When it comes to versatility, hard clams are a hard act to follow. When the first Europeans came to New England, they found piles of clam shells all along the coast where the local population feasted on shellfish. The newcomers were quick to follow in this culinary tradition and their recipes for chowders, bouillabaisses and cioppinos were put to good use. Needless to say, the invention of the good old American clam pie wasn’t far behind.
The Native Americans not only used clams as a major staple in their diets but also used the purple portion of the clam shell to make beads. Originally the beads were used only for decoration but then became a form of currency. Because the purple beads were more valuable than plain white ones, a counterfeiting industry quickly sprang up. To this day, hard clams are often called by the Algonquin name, quahogs (pronounced co-hogs).
Clam chowders are a popular dish on many restaurant menus. During colonial times, all fish and shellfish chowders were stock or milk-based. Some say it was a Manhattan restaurateur who, in an effort to reduce the cost of his menu, originated the recipe for the tomato-based Manhattan clam chowder.
Hard clams can still provide a number of good, high profit additions to your menu. And now that we have so many farm-raised clams, the price is stable and the product reliable. Living in the northeastern Atlantic coastal area brings memories of traditional clambakes on the beach. The summer clambake is a great addition to any menu. Create a clambake at the table and your customers will relive those good feelings of sharing a special meal with special people. Or make the experience a bit more intimate with a special clambake pot for two.