Saturday, May 23, 2009
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.
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 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