The Perfect Fried Clam
August 23, 2012
The sunsets are earlier. I'm overhearing conversations about school. It's time to ask myself if I have had my summer quota of fried clams.
I try not to overdo it. But this year the clams have been so good I'm considering adjusting my limit.
What makes one fried clam better than another?
For starters, the clams have to be fresh––not previously frozen. You want the thing to hold together nicely, and that just won't happen with a frozen clam.
Unless it's a clam strip. But that's a different animal altogether. Really: clam strips are made from the firm foot of a hard-shelled sea clam. (Strips were actually invented in the 1930s by an Ipswich entrepreneur who made an incredibly clever deal with HoJo's, where people far from our flats were turned on to fried clams.)
Nothing against sea clams. They're great for chowder. But when you order "whole belly" fried clams, you're getting steamers. I'm partial to them for that full-monty contrast of umami-rich body and chewy neck.
You want them lightly dredged in dry batter––a mixture of flour and spices. Wet batters are too heavy. It's important to toss the clams carefully to make sure they're not clumped up when they go into the fryer. I like to keep the oil on the hot side, so the clams will crisp without overcooking. Of course you don't want overused oil. But I've discovered that primo clams are always a couple of batches in, after the oil takes on a little fresh clam aroma.
"Hello," says my brother Alex. "There's nothing new about the way you're cooking the clams this year."
He's right, actually. What's different––and better––this year, are the clams themselves. Alex should know. He spent pretty much the whole summer purging them over at "the clam plant"––that's what he calls our new wholesale operation, the Wellfleet Shellfish Company. The steamers are bathed in tanks of filtered seawater that is constantly monitored for cleanliness while they spit out all the sand and other impurities that can mar the perfect fried-clam experience.
For the first time, we've been able to keep up with demand without having to buy steamers from Maine like we used to do. We're biased, but our local steamers (mostly from Monomoy in Chatham or Pleasant Bay in Orleans) sure seem bigger and better.
If you ever wondered why steamers are so expensive, go out digging sometime. These clams grow wild; steamers are not cultivated the way littlenecks are. They are dug with hand-held rakes, dragged through heavy sand at low tide. And the season, defined not by nature but by summer demand, is short.
Soon the diggers will take on other work for the winter. The "clam plant" will be all about oysters. And it will be a long wait for that next order of fried clams.
- March 08, 2019
A Taste of South Africa Wine Dinner March 13
- February 14, 2019
A Taste of Italy Wine Dinner Feb 27
- January 28, 2019
A Taste of Mexico Wine Dinner Feb 6
- January 10, 2019
A Taste of France Wine Dinner Jan 16
- December 18, 2018
New Year’s Eve at Mac’s
- August 22, 2018
Book your next event at Mac’s Fish House in Provincetown
- May 29, 2018
Wellfleet Restaurant Week at Mac’s Shack
- January 10, 2018
Mac’s Winter to Spring Wine Dinners
- January 03, 2017
Mac’s Fish House Provincetown Winter to Spring Dinner Series
- September 19, 2016
New Year’s Eve Dinner & Live Music at Mac’s Fish House Provincetown
- June 28, 2016
Story of a Fishing Family
- January 04, 2016
All You Can Eat Fish & Chips $15 Every Thurs at Mac’s
- December 16, 2015
New Year’s Eve Menu + Other Holiday Happenings at Mac’s
- November 06, 2015
Get Your Thanksgiving To Go at Mac’s
- October 23, 2015
Support our local Fishermen at the Dish On Fish Benefit - Mac’s Ptown - Nov 4
- October 19, 2015
Devil’s Purse Beer Dinner Oct 21 at Mac’s Ptown - RESERVE TODAY!
- September 29, 2015
Wine & Swine Dinner Oct 7 in Ptown - Reserve today!
- September 23, 2015
Fall Dinner Series at Mac’s Fish House Provincetown - RESERVE TODAY!
- July 17, 2015
Introducing our Small Batch Label - a new way to try a little taste of Mac’s
- June 25, 2015
Happy 4th! Free Shipping on Online Orders Over $100
- March 27, 2015
- February 05, 2015
Sweet Specials for Valentine’s Day
- December 19, 2014
Mac’s Provincetown New Year’s Eve Tasting Menu
- November 22, 2014
Smokin’ Good Oyster Sausage Stuffing
- November 04, 2014
Taking Orders Now! THANKSGIVING TO GO at Mac’s Markets
- October 16, 2014
OysterFest Weekend at the Shack
- October 06, 2014
It’s Time for Oysters
- September 29, 2014
Mac’s On the Pier Open Thru Oct 5
- October 09, 2018
Wine Dinner Series at Mac’s Fish House
- December 16, 2013
‘Tis the Season for Whole-Roasted Monkfish
- October 02, 2013
- July 02, 2013
- June 14, 2013
Alex’s Dogfish Sandwich
- April 12, 2013
Salmon for Between the Seasons
- February 12, 2013
Won’t You Be Mine?
- January 08, 2013
My Holiday Hangover Cure: Flounder
- December 06, 2012
The Perfect Sear
- November 23, 2012
The Once and Future Cod
- October 18, 2012
In the Kitchen with a Dream Machine
- August 23, 2012
The Perfect Fried Clam