Most New Englanders have three categories for the Atlantic hard-shell Quahog clam. Little necks, usually eaten on the half-shell with cocktail sauce, or cooked in various ways and served with pasta, are the smallest - usually about 1-1/2 inches in diameter. The next size up are called cherrystones, and they average 2-1/2 inches in diameter. The largest are called quahogs, which is derived from the Narragansett word “poquauhock,” and they are thick and about 3 inches in diameter or more.
Many recipes for baked clams exist in New England. Our Marketing Director, Paul Williams, hails from Lil Rhody and offered up his preferred recipe for stuffed clams. It uses cherrystones and includes a combination of both Italian and Portuguese ingredients that are readily available in southern New England.
Ingredients (serves four)
16 cherrystone clams
1 cup of bread crumbs
½ cup of chopped large Bermuda onion
½ pound of Chourico sausage
1/3 cup of Pecorino Romano cheese
1 tsp. of dried oregano
¼ tsp. of black pepper
3 tsp. of butter
2 tsp. of olive oil
Directions: I would recommend using cherrystones that are as close to 2-1/2 inches in diameter as you can find. If larger, you will have to increase the quantities of ingredients listed for this recipe to make enough stuffing. Fish markets in New England will let you select the ones you want. As you open them in preparation for stuffing and cooking, the clam meat inside will be cut in half. I scrape the clam meat from one side into the other, so 20 clams would make 20 half-shelled stuffed clams. Open them over a bowl to catch the clam juice, as you can use it in the stuffing as it flavors the stuffed clam.
For bread crumbs, I like to make my own, using dried Italian bread. If available (and it is in many southern New England markets), you can use dried Portuguese sweet bread or muffins. Leave it on the counter to dry for a day, and then chop it in a food processor. Use enough to make one cup of bread crumbs.
Chourico sausage is also available in most New England markets. If you can’t find it you may use Andouille or Italian sausage, as long as there is some spice and/or a bit of heat. I take about a half pound of Chourico (remember to remove the casing first) and grill or cook it in a skillet. After grilling, finely chop in a food processor and set it aside.
Finely chop half of a large red Bermuda onion. Hand chopping is best, not in the food processer, as you don’t want it to liquefy.
- Open the clams. Save the clam juice. Place the opened clams on a cookie sheet or baking dish.
- Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees
- In a large pre-heated skillet, add the olive oil and when the oil is hot, add the onion.
- Once they are translucent (about 4 minutes) add the chopped sausage, mixing with the onion while the sausage heats for a couple of minutes.
- Add the butter to the sausage/onion mixture and as soon as it is melted, remove from the heat and add the bread crumbs, pepper and oregano. Mix all. Add whatever clam juice you collected. If mixture is really dry, add just a bit of water as you don’t want to stuffing to be soggy, but a bit moist so it can be formed is fine. Once fully blended, mix in the cheese.
- Top each clam with an equal portion of the stuffing mix.
- Place in the oven and bake for 15 minutes, or until clam is cooked.
- Serve with lemon slices, as a touch of fresh-squeezed lemon juice adds a lot.