Returned home yesterday from a round of errands to find a dinner invite on the answering machine. Our host is fond of clams, so I decided to be a good guest and arrive with some. It was 3 pm, the sun was low in the western Mordor-looking November sky, and a honking wind out of the north was making the anemometer os the roof spin up to 30 knots on the gusts. The thermometer displayed a nasty 24 degrees, and with the windchill (and being too lazy to look at the chart) I guess it was was 15 degrees, at least.
On went the waders and a ton of layers — t-shirt, wool shirt, wool vest, Filson packer coat — and stupidly, a pair of fingerless gloves and my Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby baseball hat. Grabbed oars, clam basket, oarlocks, boat keys, and drove down to the beach where I dragged the dinghy down to an extreme low-tide, and then rowed, with the wind at my back, out to the boat.
I rowed out to find an inch of mushy saltwater ice on the floor of the boat and a big smear of seagull guano over the foredeck. Leave your boat in the water until it is one of only six in the anchorage, and it is guaranteed to turn into a popular bird toilet. I dropped the motor, got it to start, and nursed the choke for five minutes until it was warm enough to idle without farting out. I picked the mooring line off of the poop encrusted cleat and headed down the bay to my favorite cherrystone and littleneck spot.
When I got to the head of the harbor and tossed the anchor over the side, the effects of the north wind over the full fetch of the bay was very choppy and the boat was getting whacked with white caps that burst up into the air and froze all over everything. I decided to make this a fast expedition, so I grabbed my Ribb rake and jogged over to the little river where the little clams live. I made ten very productive pulls of the rake, and when I had two dozen clams, packed it in. The baseball hat was useless and my ears were at the point where they felt like they were on fire. I can take some cold, but this was nasty, windy, and mixed in with blowing sand.
The ride back was the coldest thing I have ever experienced. I tried going slowly, but that was prolonging the misery, so I knelt down behind the console, got my head out of the wind, reached up, and floored the throttle, sneaking looks over the bow to make sure I didn’t snag an oyster company float.
I got to the anchorage in time to see the fire department launch their rescue boat. For a second I thought it was for me, but then I saw Santa Claus in the bow and realized it was time for the Christmas tree lighting in the park. I was too cold to feel all festive and happy to live in a village. I needed warmth and last weekend’s leftover chowder, so I got the boat put to bed, rowed in like the last 100 yards at Henley, and was back in the house bitching about the cold to my wife exactly 30 minutes after departing.
I let the clams rest for an hour, then went at them with my favorite clam knife, a short-nosed Dexter Russell scallop knife (I know, wrong knife for the wrong clam, but I like it).
I made Clams Casino. Easy recipe, and a favorite of many as it involves bacon.
- Preheat oven to 450
- Make a garlic butter with half a stick of salted butter, juice from half a lemon, a tablespoon of minced parsley, two minced garlic cloves, and a tablespoon of dry vermouth. The juice and vermouth won’t integrate very well, but no matter.
- Make a bread crumb mixture of 1/2 a cup of panko (Japanese bread crumbs), a quarter cup of rough chopped red bell pepper, another table spoon of parsley. Run it through a Cuisinart.
- Open a dozen clams and loosen the meat from the shell but try to keep as much clam juice in the shell as possible.
- If obsessive, fill a cookie sheet with rock salt, if not, just place the clams on the pan and try not to spill the clam juice.
- Top each clam with a teaspoon of the butter then a half-tablespoon of the bread crumbs.
- Cap every one with a square inch of sliced bacon
- Bake until the bacon looks done
I turned the other dozen into plain old raw clams with lemon juice and cocktail sauce (real fans eschew both).