Saturday, May 23, 2009

Clamming Success! First Recipe: Stuffed Clams

Yesterday I went to the seafood market and was appalled that two dozen clams cost $18. For clams! On Cape Cod, where they are free for the taking.

As soon as I left the market, I headed right over to Town Hall and got a shellfish permit. We’ve wanted to dig our own clams for years, but just never got around to it. We even have the equipment, which is fairly basic. All you need is a clam rake, a wire bucket and a gauge to make sure your clams are big enough.

Even though I already had the two dozen clams that I bought in the fridge, I couldn’t wait to get started. We headed down to Linnell Landing Beach on Cape Cod Bay as soon as the Kitchen Genius got home from work. After about an hour of very hard work, we had one clam each.

Not such a great start, but we came home, opened those suckers and ate them raw with a bit of cocktail sauce and Tabasco. There was something really thrilling about eating a clam that had been in the ocean just a half an hour earlier.

This morning at the Orleans Farmers Market, I asked a shell-fisherman friend for some tips, because we obviously needed them. I learned that the best time to go clamming is an hour before low tide and the farther out onto the flats you walk, the better. I also learned that you don’t have to dig six inch holes like we did yesterday (whew!) because clams are only about two inches down.

If you’re in the right spot at the right time, you really do just rake them up. And that’s just what happened when we went clamming again this afternoon. We hit a payload and FILLED our basket in an hour. It was like a treasure hunt – and highly addictive. KG had to drag me away.

We had a bounty of clams, but there was already pot of chili simmering on the stove for dinner. (After yesterday, I wasn’t taking any chances.) But those gorgeous clams were just calling, so tonight KG decided to make stuffed clams for an appetizer.

He adapted a recipe from Howard Mitcham, who for years was considered to be Cape Cod’s master seafood chef. Even Anthony Bourdain tipped his hat to Mitcham in his memoir, Kitchen Confidential, declaring Provincetown Seafood Cookbook the best seafood cookbook EVER. That shout out has made the out of print cookbook a collectible that sells anywhere from $100 - $500 dollars.

If this recipe is any indication, Mitcham’s reputation is well deserved. No exaggeration, these were the best stuffed clams I’ve ever tasted. They were light in texture, but bursting with briny clam flavor. I’ve actually never been a big fan of stuffed clams because the ones I’ve ever tried were in restaurants. The restaurant versions tend to be as dense as hockey pucks and the only hint there is a clam involved is the shell the stuffing is packed in.

These are a whole other creation and so tasty we plan to fill our freezer with them.

The Recipe:

Stuffed Clams
Adapted from “Clams, Mussels, Oysters, Scallops & Snails” by Howard Mitcham

1 dozen large sea clams
4 cups bread crumbs (made from day old French bread in food processor)
1 stick butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 yellow pepper, diced
1 rib celery, diced finely
3 slices bacon, minced
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
Pinch thyme
Pinch ground cumin
1/4 cup white wine
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons sherry

Wash clams thoroughly. Pour one cup water in a large pot, add clams, cover and steam the clams until they are open (about 15 minutes). Save the liquor (juice from clams). Remove the clams from their shells, chop and rinse thoroughly to remove any sand. Place in food processor and pulse four times.

Melt butter in a large skillet and sauté the onions, pepper, celery, garlic and bacon until vegetables are soft. Add wine and sherry and cook for three minutes. Add clams and herbs and spices and cook for 2 more minutes until heated.

Meanwhile, strain clam liquor through coffee filter to remove any sand. Mix clam mixture, bread crumbs and 1 cup clam liquor. Stir until well combined. Stuff the mixture into empty half shells if eating immediately. (If freezing or making ahead, stuff one half shell and top with other half shell. Place rubber band around the shells to hold them together.)

Dot with butter and bake at 375 degrees for 10 – 15 minutes until golden brown on top. If cold, bake at 350 degrees for 20 – 25 minutes until heated through and golden on top.

For a printable recipe click here


Christo Gonzales said...

excellent story about clamming I wonder if the waters around NY are safe for this? this recipe looks very mouth watering!

vanillasugarblog said...

I used to go clamming. Haven't done that in years. I always wonder if the clams are safe to eat around these parts with all the pollution.
That stuffing looks perfect. I swear the thyme & sherry is what makes it best.
I wish we had that weather from thurs & fri back, god that was nice.

Ciao Chow Linda said...

Lucky you to be able to live on the Cape and go clamming. That clam looks terrific and so appetizing. You make me want to get some clams this weekend (and I will make your recipe)

Alicia Foodycat said...

They look delicious! How amazing that you collected them yourself!

noble pig said...

Nice catch! I adore stuffed clams!

Leslie said...

OMG..your caught your own clams? How freakin awesome is that!!!!!!!!!!!!

Laurie said...

Yep, it's awesome. Tonight I made clam chowder. Total yum.

Dawn, I'm pretty sure the clams are as safe as any you buy since we went clamming right next to an aquaculture shellfish bed that actually supplies our local seafood market. So, I think you are safe if you shellfish in the bay.

That said, Doggybloggy - I'm not at all sure about the waters around NY. But if you ask at your local fish market, they'll know the answer.

Donna-FFW said...

I used to go clamming with my dad when I wa a little girl.. Crabbing also. Thx for bringing back some fond memories.

Your recipe looks fantastic. I LOVE the filling.

Sara said...

I've never been clamming, but it sounds like fun! I love clams, can't wait to try stuffing them.

Katherine Roberts Aucoin said...

How fantastic that you caught your own clams. I bet they tasted better than the ones you bought!

Your stuffing looks so moist. The sherry put it over the top.

Robin Sue said...

Your story is so funny! Only one clam each after all that time. Well the fisherman gave you some great tips, look at that bucket of clam, so beautiful. Stuffed clams are a favorite of ours too. But wow I bet the water was cold!

Pam said...

You lucky girl! We went to the Oregon coast last weekend to dig for razor clams - we only got five. I wish I had a bucket full of those tasty clams.

I've never had stuffed clams before but after looking at the recipe and your picture - I am going to have to make them soon.

Jersey Girl Cooks said...

These look so good! I would love to dig my own clams...maybe we 'll try it this summer.

Deb in Hawaii said...

How fun! I have always wanted to go clamming but I never have. Your stuffed clams look amazing!

jh said...

Great looking recipe! Thanks so much for a wonderful post and great blog. It is always so inspiring to me.


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Karen said...

Although I don't remember how, I just found your blog today and am so glad! Love these stuffed clams! I grew up in MA and we used to go clamming at low tide... lots of fun!

emiglia said...

We buy our clams pre-stuffed every summer from the seafood market. They're tasty, but kind of dense... bordering on those hockey pucks you describe. As soon as I hit Long Island, you can bet I'll be making these!

bueller's way said...

This is a great receipe as I've had a similar dish on the cape. The clam I had used Chourico which is a spicy portuguese sausage but I'd love to try this bacon version. I'm putting putting a link to this recipe on my blog so others can see the different possibilities.

Edward T said...

this recipe is delicous. the clams i harvested this morning from cape cod bay are the best. along with the peppers,garlic and onions i picked from my garden about an hour ago make a huge diference in taste

Laura @ wyldethyme said...

Just made these the other night. Recipe is awesome! thank you for shaing! Am using it in an upcoming post on my blog (totally linked back to you though!)