Originally Published in The Wire NH, August 14, 2012
This is supposed to be a recipe column. However, there’s always a story behind what’s on my plate, and surely, this recipe could be no different. In fact, when I set out last week on my first ever single-handed sail, to the Isles of Shoals, aboard my 33-foot boat La Sirena (That’s ‘Siren’ in Spanish, for all you Gringos), the last thing on my mind was what I was going to make for supper. And while I had provisioned the ship for several days of floating around the Isles of Shoals, I did not expect to be serving more than a couple of guests, let alone serving anything I had harvested from the sea myself.
By mid-afternoon I was met with cheers and relieved radio hails from surrounding vessels as I successfully hooked myself onto a mooring in Gosport Harbor and declared my victorious arrival with a Jolly Roger flag. In minutes, a few friends donning snorkels and flippers joined me, and we commenced a well-deserved swim, exploring the refreshingly chilly waters between Star and Smuttynose Islands. And that’s when I spotted them… Surf clams! Diving to depths of up to 15 feet, we collected 20 clams, and what to have for supper was excitedly decided.
Anyone who has spent anytime at the Isles of Shoals would probably agree that it holds a bit of magic in its water, sky and craggy rock landscape. Being able to visit by private boat is a treasured experience of mine. It has afforded me the opportunity to befriend like-minded folks who are lucky enough to live and work on the archipelago during the summer months. For me, a visit is always a welcome adventure. For them, a dinner invitation aboard La Sirena, which often includes a few heated rounds of dominoes and a few more happy rounds of Dark and Stormy’s, is always a welcome change of pace. And so, with surf clams in hand, the dinner invitations were extended, and before I knew it, I was steaming, stuffing and grilling these gifts from the sea for seven seafaring souls who arrived in a platoon of dinghies from Appledore and Star Islands. Even the Captain of the Schooner Harvey Gamage, which had anchored just outside of the harbor for the night, joined in the revelry and reminiscing that often occurs amongst those whose lives are spent primarily on the water.
So how about that recipe, Captain? Of course! Surf clams range in size from 4-8 inches, and their meat is mild and sweet. The inside meat is primarily chopped up and used for chowder, with their “tongue” being the dreamy stuff of fried clam strips. Recreational harvesting of surf clams in designated areas is legal in New Hampshire and Maine without a license. If you’re not up for diving for them yourself, check with your local seafood retailer for availability. If surf clams aren’t available, this recipe can be modified to use large fresh oysters.
Whether aboard your ship at sunset at the Shoals, or in your own backyard, sharing these delicious gifts from the sea with friends and family (and a little bit of rum!) will surely be a memorable experience.
~ Ali Goodwin a.k.a Gal Foodie
Grilled Stuffed Surf Clams
10 Live Surf Clams – 5-7 inches each
1 cup baby portabella mushrooms, chopped coarse
2 slices of white bread (I used a hamburger roll!), crumbed
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
5 cherry tomatoes, sliced in quarters
4-4 inch slices of Genoa salami, diced
2 tbsp butter, diced
1 clove garlic, diced fine
4-5 fresh basil leaves, chopped
1 tbsp DennyMike’s ‘Cue Stuff Fintastic Rub
¼ cup white wine
1 tbsp lemon juice
Steam the clams for 15 minutes, or until they open on their own. If you can, steam them in fresh seawater. Remove the meat and tongue from the shells, saving the shells for stuffing. Rinse separated meat under cold water to remove any sand. Split the shells into two parts, also rinsing to remove sand. Dry meat, chop into small chunks and let cool.
In a mixing bowl combine all ingredients, stirring well. It should be moist but not soggy. Adding more breadcrumbs or mushrooms will help if it gets too wet.
Preheat the grill (approximately 400 degrees)
Fill shells, open side up, with enough filling to just reach the sides. Sprinkle tops with a little more grated Parmesan. Place shells directly on grill grate and cook for 10 minutes, or until tops and edges are browned and slightly crispy.
DennyMike’s ‘Cue Stuff Rubs can be found locally at Hannaford’s and Whole Foods Market, or online at (http://www.dennymikes.com)