Thursday, November 8th, 2012 | posted by mike
Man, do we love, LOVE clams! Steamed Ipswich clams (steamers), cherrystones on the half shell, manila clams over spaghetti, stuffed quahogs, fried belly clams, red or white clam sauce, clam chowder, clams casino, Portuguese clams Cataplana, grilled Maine razor clams, thin-sliced giant geoduck clams for sushi— the list goes on and the possibilities are endless. There are over 2,000 varieties in the world and the handful that we offer are a pretty good representation of what’s out there.
Our biggest sellers are the Quahogs. The name comes from the Narragansett Indian “poquahock,” a name that goes back as far as 1753. Quahogs are North Atlantic hardshell clams that have different names at different sizes. Pasta necks, special necks, littlenecks, top necks, count necks…it can get a little confusing. To simplify things, just remember that a small quahog like a littleneck (less than 2 3/4 inches in diameter) will be tender for steaming, great in sauces or in dishes like Cataplana or paella, and sizes smaller than littlenecks will be even more tender. The next size up from littlenecks are cherrystones that are tougher for cooking but great on the half shell or chopped and stuffed. Anything larger than a cherrystone are just called quahogs and these are great chopped for chowders or sauces or nice big stuffies.
The biggest selling clam in the world are manila clams (shown in photo). These little beauties came to us by accident back in the ’40s when they were brought in to our west coast with oyster spat from Japan. Now farmed in Washington and British Columbia, they are beautiful (every shell has a different pattern), so sweet and tender. The Japanese love them in miso soup. Italians make pasta con Vongole with them because they are very similar to the tiny Vongole that they have back home. They are also great in paella because they steam themselves open quickly over the rice.
Another great clam that we love are steamer clams, also called softshell clams, Essex clams or Ipswich clams (depending on where they are from). This clam is really one of the sweetest, most delicious clams. Steamers are the clam that you would see in a Maine Lobster Bake, but they are also great simply steamed or fried (nothing better in the world than whole fried belly clams). Razor clams (shaped like a long straight razor) that we bring in from Maine are also a tasty sweet treat. They are good steamed, but I prefer them fried or sautéed in butter. The giant geoduck clam (from Washington up to Alaska) can weigh 5 lbs and reach over a foot in length. Parboil and skin the long foot, slice then for sashimi—it’s amazing!
Don’t Clam up!
Winter is a great time to steam up your kitchen with lots of great clam dishes. Here are a couple of them from our recipe archive. Stop by the market and I’ll be glad to share my stuffie or casino recipes with you too!
Pasta con Vongole
Paella a la Valencia
Mike’s Thai Rice Noodle Soup
Hake with Clams