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the wine, salt, and washed cockles. Turn the heat to high and lower the heat to medium once the the wine begins to bubble.
3. Simmer the cockles until open, generally 5 to 7 minutes. Discard any cockles that remain closed.
4. Serve the cockles with the poaching liquid. Sprinkle cilantro over them juste before servine. Pass the lemon wedges.
Cockles are tiny mollusks, buy 1 pound per person for a small plate and 1.5 to 2 pounds per person for a large plate. A sancerre or Greek Assyrtiko are unoaked, dry wines that pair well with cockles.