The holiday season can be stressful, and like many of you we’ve been struggling to make this Christmas as good as all the others. We’re pulling it off…but it’s just been a lot harder than in past years. It is in these rough times that the true spirit of the season can shine through with the help of family and friends. After the washing machine and then the water tank both decided to quit this month, we needed a morale boost.
That boost came in the form of freshly dug steamer clams from the Annisquam River in Gloucester by my very talented friend Shep Means. He came by the Essex Shipbuilding Museum last night for one of our monthly talks…this one about a traditional clamming skiff built by local students…and handed me a enough clams for the wife and I to have a little bit of summer, in the depths of winter.
Speaking of eating clams in winter, did you know the local flats are open year round? If you visit Cape Ann during the off season, places like Woodman’s and The Village are serving up their famous fried clams and steamers without the lines or summer prices. It’s a great way to satisfy a guilty pleasure while also supporting local business in the slow season. Personally I always think seafood, especially shellfish, taste better in colder weather.
The Essex River has been having some robust clam harvests with lots of small “seed” clam for the future. Shep is formerly from Essex but now digs in Gloucester, where the story is similar: the mud is loaded with baby clams a few years away from harvesting. This is even better news when considering the threats of warming local waters and invasive green crabs loom over the local shellfish industry.
Last time Shep dropped off some clams to me I covered it here, so I want to steam this batch a little differently. I decided to use up some leftover rose wine and totally ignore the FODMAPs by using some garlic and onion. I figure if you steam shellfish in wine, you have to have some garlic, and if you are steaming soft shell Essex clams, then you need an onion in the pot. Then again, the holiday season is where diets go to die right?
Soft Shell Clams Steamed In Wine, Butter, and Garlic
- Steamer clams (littlenecks or mussels would work just as well)
- 2 Cloves garlic chopped
- 1 Small onion diced
- 1 Small carrot diced
- 1 Stick of butter
- About 1/2 cup of white or rose wine
- Several sprigs of chopped parsley
- Salt and pepper
- 1 bay leaf
Just like last time I made steamers, it is more guidelines than an actual recipe. Steamers really aren’t something I use measurements for, probably because I never know how many clams I have. I assume this time I have a little over a pound of clams, which I purged in cold tap water for about 2 hours to remove the sand. Since soft shell clams live in estuaries they can tolerate wide ranges in salinity, so they won’t die if you can’t purge your clams in seawater.
I decided to use my small Belgique soup pot since the bigger pots I normally use would be overkill. I started by sweating some garlic, onion and diced carrot in some butter. Then I added the herbs before the clams,and finally the wine and allowed them to steam. Once the clams opened I added the chopped parsley, melted the butter and poured off some broth. I served the steamers with big hunks of sourdough bread.
How Were The Steamers?
I never made steamers like that and I really liked the way the broth turned out. All the herbs, onions and garlic mellowed and took on a very holiday appropriate flavor. Dunking that crusty sourdough into the broth had a hint of Thanksgiving stuffing. The clams themselves were small and sweet, with only 2 that didn’t open. All the vegetables and herbs got trapped in the shells and made for a very flavorful bowl of steamed clams.
A big shout out to Shep Means for really helping turn this season around for me. It’s those little gestures that make all the difference and I’ll be looking forward to returning that favor in some way, in 2020.
Although I may squeeze in one more post before the end of 2019 I want to wish all my visitors, especially my followers, the happiest of holidays this season. Buying Seafood has been growing with each year and I’m so very thankful for all of you who visit. Here’s to a successful 2020!