A friend's son went clamming over the weekend and made quite a haul, so he shared some of it with us. A dozen 4-5 inch chowder clams, the largest of the quahog (pronounced CO-hog) family, were delivered to our doorstep, and Peter and I immediately resurrected a recipe for Baked Stuffed Clams that another friend shared with us years ago.
The effort to make these is not onerous but it's also not insignificant, and the results are divine - so we went out to our local fishmonger and bought a dozen cherrystones, the next smallest quahog, to complement the catch.
Peter loves a good baked clam and is always sampling them wherever we go, with disappointing results most of the time. What makes a baked clam disappointing? Too much bread, too little clam, too dry, and garlic (in any proportion). So, what makes a baked clam memorable and worthy of repetition? A moist proportional mixture of bread to clams - remember they're called baked clams, not baked bread with clams, subtle herbs and a little cheese (to hold things together), and no garlic, it simply overpowers everything.
In his opinion, based on decades of research, this recipe produces one of the best baked clams he's had. If you want the maximum clam flavor, bake some immediately and enjoy. These freeze beautifully and we enjoy them all winter, but we have noticed the distinct clam flavor is reduced a little once they've been frozen. Personally, I'll take them any way I can get them, and hope our clamming friends continue to share their haul.
2½-3 dozen medium clams - "chopped"
1 (14 oz) pkg Pepperidge Farm Herb Seasoned Stuffing
1 cup hot clam juice
¼ lb butter, melted
1 cup milk
1 Tablespoon (heaping) parsley
3 Tablespoons (heaping) Parmesan cheese
1 Tablespoon (level) dry mustard
Pepper to taste
½ cup cubed Swiss or Gruyère cheese
1 3-inch onion finely chopped
- Open clams, trying to preserve the shells. Separate the clams from the shells; place clams and as much juice as possible in a bowl. Scrape the shell clean of all muscles. Rinse shells well and let dry. (TIP: If the clams seem to be a challenge to open, place them in the freezer for about 20-25 minutes, you don't want to freeze them just confuse them, so they'll be easier to open.)
- Remove clams from juice, rinse under running water to remove any shell fragments, and place in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the clams are chopped, NOT puréed.
- Strain the clam juice through a fine strainer lined with cheese cloth. Do twice if necessary.
- Measure out 2 cups of clam juice (add store bought clam juice if there isn't enough). Place juice in sauce pan, heat to a simmer. (I found that the clam juice evaporated incredibly fast, thus the reason for measuring out 2 cups when you only need to use one.)
- In a large bowl, pour 1 cup of hot clam juice over the stuffing and stir together.
- Add the melted butter; stir to blend.
- Add the milk; blend.
- Add the parsley, Parmesan cheese, dry mustard, pepper, Swiss/Gruyère cheese and the onion. Stir.
- Add clams and toss together to blend.
- Stuff each clam shell.
- If you are going to cook them immediately, place the stuffed clams on a cookie sheet. (At this point, Peter sprays each clam with a touch of butter spray to ensure browning.) Bake in a preheated 350℉ oven for 15-20 minutes, or until brown.
- If you are going to freeze them, freeze them on a cookie sheet, stacked with wax paper in between layers, and wrapped in plastic or foil. Once the clams are frozen, put them in freezer bags so you can easily remove the quantity you want at any time (without them being frozen together). When you are ready to enjoy some, defrost them and then cook according to the instructions above, or (if you're in a hurry), defrost them in the microwave (Peter uses the Speed Defrost setting for about 5 minutes). Then, place them on a cookie sheet, spray each with butter spray (if you like), and bake in a 350℉ oven for 15-20 minutes, or until brown.
Enjoy ... these are really good!