If you’re looking for local or regional seafood anywhere up and down the East Coast, then clams are a dependable menu item. Whenever I go to the seafood counter at Whole Foods, there are at least two types of clams arriving from waters within 100 miles. Hidden under layers of cubed ice, I uncover them, like brushing aside sand to discover unknown wonders at the beach. Clams come in different sizes and color, each one being a personal treasure find—each one heavy, keeping within its shell, a delicate life.
This precious mollusc is not only vital to water systems, they are crucial additions to our healthy diet. Clams are one of the best sources for iron. Clams are also easy to get, not expensive (mine are usually about 2 for $1.00), unlikely to be contaminated, and farming them does little ecological damage. Clams are basically just a pure health winner. Leafy greens are also champions of iron. Clams deserve the best selection, which I think is parsley. So clams, meet parsley! Remember this: parsley has double the amount of iron found in spinach. So sprinkle parsley all around your chopped clams, and combine to make bites of iron-packed goodness. If you share the recipe below among four people, everyone should get about 100% of their daily need of iron. Hurray!
When deciding which type of clam to get, my heart set on Cherrystones as soon as a saw how thick and tough their shells were. I knew I need clams that could be chopped up and baked, so these tough cookies could handle the heat. The cracks between the two shells looked pretty obvious on most of them, so I hoped that shucking the oysters would be easier (for you, too!)
Baked Clams with Parsley
modified from: Williamson, Cici. “Baked Clams on the Half Shell.” The Best of Virginia Farms: Cookbook & Tour Book. 2008.
- 12 clams, 2-3 inches in diameter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 cup fresh bread crumbs
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 1/2 tablespoon grated fresh lemon zest
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- Wash the dirt off the clams and leave in the sink. Shuck the clams over the sink or on a cutting board, if that’s more comfortable. Pour the liquor (clam juice) into a small bowl, and place the clam in a mixing bowl. Once all clams are shucked, coarsely chop the clams and add back to the mixing bowl; set aside.
- Place 24 shells on a baking sheet; set aside.
- Preheat over to 450°F.
- Heat oil in a small skillet over medium-low heat. Add garlic and cook until very light brown, about 1 minute. Add crumbs, parsley, lemon zest, and cayenne pepper. Heat, stirring constantly, until bread turns brown.
- Stir bread mixture into clams; toss well. Add about 1/2 cup of the clam liquor to the mixture; toss well. The mixture should be smooth and easy to stir, like hot oatmeal. Add more liquor as necessary.
- Stuff shells with the clam mixture.
- Bake clams 13-14 minutes, or until lightly browned.
As you can see, there is no need to add salt as the clam liquor is already very salty. Serve with lemon wedges and parsley sprigs for color and juice to lighten up the clam mixture. Don’t be afraid to try shucking if this technique is new to you (it’s easy once you get your knife into the clam, and such a beautiful sight once opening the shells for the first time!). Bon ap, to iron!