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August 2003 Issue
Fried Clams
by Philip R. Gantt
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Welcome to Seasoned Cooking and to Phil's International Flair!

As of this writing, I have only been back in California for 3 days, returning from a wonderful 9 day trip to Alaska. After one day of fruitless fishing on the Kenai River on July 3, we decided to fish the Kasilof River instead. As you can see, I had some pretty good luck. I actually caught 4 large king salmon on Saturday, July 5, releasing 3 and keeping one, the last fish of the day. I must say it was the best day of salmon fishing that I have ever experienced!

Before my scheduled days for salmon fishing, we had a few days of very low tides that made access to the clam beds very easy. Our target was the razor clam, and our limit was 60 per day, certainly more than enough for a couple of fried clam dinners and a large pot of chowder. We went clamming on July 1 and 2.

My new friend, Brent Burnett and I drove onto the beach at Clam Gulch on the Kenai Peninsula. After parking the car in the sand, it was only about a 50 yard walk to the clam beds. Within minutes, we could see dimples in the sand indicating the presence of buried clams. Using a small shovel, one digs next to the dimple and reaches in with the hand to locate the clam by feel. Pinching the top of the shell seemed to make the animal relax and release its footing, making extraction very easy. Within an hour we had our limit of 60 each.

Although the average clam is only about 5 to 6 inches in length, some get much larger as do many things in Alaska. The clams in the photo here were record breaking razor clams that were caught at Clam Gulch one March several years ago. These clams weighed in at 65 and 72 lbs. each! That's a lot of chowder!

I must admit that it took longer to clean our 60 clams each than it did to catch them. However, with a little experimentation, I discovered that I could remove the meat from the shell quite easily by using my thumbnail to sever the muscle that holds the clam shell closed. One must be careful when digging and cleaning these clams because the shells are rather thin and break easily, leaving a very sharp edge. There is a reason they are called razor clams. I was fortunate however, and didn't have a single cut on my hands. To clean the clams of sand, we used scissors to cut the bivalve into a fillet and removed the dark material inside. A final rinse in a colander helped to remove any remaining sand.

After our clams were cleaned, I offered my culinary skills to my gracious hosts, Brent and Shari, who put up with me staying in their extra bedroom for several nights. Shari was a bit surprised to see that when I placed the fried clams on a plate covered with a paper towel, that there was practically no oil on the paper towel. Fried food doesn't mean greasy!

Now, on to the recipe! Be well, and good eating!


Fried Clams

You can use any type of clam for this recipe, but fresh clams are definitely better. When purchasing clams at the market, be sure to select clams that are tightly closed to assure freshness. My "secret" for preparing fried clams that are practically grease free is twofold. First, use peanut oil that is very hot, approximately 375 degrees. Secondly, prepare the batter per the directions below. This batter will "seal" when placed in hot oil, thus preventing the oil from being absorbed.
  • 20 fresh clams
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 tsp. celery salt
  • 1/2 tsp. cayanne pepper or cajun spice
  • 1 pint peanut oil
Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl and add enough cold liquid to make the consistency like a thin pancake batter. The liquid can be beer or water, depending on your preference. Dip each of the clam fillets into the batter to fully coat and then transfer to the skillet with hot oil. Allow the clams to fry for about 1 to 2 minutes on each side, turning only once. Before removing from the skillet with a slotted spoon, allow the fried clams to drain by holding them on the side of the skillet for about 30 seconds. Transfer to a plate covered with a paper towel to complete the draining process. If you do it right, you will notice that there is practically no oil left on the paper towel when you are done.

Serve with vegetables of your choice and enjoy.

Note: This recipe works well with oysters as well. Fried clams may also be used as an appetizer.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 20 minutes

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