For most California girls, the idea of “digging for clams” isn’t really part of our cultural makeup. But out in Rhode Island, and the beaches south of Cape Cod, digging in the sand for your dinner is apparently a regular summertime activity. My friend Alden (age 8) and her sister Piper (my goddaughter, age 5) took me clam digging this weekend. It wasn’t exactly what I expected. Although we went out in low tide, we still had to get chest deep in the water to find a sandy spot to scrape the bottom of with our toes. We found about 6 empty shells or rocks for every intact clam. We were out for more than an hour, shoulders sunburned and toes scraped, nearly stung by red jelly fish, and managed to get a grand total of 9 clams (3 clams each). I know there are more efficient ways to do this (as I’m sure some of you will tell me), but at the end of the day, it didn’t matter. Hunting for clams was just a great excuse to play in the warm sea water on a beautiful sunny day.
Here’s the recipe for stuffed clams (also called “stuffies”) that Alden and Piper’s mom Heidi made with our hard-earned catch. Do you have a favorite recipe for stuffed clams? Please let us know about it in the comments. I’ve heard that they are especially good with a little Portuguese sausage mixed in the stuffing.
Although this recipe calls for fresh clams, you can also make this with canned minced clams (use one 6.5 ounce can, drained of all but 1 Tbsp of clam juice). Bake as directed on clam shells, or bake in a casserole dish and use as a dip with crackers.
If you've purchasing clams, keep them in the refrigerator covered with a damp, wet towel. If you have dug up your clams, keep them covered with cool sea water in a bucket. Throw away any cracked or broken clams.
- 10 large chowder or quahog clams, rinsed, sand and grit removed
- 3 Tbsp minced onion
- 1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
- 2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley (or 2 teaspoons dried)
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 Tbsp lemon juice
- 1 cup bread crumbs
- 1 Tbsp clam juice (or cooking liquid from steaming the clams)
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 Fill a large pot with 1 1/2 to 2 inches of water. Bring water to a boil. Add the clams to the boiling water. Reduce the heat to a simmer and let the clams steam for approximately 6-10 minutes, until the shells open. Remove clams from the pot and let cool enough to handle. Discard any clams that have not opened (if they haven't opened it means they were dead to begin with and should not be eaten).
2 Remove the clam meat from the clams (not the clam foot which is attached to the shell) and mince finely. Break apart the clam shells from their hinges. Rinse. Pick 10-12 of the cleanest, nicest looking clam shells and set aside.
3 Preheat oven to 350°F. In a sauté pan, melt the butter on medium heat and add the minced onion. Once the onions have softened (2-3 minutes), add the garlic. Cook the garlic for 1 minute, then add the parsley, bread crumbs, minced clams, lemon juice, and clam juice. Stir until the stuffing mixture is completely moistened. (If too dry, add a bit more butter or clam juice; if too wet, add a bit more bread crumbs.)
4 Lay clam shells on a baking dish. Scoop a little stuffing mixture onto each clam shell. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan. Bake for approximately 20-25 minutes, until Parmesan is lightly browned on top.
Variation: Cook a few strips of bacon until fat renders but not brown or crispy, chop and mix in with the stuffing. Use crumbled up Ritz crackers for the breadcrumbs. So good!