Stuffed clams are one of those classic New England dishes that fed me throughout my childhood. You can find them in seafood restaurants, at the bar, or packaged perfectly in the freezer section of your local supermarket. With the perfect mixture of quahog clams, bread, and cheese, these were a staple dish throughout my childhood.
A pack of twelve clams perfectly placed on a Styrofoam container would yield 4-6 meals for me. When dad wasn't around, I could heat them up in the microwave in a matter of minutes. I'd always bust out the bright yellow plastic container filled with "lemon juice", and add a touch of sour to the briny clams and bready filling.
As the years passed, I eventually outgrew my childhood stuffed clams obsession. However, even all these years later, my eyes still light up when I see stuffed clams in the seafood department of my local supermarket. A few months back, I stopped by the Unity Food Hub to pick up a produce order for work. As I waited for my order to be packed, someone asked if I wanted a stuffed clam. I gladly accepted, and once home, I steamed it up and dove in. It was amazing, and it instantly brought me right back to my youth. The only difference was this clam was made from scratch. It didn't include any of the strange ingredients that you now see in a lot of commercial recipes.
What's up with all the Ingredients?
Traditional stuffed clams are composed of just a few ingredients: clams, onion, bread, cheese, and seasonings. Unfortunately, store bought conventional stuffed clams have turned into an industrialized food that's loaded with more fillers than real ingredients. Given the amount of shitty ingredients listed below, this dish is on the "best not eat" list for me.
Conventional Stuffed Clams
Water, Bread Crumbs (Enriched Wheat Flour (Flour, Malted Bay Flour, Reduced Iron, Niacin, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Water, Yeast, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Salt, Contains 2% or Less of the following: Dough Conditioners (Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Ammonium Sulfate, Calcium Sulfate, Potassium Bromate, L-Cysteine Hydrochloride, Enzymes, Ascorbic Acid), Corn Flour, Calcium Propionate, Sesame Seeds, Poppy Seeds, Dried Onion, Egg Solids), Textured Soy Protein (Soy Flour), Canola Oil, Clam Meat (Clams from Certified Waters),(Clams, Water, Food Starch-Modified, Sodium Tripolyphosphate, Sodium Hexametaphosphate), Salt, Garlic, Hydrolyzed Corn and Soy Protein, Spices, Onion, Natural Butter Flavor (Maltodextrin, Slat, Starter Distillate, Paprika and Tumeric), Citric Acid, Parsley and Paprika.
As with many of my childhood favorites, an ingredient and preparation upgrade is essential. Although bread is generally the main ingredient in a stuffed clam recipe acting as the filler, I decided to forgo the starch, and make this a more low carb appetizer. While I have no issues with eating high quality bread occasionally, I find that it's best to wait for when I come across a stellar sourdough. In place of the starch, I used fresh Italian sausage. This is another food I know very well. Italian sausage contains the perfect array of seasonings to match up with the clams. Lastly, I added tasty, fresh crab meat to make this dish a real winner.
How to make Upgraded Stuffed Clams
- 8 quohogs
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 Italian sausages, casing remove, meat crumbled
- 1 8-ounce tub picked crab meat
- 1/4 cup good quality parmesan cheese
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 cup loosely packed parsley leaves, roughly chopped
- First start by steaming open the clams. Rinse them well under cold water then place in a pan wide enough to keep them in just one layer. Add about 1/2 inch of water then cover. Cook on high heat until all the clams open. Remove the lid and allow to cool to room temperature.
- Meanwhile, warm a few tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat. Cook stirring often until soft and translucent. Add the garlic, cook until fragrant then add the sausage. Continue to cook, using a wooden spoon to combine the veggies and meat until fully cooked. Remove from the pan and allow to cool.
- Remove the meat from the clam shells, saving the liquid inside the shell. Place all the clams on a cutting board and roughly chop. I like the variance of texture here, so don't over chop. Add them to a mixing bowl along with the cooled sausage mixture.
- Add the crab, cheese, and spices then gently mix, being mindful not to break up the crab meat too much.
- Adjust the seasonings with sea salt, a splash or two of fresh lemon juice, and a little bit of the clam liquid. You want a bit of moisture in the filling, but you do not want it to be wet.
- Twist each shell apart, then use a spoon to stuff each half with a generous portion of the filling. You should end up with about 12 stuffed clams.
- When ready to eat: warm for 20 minutes in a 350°F oven. Serve with a real lemon and hot sauce.