By: Joseph Silva
NATURE AND DIGESTIBILITY OF CLAMS
Clams are bivalves similar to oysters in both form and composition. Because of the similarity in composition, they are utilized in much the same ways as oysters, being used extensively for food in parts of the country where the supply is large. There are numerous varieties of clams, and some of them differ slightly from each other in appearance, color, and flavor. Preference for the different varieties is largely a matter of individual taste.
Clams may be purchased loose or in the shell and they may be served in or out of the shell. However, when bought in the shell, they must be purchased alive and must be subjected to the same tests as are oysters. As in the case of oysters, they may be eaten raw or cooked. Their preparation for cooking is similar to that of oysters. In the raw state, they are easily digested, but upon the application of heat they become tough, and the longer they are cooked, the tougher they become. It can therefore be seen that the digestibility of clams is influenced very much by cooking.
If clams are to be opened in the home, First wash the clams to remove the sand, and then place a clam on a hard surface so that the pointed edge is up. Insert the thin edge of a knife into the very slight groove between the shells, or valves, and with a heavy utensil of some kind strike the top of the knife several times so as to separate the valves. Then, as in opening oysters, spread the shells apart, as shown, and loosen the clam from the shell it adheres to.
Like oysters, raw clams are generally served as a cocktail, or an appetizer, at the beginning of a meal. If they are to be served in the half shell, place them in a dish of cracked ice; if they are to be served without the shells, place the required number in a stemmed glass that is set in a dish of cracked ice. In either case, lemon or a suitable sauce, or both, should be supplied.
Steaming is the method generally adopted when clams in large numbers are cooked for a “clam bake,” but there is no reason why it cannot be used by the housewife when she wishes to cook only enough for her family. When large quantities are to be steamed, use is generally made of a steamer, but the housewife will find that she can steam a few clams very satisfactorily in a saucepan or a similar vessel.
To prepare steamed clams, scrub the shells of the clams until they are perfectly clean. Place the desired number thus cleaned in a saucepan and add enough water to cover the bottom of the pan about 1 inch. Allow this to cook until the shells of the clams open. Remove the clams from the pan and serve them in the shells. Provide each person with a small dish of melted butter into which to dip the clams as they are removed from the shells to be eaten. The liquid found in the clams may be poured from the shell before the clams are served, and after being well seasoned may be served as clam broth.
Another very appetizing way in which to prepare clams is to combine them with bread crumbs, season them well, and then bake them until they are well browned. Select several good-sized clams for each person to be served. Scrub the shells well and open them. Remove the clams and chop them into small pieces. To each cupful of chopped clams, add 2 cupfuls of buttered bread crumbs, 1 tablespoonful of chopped parsley, 1 tablespoonful of chopped pimiento, and 1 tablespoonful of onion juice. Season the mixture with salt and pepper and fill the shells with it. Place these in a shallow pan and bake in a very hot oven until the crumbs are well browned on top. Serve hot.
As oysters make a very desirable dish when fried in deep fat, so clams may be treated in this way, too. Remove the desired number of clams from the shells, wash them thoroughly, and dry them on a clean towel. Dip them into beaten egg, and finally into the crumbs. Fry in deep fat until they are a golden brown. Serve with slices of lemon.