Tag Archive for 'maine clams'

Steamer Clam 101: Cooking Steamer Clams

steamer clams 300x199 Steamer Clam 101: Cooking Steamer ClamsMaine clams, pisser clams, Ipswich clams, soft-shell clams and long neck clams are all known as the steamer clam in New England. Steamer clams run a close second to Maine lobster as the seafood of choice for both residents and visitors alike. Clammers dig steamers by hand using a clam rake in the mud and sand flats in places like Essex, Massachusetts, Harpswell, Maine or Chatham on Cape Cod.

Soft-shell clams are called steamers because they’re best served that way! Tender and extremely rich and sweet, these small clams are traditionally steamed and enjoyed dipped in drawn butter. Steamer clams have soft and brittle shells and do not completely close since the long neck or siphon gets in the way. The best clams for steaming are of course, steamers, but littleneck clams, or cherrystones can be substituted. Steamers are also used for New England’s famous fried clams. If you plan to make your own fried clams or chowder, your best bet is to buy them shucked in their natural juice.

There is nothing better than a heaping bowl of sweet steamer clams. In New England, steamers are served along with their steaming broth and melted butter; the broth to douse the steamed clam meat in and to rid it of any residual sand, and the warm butter for dipping. Eating steamers is messy, so have lots of bread fo soaking up broth, and paper napkins for your fingers.

Shells may open or gape naturally: this does not necessarily mean the product is spoiled or dead. The siphon or neck, of a soft-shell clam will constrict when touched. A gentle tap on the shell will usually cause the clam to close. If a clam does not respond to a tap on its shell, or if the shell is broken, it should be discarded. Plan to cook your steamers soon after they arrive. To store clams in the shell, refrigerate (34-45 F) in a shallow bowl and cover with a clean damp cloth.

How to Purge Steamer Clams
Since steamers are raked from sand and mud flats, you will find some sand. A brine soak helps clams rid themselves of sand and grit before they are cooked. Soak clams in a solution of 1/3 cup of salt in 1 gallon
of water (just to cover) for about an hour in the refrigerator. Some cooks suggest adding a tablespoon of cornmeal to the salt mixture.

Steamer Clams with White Wine

6 pounds of steamer clams
6 chopped shallots
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 bay leaf

Sauté the shallots and garlic in the butter until softened and add to a large pot with wine, bay leaf and about two inches of water. Bring to a boil and carefully add clams. Cover and steam clams for 6-8 minutes until they fully open. Do not eat clams that do not open. Serve clams and broth in bowls and garnish with parsley. Don’t forget the crusty bread! Serves 4

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Fresh Clams: Currency of the Sea

Hard-Shell Clams

Hard Shell clams are sorted and sold according to size…the smaller the clam the more tender and expensive.From Smallest to largest, the categories are:

  • Little necks clams: The most tender: excellent raw, steamed, or used in whole recipes.
  • Top Necks clams: Tender, can be used as little necks.
  • Cherrystones clams: Not quite as tender as the above two. Good raw or steamed. Chop and use in recipes calling for minced clams.
  • Quahogs (or) Chowder: Named by the Indians they’re not tender, and are best used minced or ground in clam chowder, etc.

Soft-shell clams
Soft-shell clams are called steamers because they’re best served that way! Wash well and place in a pot with 4 tbsp. water. Simmer, covered, 5-10 minutes until shells partially open. Remove from pot with slotted spoon and serve in individual dishes. Dip each clam by its long neck into melted butter, laced with lemon juice. Then remove the black skin (covering the neck) and eat the neck too. It’s chewy and delicious! Strain the broth and drink it., seasoned with celery salt or mixed with tomato juice.

When you purchase clams, they should be alive. You can keep them alive in the refrigerator for several days. It is very important that they can breathe so do not place them in airtight plastic bags. When opening clams, examine each one, make certain they are still alive. If the shell is opened slightly, tap on it and it should close at least partially. Give it a little time as some move very slowly. If it doesn’t move at all, discard it.

Opening clams
Rinse clams under cold running water.
#1 Hold a clam with the hinged part against the palm of your holding hand. With your other hand, place the blade of your (or strong paring) knife against the crack between the shells. Squeeze the knife between the shells with the fingers of your holding hand. Then inserting the point, work the knife around inside the shell until both muscles are severed. Spread shells apart and scrape all the clam into the bottom shell twist off top shell. Scrape under the clam to be sure it’s completely detached from the lower shell.

#2 Hold a clam hinged side up, with the side of the hinge with the small black protrusion pointing toward the palm of your hand. Insert the point of a strong paring knife on the other side of the hinge where the two shells meet. Carefully work the knife in and then around the clam, and proceed as above.

Clams will relax their muscles and be easier to open if placed in a freezer for an hour or in a 450 preheated over for 5 minutes.

Seagulls have to work at opening clams too…they often fly 50 feet in the air with a clam, and drop it onto a hard surface.

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