Down in our corner of Buzzards Bay, I am known as the king of baked stuffed quahogs. For some reason, I have the mojo needed to find them in their hundreds when there are scores of hungry relatives, and the stamina to convert these hard shelled clams into their finest culinary incarnation. This week, with more than 40 relatives at Windrock, I figured we needed about 350 medium sized clams to make 120 stuffies. My brother-in-law Peter and I made our target in under an hour.
I scrubbed each clam and steamed the whole lot in two vast kettles with a bottle of beer and a goodly amount of Wye River (Original Red) Seasoning, the Eastern Shore's answer to Old Bay. Each opened clam produced a midden of shells and a mound of meats, with the clam juice reserved for those who like it straight, those who like it with tomato juice and vodka, and the cook, who needed some for the next phase of the process.
Here we hit a snag, as someone in recent days seems to have melted the Cuisinart in a position that no longer allows the blade to engage. An ancient KitchenAid with meat grinder attachment could not overcome the tenacious clams, so they had to be hand cut and minced, a process where I had the indispensable assistance of cousins Margaret and Leila. Cynthia, meanwhile, scrubbed out over 100 half shells to contain the stuffing.
I sauteed some garlic and onions in a roasting pan with olive oil, and added more Wye River. The clams were enough for several meat loaves had we felt so inclined, and I stirred in some unseasoned breadcrumbs until the mixture reached the desired consistency . I'd estimate that the ration was 6 parts clam to 1 part stuffing: a generous proportion making these premium stuffed clams the way Ben and Jerry's make premium ice cream.
I filled the shells on three baking trays, sprinkled on some vermouth and dusted them with paprika. Then into the ovens they went for 15 minutes until there was a nice crust on top and they were ready to transfer to serving trays and distribute to the assembled throng.
Even finicky eaters devour my stuffed quahogs. An inter-generational soccer game came to a screeching halt when the platters arrived on the field. Having enjoyed a more intimate dinner with clams from the same waters just the week before, I was in my prime with this batch. Favorite nephew status is now assured, at least until dinner, when my cousin John and wife Megan are serving us hundreds of chicken enchiladas. Ah, summer. Ah, stuffies. For the next few hours, all is right with the world.