This is my my Dad (on the right) with his friend Harvey. These two old salts go shellfishing all the time here on Old Cape Cod. Saturday was quahog day. They belong to the Barnstable Association for Recreational Shellfishing, a non-profit that advocates for good water quality and shellfish propagation in town.
Yes, I realize the sexiness factor is probably more than you can bear. Surprisingly, even though the ocean temp was only 36 degrees, I became hot in these waders. Clamming is a damn good workout!
So what do you do with all these happy little mollusks? You make clam chowder. I followed the official recipe from Legal Sea Food's cookbook for their famous New England Clam Chowder and it came out amazing.
Legal's, as they're known, is a Boston restaurant chain that offers the best seafood dining in the city. They have locations in ten states now.
Whether it's littlenecks, clams, or quahogs, they open up after about seven minutes. Quickly remove them from the pot once they've opened because this is when they are tender. Like calamari, mollusks get tough when overcooked. Don't cook them beforehand and make the chowder the next day, or freeze them once they've cooked. This too will make them gross and chewy.
The Legal Sea Foods recipe calls for two ounces of "salt pork." I didn't even know what this was. It kind of looks like bacon and is sold in one-pound packs.
You render it for the liquid fat, in which you fry the diced onions. Cook until clear, 5-7 minutes, and then add your clam broth and some fish stock along with the cubed potatoes.
This is what it looks like right before you add cream and the chopped clams. Between the harvesting and the cooking, producing clam chowder is a lot of work, and now I know why this stuff sells for $48 a gallon, and $17 a quart.
But it's worth it! A most delicious chowder. Don't forget the oyster crackers. If you want to try the recipe, it's online here.