The name is irresistible, and last Saturday I stopped resisting. I hit up Teresa at Hama Hama Company for some fresh clams and made my very first attempt at Manhattan Clam Chowder. If you're a shellfish lover, you know about Taylor Shellfish at our Thursday market, but Hama Hama is new this year to the BFM. Like Taylor, they carry fresh oysters (live and shucked) and clams, as well as tasty smoked oysters. When my friend picked up a pack of the Teriyaki Smoked Oysters, I asked her, "What will you do with them?" She gave me one of those you-have-to-ask? looks. "What else? Pop them like candy."
She also came away with two dozen live clams to whip up her own batch of chowder and provide moral support. Yes--as someone who had never before prepared shellfish, I needed moral support. Not only did C coach me through clam prep, she also called to say that, when she steamed her own open, one of the little guys had a crab inside!
Step one: rinsing and scrubbing. The clams already looked sparkling clean, but I managed to get a few pans of water clouded up. Like most moms, I have plenty of "little helpers" in the kitchen, and the clams certainly caught my second-grader's eye. This is the poor child whose only "pets" are the chickadees that come to the outside feeder, so naturally, no sooner did the clams put in an appearance than she was begging to keep one as a pet. (I promised her some empty shells in return for some slave labor.
Step two: boil/steam the puppies for 5-7 minutes until they pop open. In space, no one can hear you scream, and the same holds true for clams in boiling water. I suspect, if I threw the clams in with a twinge of guilt, I'm still not ready for an Annie-Hall-style lobster scene. Check out the rich clam broth. After I poured that out into a measuring cup and let any remaining sand settle out, it provided a luscious base for the chowder.
Step three: pry the little suckers out of their shells and chop them up. About a hundred years ago (before kids), my husband and I spent a day in Siena, Italy, popping into a little no-name restaurant for dinner. What I ordered there has gone down in history as the Plate of Death, although the menu called it, innocuously enough, the Seafood Plate. The waiter brought me a heaping platter of...Death. Crustaceans of every variety, clams, oysters, fish! All whole and intact, looking like themselves, only...dead. Suffice to say, I don't do super well with things that look like themselves, only dead, which is why this was my first attempt and do-it-yourself shellfish. I am relieved to say that clams are not overly gross, and I didn't have to call in the fourth-grade boy to do the job for me.
Step four: throw the chopped clams in the soup and heat through! Manhattan Clam Chowder, if you recall, is basically a tomato-vegetable soup with a clam broth base and clams thrown in. I figured it would go over better with the kiddoes than opaque, potato-y chowder, and I was half right. (The boy wouldn't touch it.) Note the salad of Alm Hill spinach, River Farm cucumber and homegrown tomatoes, dressed with Fosse Farms Provencal.
Rather tasty! Pick up some clams this week and give it a try. If chowder isn't your thing, Hama Hama has a sheet of serving suggestions and recipes. Bon appetit.