The couple told us every year they travel up to Maine to spend the summer and that one of their favourite things about the area is all the delicious seafood. After the clams, they donned their plastic bibs and tore into a couple bright red lobsters.
I hadn’t had steamed clams since I was a kid. My husband had never eaten them. They looked delicious so we ordered up a bucket. They did not disappoint. Those little gems were the perfect size, salty, chewy, and heavenly drenched in butter.
I remember having steamed clams growing up. Big pots of them in the backyard on the picnic table, at friend’s cottages and at lobster boils. I always loved fish and seafood and I have fond memories of summer vacations and all the deliciousness we’d enjoy – lobster, mussels, clams and who could resist a bowl of seafood chowder or lobster roll.
Since the Maine trip, I’ve been craving more of those delectable clams. I searched around for any local restaurants serving them and couldn’t find one. Lots of places have mussels and lobster, but no steamer clams.
I did find a lot of deep fried clams, which tends to be the most popular way to prepare them here. Although I will admit these are very tasty, all that batter and deep fryer fat isn’t really up my alley these days.
I talked to friends and suggested we pick up a few pounds and have a big feed.
Our first attempt wasn’t so successful. At one of the main supermarkets in Halifax we found a few but at the checkout the cashier noticed they didn’t smell so great. On closer inspection and sniff, we discovered they were dead, so we left those behind.
Even though I was a bit put off by the nastiness of the spoiled clams, I still couldn’t shake my craving. I decided to hit one of the larger fish specialty stores. Jackpot. A huge selection of steamer clams. My first question was, “Are they fresh?” “Just in yesterday,” said the sales clerk. “I’ll take two pounds.”
Off I went with my bag of crustaceans home to steam them up for a feast. They were yummy. A little too big for my taste. I prefer a fairly small clam about two inches long. While they weren’t as good as the Maine batch, they were pretty darn tasty.
My friends were now craving clams as well. The next weekend we stopped by the other local fish speciality store and got five pounds. This was the perfect appetizer for a summer family get together. We set up a little assembly line on their kitchen island. The big pot of clams at one end and then three dredging stations – hot broth for rinsing, melted butter, and then a new twist for me, was a dip in Old Bay seasoning.
They were absolutely perfect. With butter dripping down my arms, I was in clam heaven. And that my friends is how I fell back in love with clams.
If I’ve perked up your taste buds and have you craving steamer clams, here are a few tips and questions to ask when buying clams, from my good friend Dave Adler, owner Hooked Halifax:
- Always ask how were they harvested. You’re looking for hand-dug clams.
- Also ask when the clams were harvested. This is important. You want to buy clams harvested within several days of when you cook them.
- And how fresh do they need to be? Well they need to be alive. If any of the clams in the display case are gaping wide open with their tails (or “necks”) hanging out, these are dead.
- It’s okay if the shells are open a little, but when they are touched they should close up tight. If they spring back open, they are dead.
- And, if they smell at all, avoid them. Fresh clams don’t smell.
- Clams are highly nutrient dense foods and are very high in iron and a good source of other other minerals like phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper, manganese and selenium.
Over to you. What fruits of the sea do you absolutely love? How do you enjoy them? Any favourite summer memories involving fresh seafood you’d like to share?
Happy summer clamming!
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This post first appeared here in the Halifax Citizen on July 28.