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September 2005 Issue
How to Prepare Clams
by Philip R. Gantt
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Welcome to Seasoned Cooking and to Phil's International Flair!

Well, my trip to Alaska didn't turn out as I expected. However, I did catch a 53 lb. king salmon, my largest yet! So, I won't complain too much. A large forest fire near Lake Tustemena and a westerly wind reduced the visibility to about 2 city blocks in Soldotna and Kasilof. No matter where you were, the smell was like standing in front of a campfire. However, the next day the wind shifted and blew the smoke toward Anchorage and I heard that they had to close one of the runways at the airport due to lack of visibility.

My last day in Alaska was spent taking a taxi boat from the fishing town of Homer to Jackaloff Bay at low tide. Our quarry was steamer clams. Digging the clams was a bit of work considering we had no tools and the shoreline was lined with kelp and a rocky bottom. To innovate, we used empty clam shells as digging tools as ancient people probably did. We carried garbage bags and buckets for our harvest. The clam shells weren't as effective as the hand rake garden tool that another person brought, but we got our share of clams nonetheless. The legal limit was 1000 per person, but we probably only picked only a few hundred between 4 of us. We also found a few larger butter clams that are great for chowder.

Read on to learn how to prepare these delicacies for an elegant meal...

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

 

Steamer Clams

  • 8 dozen steamer clams, (allow 2 dozen per person as a main course)
  • 6 quarts boiling water in large pot
  • 1 Tbsp. dried tarragon
  • 1 Tbsp. dried summer savory
  • 1 Tbsp. dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 Tsp. cayenne pepper or chili flakes
  • 1 Tbsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 Tsp. salt
  • 4 lemons, quartered
  • 1 lb. cooked pasta as a base
  • chopped parsley as garnish
  • 1/2 lb. butter, melted
If you purchase steamer clams at the market, they have most likely been "cleaned." That is, the algae they feed on has been replaced by corn meal or a similar food product in holding tanks. This process assures that sand and other substances are not in the product being sold. Do not purchase any clams that are opened.

If you harvest your own clams, you will need to process them yourself. To do this, simply place them in a bucket of clean water and add some corn meal to the water. Let them sit for about 12 hours and they will have filtered all the algae from their systems.

To prepare steamers, bring the water to a boil and add the seasonings to the pot. Also add the juice of 2 lemons and add the lemon rinds to the pot. Add the clams to the pot and allow the water to come back to a boil. Then turn off the heat. Within about 5 minutes the clams should open and are ready to eat. Discard any clams that do not open as they were probably dead before cooking.

Drain the pot into a colander and arrange the clams over a bed of pasta. Sprinkle the chopped parsley as a garnish and drizzle half of the butter on top. Serve the remaining butter for dipping and lemon wedges for individual plates.

 

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