New England style stuffed clams are a delicious appetizer made with steamed clams & seasoned buttered breadcrumbs, baked until crisp on top but moist within.
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One of the great things for me about having lived in a few different places, and traveling, is trying different foods and in particular the regional specialties. Sometimes they are everywhere, sometimes they take a little more hunting down or you just don't notice them at first.
They can often be fairly simple, humble dishes using local produce to show it off at it's best. Other times they are dishes that suit the climate perfectly, whether that's something warm and hearty or light and refreshing.
Having lived in the Boston area for a few years now we've managed to try a good number of the regional foods, many of them a few times. New England style stuffed clams are a regional dish that I wasn't aware of before we moved here but it's one we've grown to love.
However I had never made them myself for a while. And once I did, I knew I'd need to make them again soon.
New England style stuffed clams are very common at festivals and events in the area and are a staple in summer 'clam shacks' alongside lobster rolls, battered seafood and chowder. Sometimes they are called stuffed quahogs, after the name of one of the most common types of clam they are made from.
One of our local fish markets has a restaurant where we've had them but I've also memorably enjoyed them at the cranberry festival we've been to in Cape Cod a couple times alongside one of the tastiest seafood bisques I've had (one to re-create another day!).
What are New England-style stuffed clams?
New England style stuffed clams are essentially large clams steamed, the meat removed and diced then mixed with a mixture of buttered breadcrumbs, onion, garlic and parsley.
There's usually a bit of additional flavor from some lemon juice and a little paprika or cayenne pepper and some have red pepper mixed in. The mixture is then stuffed back into a half shell from the clams and baked until brown and slightly crisp.
They are similar to, but not the same as clams casino. Those also include breadcrumbs and pepper, but they also have bacon and some other flavorings. Both are good, but I'm personally a big fan of the flavors in these.
Variations on stuffed clams
The texture of the stuffing can vary from very smooth to a little chunky. Probably unsurprisingly, many commercial versions are a bit heavier on the breadcrumbs than I have made here, but the flavors are essentially the same.
I've made them slightly chunky as I like to be able to notice the clams in there and alongside less breadcrumbs, you get lots of delicious flavor coming through.
What type of clam should you use?
The most common type of clams to use are quahogs or cherrystone but I think any large clam would be fine. Smaller ones won't have enough meat compared to the size of the shell, plus the larger amount of filling keeps it more moist inside. They could work, but definitely try to get large clams.
New England style stuffed clams are something I always associate with enjoying outdoors on a nice day but they really work anytime. They are especially good as an appetizer or alongside other foods to make up a lunch or dinner. However you have them is up to you, but do give them a try as they are truly delicious. They're a New England treat that should be enjoyed wherever you are.
Like seafood finger food? Try these!
- Hot phyllo crab cups
- Baked mussels
- Oysters Rockefeller
- Scallop and chorizo stacks
- Plus get more ideas in the appetizer recipes archives.
New England style stuffed clams
- 8 clams large, quahogs or cherrystone
- 3 tablespoon unsalted butter
- ½ onion
- 1 clove garlic large (2 small)
- ¼ red pepper
- 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs loosely packed
- 2 tablespoon fresh parsley finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- ¼ cup parmesan finely grated
- ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper (to taste - I used ¼ teaspoon and you can tell it's there; you can use paprika if you prefer it not to have the heat)
- Preheat the oven to 350F/175C.
- Rinse the clams of any grit then steam clams in around 1in/23cm boiling water until they open up, around 8-10min. Remove them from the water (save some of it), allow the clams to cool then take them off the shell - if a bit gets stuck don't worry about it, that's the 'foot' that's not as tender to eat. Dice up the clam meat relatively small. Split the shells open and keep 8 of the best for stuffing. NB if clams don't open on steaming, don't use them, this means they were already dead.
- While the clams are cooking, finely dice the onion and pepper and mince the garlic.
- Warm the butter in a skillet/frying pan and soften the onion in the butter for a minute or two. Then add the garlic and pepper and cook another minute before adding the breadcrumbs.
- Cook the crumbs a minute before adding everything else (parsley, lemon juice, parmesan, cayenne pepper (or paprika) and diced clams). Mix well. Add a tablespoon or two of the water from cooking the clams so that the mixture holds together fairly well.
- Divide the mixture between the 8 shells you held back and press it so it holds together. Put them in a baking dish and bake for approx 20 minutes until they gently brown on top.
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See more regional specialties:
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- Mom’s City Chicken by My Life Cookbook
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