Friday, March 29, 2013

Because It's Clam Season in Durham, North Carolina...

Stuffed Quahogs

The amounts in this recipe depend on the number of clams you have dug.  Or bought, if you are not so fortunate as to be able to dig your own clams.  So instead of giving you the exact amounts I have merely set out a formula that I find works well for me.   

This recipe can be used with fresh clams steamed for this purpose, but it is also an excellent use for clams and sausage left over from a clambake.  I prefer to use hard-shell clams (or quahogs, as they are known on New England shores) for “stuffies” because there is less liquid to deal with in the bellies, and because you then have the clamshells handy for stuffing.

(The part of Nashweena pond you do not want to go clamming in.)

For the stuffing:
for each cup of chopped clams, have on hand
 ¼ cup of breadcrumbs
one small yellow onion, diced
¼ cup diced celery
¼ cup diced red or green pepper (if desired)
2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
¼ cup cooked sausage (chorizo is preferred but any spicy sausage will do)
salt, pepper, and garlic to taste

If the clams are fresh, steam them until they are just open.  You don’t want to overcook them, especially if they are hard shells, as that will make them chewy. 

If you are working with clams left over from a clam boil, simply pull them out of their shells and rinse with warm water to make sure all the sand is gone.  Soft-shell clams, also known as “squirters” have a sheath over the neck which should be removed. 

If you have steamed the clams just for this, reserved some of the liquid.  Chop the clams and set aside in a bowl.
Sauté the vegetables and chopped sausage until the vegetables are soft.
Place the vegetables and breadcrumbs in the bowl with the clams and mix thoroughly.  Your hands are the best utensils for this job. 

Taste the mixture and adjust seasonings, adding salt, pepper, and garlic as desired.  If the mixture is too dry, moisten with a bit of reserved steaming liquid or chicken stock.

 In a perfect world you will have exactly the number of properly sized clamshells that you need.

The best part of stuffies is not the making, though, or the eating. Not for me. For me the best part is the clamming itself.
And I’m not talking rake in the water off a skiff clamming, or digging on the beach for steamers clamming, but the Cuttyhunk way of clamming as taught to me by Mr. Talented Toes himself, Paul Lehner. He’s my very best clamming partner, and in summer we go most Wednesdays, which is the only legal day to go. 

With your permit, (bought from the Cuttyhunk or Nashweena shellfish warden) and 8 quart (the limit per permit per week) bucket in hand, you motor to Nashweena harbor at low tide and find your special secret place in the harbor. 

Jump over the side into the sandy eelgrass and walk around on your heels. When you think you feel a quahog (and after the first one you can almost always tell clams from rocks) you dig it out with the toes of one foot and try and flip it up onto the top of your other foot. 

Then, balancing on your digging foot you gracefully lift the other foot up to where you can grab the quahog  off the top of your foot with your fingers, thus avoiding dunking your face in the water, Yoga practice comes in handy here. 

Fill the pockets of your shorts and then wade back to said boat and empty them into the aforementioned 8 quart bucket. When your bucket is full, you are done. 

Motor lazily back to the dock and give away ¾ of the clams. 

You can’t possibly eat them all yourself.