Why hello there! Yes it's been a while. But no time for apologies, no time for explanation, I'm just glad you're still here.
Let me tell you about something incredible. Something that defines me. Something like Dell's, coffee milk, Rocky Point, Portuguese sweet bread and clam bakes. It's a food so dear to Rhode Islander's hearts that eating it brings back visions of lopsided tables sinking into the sand on a Block Island beach with a Jimmy Buffet tribute band playing in the background. And it's virtually unknown outside of the state!
Behold the clam cake! More of a fritter than a cake, it's sort of like a hush puppy embedded with salty, sweet & tender clam meat. Light and fluffy inside, with a crisp exterior and little bits of pleasantly chewy clams. They're great alongside a bowl of chowder (white of course! is there any other kind?) or with a squeeze of lemon or dash of hot sauce. This is the flavor of the Narragansett Bay in summertime. Perfect for this Independence day weekend!
Adapted from the Clam Fritter recipe by Craig Claiborne of the NYTimes as posted on One Perfect Bite
Use a large and flavorful clam for this dish. Since you're chopping them anyway, you don't need to shell out the extra money for tender cherrystones or littlenecks. Furthermore, they won't quite deliver the flavor of the larger clams.
approximately 2 dozen fresh quahog or mahogany clams (should yield about 2 1/2 cups clam meat)
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup reserved clam juice
1/4 cup 2% milk
1 Tbsp melted butter
zest of 1/2 a lemon
pinch of cayenne pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup finely ground yellow cornmeal
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
Rinse the clams under cold water and pile into a stockpot. Add about 1/2 an inch of water to the bottom of the pot and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer only until clams have started to open. Stir to allow more to open and simmer covered briefly until the majority have opened up. Allow to cool slightly
Remove the clam meat to a cutting board and discard all shells and unopened clams. Coarsely chop the clam meat and set aside. Strain the clam juice through a coffee filter to remove the grit. Some of this will be used later. Don't throw away the rest! It's great in chowders and other soups and it freezes beautifully!
Whisk together eggs, lemon juice, 1/3 cup of clam juice, milk, butter, zest and seasonings. Sift in flour, cornmeal, baking soda and baking powder and stir until just combined. Add chopped clams and parsley and stir until well distributed.
Fill a heavy cast iron skillet to about a 1/2 inch depth with vegetable oil. Preheat the oil over medium high heat until it is hot but not smoking. At the right temperature the handle of a wooden spoon will bubble when held in the oil. Dollop the batter into the oil about 2 Tbsp at a time, leaving plenty of room in between the cakes. Fry about 2 minutes on each side, until golden brown and crisp on the outside and light and fluffy inside.
Drain on paper towels and season with sea salt while still hot. Serve with lemon slices or hot sauce.