“I can teach a chimp how to make linguini and clams. I can’t teach a chimp to dream about it and think about how great it is.” — Mario Batali
Clams are God’s way of saying “Here, taste the ocean”. Like many shellfish, clams have a hard protective shell to hide their delicate, sweet meat from hungry predators. But I am not deterred.
I have foraged for clams in the muddy bottom of Shinnecock with my feet and collected half a bushel of Littleneck clams in a couple of hours. Some of the best clams I’ve ever had were from Parsons Seafood in Tuckerton, NJ. The fresh water that drains out of the NJ pine barrens into the bay and creates a great environment for clams to thrive. The Parson’s family has been farming clams for generations and their prices are quite fair.
Littlenecks are the smallest commonly available size of east coast hard shell clam. They’re named after Little Neck Bay on New York’s Long Island, once an important clamming center. Littlenecks are best for eating on the half-shell (raw) because they are the tenderest and sweetest. They’re also great steamed, roasted or on spaghetti. Cherrystones are named after Cherrystone Creek on Virginia’s eastern shore. They’re a little larger than littlenecks and can be eaten raw, roasted, steamed, in chowder, or stuffed.
Here are three easy recipes that let you enjoy a taste of the ocean.
Clams Casino- Mystic Island, NJ
2 1/2 To 3 – dozen clams
1/2 ts Salt
1/2 ts Pepper
1 c Water
2 Cloves garlic
1/4 c Butter
Squares of bacon
Cook bacon until half way done, remove from saute pan, when cooled cut into 1 inch strips. In same pan, melt butter, add chopped shallots and the 1/2 tsp Old Bay, sauté for 2 minutes.
Scrub clams well. Place clams in broiler or on grill on shallow aluminum tray. In bottom, place water, garlic, butter, salt and pepper. Cook on high heat until clams open. Layer clams on half shell. Spoon the broth over clams. Squeeze lemon juice over clams. Place bacon squares on each one and broil until bacon is crisp. Serves 8.
White Clam Sauce For Linguine Parson’s Clams Tuckerton NJ
1/2 c Olive oil
2 dozen Whole baby clams
3 Garlic cloves, minced
1/2 c Dry white wine
4 ts All-purpose flour
1/4 ts Red pepper flakes
16 oz Minced clams (canned or fresh)
1/4 ts Salt
3 tb Chopped parsley
Drain and reserve juice in the cans of minced and whole baby clams. In medium saucepan heat oil. Add garlic & saute for 2 min. Stir in flour. Add reserved clam juices, wine, red pepper flakes and salt. Bring to boil & simmer for 10 min. Add minced clams, baby clams and parsley. Return to boil, then keep warm while preparing linguine. When linguine is done, pour sauce over top and toss gently and serve.
Coney Island Deep Fried Clams
2 cups finely crushed oyster crackers
1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon ground marjoram
1 1/2 dozen fresh clams, shucked
Vegetable oil for frying
Mix cracker crumbs, poultry seasoning, salt, cayenne, garlic powder and marjoram in large plastic bag; set aside.
Beat eggs slightly in small mixing bowl. Gently stir in clams.
Remove a few clams with a slotted spoon and add to cracker mixture. Shake to coat well. Remove clams from cracker mixture; set aside. Repeat with remaining clams.
Heat 2 to 3 inches of oil in deep-fryer or large saucepan to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
Fry a few clams at a time, about 30 seconds, or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Serve immediately.