Monday, May 30, 2011

Steamer Clams

While reading Snow Falling on Cedars (based in the Puget Sound area of Washington) for a recent book club, I began missing and craving some beloved Pacific Northwest treats. Growing up in Portland, Oregon we enjoyed many summers camping along the seashore. One of our favorite activities was clam digging. As kids we usually did this by hand, walking slowing through the wet sand during low tide, waiting for little bubbles of water to spring up from the clam holes that littered the beach, numerous as stars. Once you spotted the spout of water you had to dig quickly before the clam could bore too deeply into the sand. Even our chocolate lab got into the spirit, digging with her paws where we showed her. It was good fun, and delicious too, as my dad would steam the shellfish right there at the campsite.

While shopping for a book club potluck item, I came across wild steamer clams for sale at Costco. Never have I ever seen (live) clams for sale in Hawaii. Granted they were from New Zealand, but I couldn't resist after all that longing for the Pacific Northwest that was going on in my head. Terrible vegetarian that I am, here is a recipe for steamed clams.

Steamer Clams
serves 4 if main dish, up to 10 if appetizer

3 pounds fresh, live steamer clams
4 TBL butter
1/2 yellow onion
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 bay leaf
1 to 2 cups white wine, chicken stock, or water
1 loaf french bread or some other yummy bread

Place the clams in a strainer and rinse well, scrubbing to remove as much sand as possible. The USDA recommends soaking the clams in salt water for at least an hour (be sure to use salt WITHOUT iodine if you do this, iodine will kill the clams). I scrubbed my clams with some coarse salt and rinsed them at least 5 times. If any of the clam shells are open, tap the clam lightly on the shell, if it still doesn't close, discard. Chop the onion and saute it with the butter on medium high heat in a large, heavy pot. Once the onion is soft, add the garlic, pepper, bay leaf, and cooking liquid and bring to a soft boil. Add the clams and cover the pot with a tight fitting lid for 5-10 minutes or until shells have opened. Do not over cook and do not try to eat clams whose shells did not open. Serve with the bread. I like to put the cooking liquid in a bowl for folks to dip their bread in. Never discard this liquid, it can be used for many other things, like cooking veggies, and is so tasty you could drink it in a mug.

Enjoying our clams on the lanai

New Year's Resolutions? What resolutions?

Mad because she wanted clams, too

What do you love about the Pacific Northwest?

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