Jerry Figgiani, a martial arts expert, owns two karate schools on Long Island — East Coast Black Belt Academy in Middle Island and Traditional Martial Arts in Kings Park — and is the author of "From the Minds of the Masters" and "The Difference." He lives in Middle Island with his wife and two daughters.
What is your cooking history? I love Italian food; it’s my number one food of choice. I was influenced by my grandmother. My family was from Greenwich Village, and there were always Italian restaurants. These days, I’m very into going out to eat. My wife and I eat out three or four times a week, visiting Italian restaurants. I probably could have retired by now if we didn’t eat out so much. I love the Parkside in Corona. In Manhattan, Tony di Napoli, La Parma in Williston Park. Right near me, I like Lombardi’s in Middle Island.
What about when you travel? I teach seminars at dojos all over the world. A school is like a big family. After our workouts, we go out to eat. I’m one of the few westerners who has had the opportunity to teach in Japan. Mainly I’m in Okinawa, and when I’m there I eat the food that’s part of their culture. I went to China and tasted authentic Sichuan food. In Italy, it’s a no-brainer, everything is delicious. One of the best meals I had recently was in Ireland, cooked by the wife of my host. She owns a catering company, and made all kinds of breads and soups and stews that I had never had.
Where does this recipe come from? My father owned a few bars that served food. One of his chefs made a linguine and clam sauce dish for me. I remember it being a creamy sauce and it was amazing. Over the years, I started playing around with the idea, making a creamy, spicy sauce.
Tips for success? I make sure that I clean the clams well, so I can use whatever broth that is in the pot after they steam, at least a cup of it, to thin the sauce and add flavor. Some people like it more or less spicy. For my wife I adjust it, less spicy.
Serving suggestions? I like a cold seafood salad as an appetizer before this. And, of course, a lot of Italian bread for dunking into the sauce.
LINGUINE AND CREAMY WHITE CLAM SAUCE
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound linguine
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup flour
1 cup bottled clam juice
1/4 cup white wine
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Ground black pepper
3 dozen fresh littlneck clams, scrubbed
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
3/4 cups fresh Italian parsley
Crushed red pepper
1. Combine the garlic and olive oil in a small bowl. Cover and let stand overnight.
2. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook the linguine until it is al dente.
3. Meanwhile, make the sauce: In a small bowl, whisk together the heavy cream and flour until smooth. Set aside.
4. In a large saucepan, heat the garlic and oil over medium heat until fragrant but not brown. Add the clam juice. Whisk in the heavy cream mixture, wine, lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a simmer and cook until slightly thickened.
5. In a large pot, steam clams until they open (discard any that do not open). Transfer the clams to a bowl. Use some of the liquid in the bottom of the pot to thin the cream sauce.
6. Drain the pasta and place in a large bowl. Mix with some of the thinned clam sauce, 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, parsley and crushed red pepper to taste. Top with the remaining sauce and clams. Serve immediately with additional cheese on the side. Makes 4 servings.