A few weeks back I had a successful quahogging expedition and was lucky enough to dig up a little over a dozen of these marvelous mollusks. On that day, upon returning home with my treasure, I rinsed off the quahogs, put them in a Ziploc bag, and stuck them in the freezer – putting them on ice, so to speak, until I had the time and occasion to make stuffed quahogs. And, today, on this rainy day, I finally had the chance to make my first ever stuffed quahogs. They turned out beautifully, so I thought I’d share the recipe.
Now, before I tell tale of my maiden voyage to stuffed quahog land, I’d like to take this opportunity to talk about these delicious treats. Most of the stuffed quahogs served in restaurants around the Cape are rather underwhelming. Even my beloved Raw Bar, land of the divine lobster roll, comes up short. Their stuffed quahogs, like those at most other places, are heavy on the bread crumbs and light on the tastiness. Do I still order them? Hell yes! Similar to other personal weaknesses (such as rhubarb pie, handsome men, and action movies – to name a few) I just like them, even when they’re kind of bad. But when they are good, life turns golden – for at least a moment or so.
When I want a good stuffed quahog, I don’t go to a restaurant, instead I head to the kitchen of my friend Mary Ellen. For as long as I can remember, she has made the best stuffed quahogs in this great land of ours. Hers are tasty, a bit spicy, and completely addictive. So, today, having my own quahogs to stuff, I called her and asked if she would share her recipe with me. She flatly refused. When I protested, she said, “Every woman must have her secrets.” And this, I believe, is true, so I didn’t press. But, as a result, I was forced to venture forth ill-equipped, with only my memory of her stuffed quahogs to guide me. Luckily, my quahogs turned out beautifully. I even brought some to Mary Ellen herself and she gave them two thumbs up – which is the only approval I will ever need.
And, one more thing before I get to the recipe, the big trick in this process is to freeze the quahogs. I do hope the quahogs’ little brains (do they have brains?) don’t realize they’re freezing to death, but let’s set ethics aside for a moment. A frozen quahog is way easier to handle than a fresh one. It makes them a cinch to open and the clam juice gets frozen within the shell, hence when you scoop out the insides, you don’t loose any of the precious liquid. This makes the whole process easier and less messy.
This recipe yielded 12 big and yummy stuffed quahogs.
14 medium-sized quahogs, removed from the shell and minced
1/2 cup of Linguica, removed from the casing and minced
2 tablespoons of butter
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1/2 tablespoon of crushed hot peppers (optional, but I like them spicy!)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 large shallot, minced
1 celery stalk, minced
1/2 orange or yellow pepper, minced
1 1/2 cups of Progresso plain bread crumbs
Step One: Remove the quahogs from the freezer and either allow to defrost for about 10 minutes or run the quahogs under warm water for about one minute.
Step Two: Take a butter knife and gently open the quahogs. Scoop out the insides and finely chop the meat. Be sure to hold on to any and all liquid. If the liquid is frozen, life will be easier. Place the chopped quahogs in a bowl. Rinse and save the shells.
Step Three: In a large saute pan heat a tablespoon of olive oil and two tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Once the butter is melted, add the crushed hot peppers and saute for about a minute.
Step Four: Briefly turn up the heat on the stove to medium-high. Add the lingica and cook for 5 minutes.
Step Five: Lower the heat and add the garlic, shallot, pepper, and celery. Cook for 5 minutes.
Step Six: Add the quahogs (strained with only half of the quahog liquid, reserve the remainder of the liquid in a bowl) and cook for an additional 5 minutes at a low temperature.
Step Seven: Slowly stir in the bread crumbs until the mixture is moist but all the liquids have been absorbed. Now, if you put in too many bread crumbs and the mixture becomes too dry, use some of the reserve quahog liquid to moisten things up. Once the stuffing is dense, but moist, remove from the heat. And season for taste. Because of the saltiness of the quahogs (thank you, ocean!) I didn’t need any salt, but be sure to check that all the seasoning is adequate.
Step Eight: Once the mixture is cool, grab a spoon and scoop stuff the mixture into the quahog shells. Place the stuffed shells on a baking sheet.
Set Nine: Bake for approximately 10 minutes at 350. They are ready when they turn a golden brown.
Step Ten: Serve while hot with a slice of lemon.