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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Clams As Food



Clams have been around for 100s of millions of years and humans have been eating them for nearly 200,000 years according to anthropologists. Now personally I believe that is because they taste great, and although most people agree, opinions do vary. Some types of clams do not taste good, for example cockles, and some may even be borderline inedible, but many are commonly consumed. These include soft shell clams, often called steamers, quahogs and ocean quahogs, two totally different yet very similar species, geoducks, and surf clams. Technically a clam is a bivalve that burrows in sediment as opposed to swimming bivalves like scallops or bivalves that attach themselves to substrate like oysters. Clams are filter feeders, and some species are commonly enjoyed raw as well as cooked a variety of ways. We explore several below.
Steamers are northeastern Americans soft shell clams that are steamed until the shells open, which normally only takes 3 or 4 minutes maximum. I often eat them as is, but it is traditional to dip them in the water they were steamed in first to remove any sediment and then in melted butter. Other types of clams can be served steamed as well, but to many clam aficionados they are not true "steamers." Steamers are accompanied very well by cold beer.
Clams can also be served deep fried, and these are simply called fried clams. They are dipped in bread crumbs before frying, although in some places a choice of batter or crumbs may be offered. Most people prefer crumbs and in fact most places only after crumbs. These may be eaten as is or dipped in tartar sauce or less commonly cocktail sauce. The best for frying are soft shelled clams, the same type as used for steamers, and may be called "whole clams" to distinguish them from deep fried strips of surf clams, a larger hard shelled species.
Quahogs are the variety most often served raw. They are open, half the shell removed, and served with lemon and cocktail sauce on the side. Although there are potential health issues many people eat them every year with only positive effects. Smaller quahogs are usually the ones eaten raw, and are traditionally called littlenecks for the smallest ones and cherrystones for larger ones.
Other methods of preparing them include baked stuffed, which involves chopping up the meat and mixing it with breadcrumbs and seasonings before placing back in half a shell and baking, clamcakes which are similar to baked stuffed but formed into a patty, and various types of clam sauces for pasta dishes, and much more.
For a lot more on eating clams, please visit Clams and Steamed Clams.
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