Thursday, 16 June 2011

Loving the Razor Clam.

Anyone who loves seafood has to love razor clams, but not necessarily unambiguously.  They’re tasty; they’re big; they are, if not to the eye of every beholder, exactly beautiful, then at least striking, with the cut throat razor shells from which they get their name.  What’s not to love? Well, they can be a bit on the chewy side, particularly the big ones, but that’s no problem to anyone, like me, who’s a big fan of squid, octopus, cuttlefish – pretty much anything from that end of the seafood spectrum that makes some people – poor, benighted, fools – shudder and think ‘Ick. Rubbery.’  None of these things should, of course, be rubbery, not unless they’re badly (generally over-) cooked, but they can, I grant, need a little chewing (and what’s wrong with chewing?). 

No, the one potential problem with a razor clam, for even the keenest seafood lover, lies in its appearance.  In the long, white, bifurcated tube of (admittedly rubbery looking) flesh inside the razor shell.  Look at it too closely, and there is something undeniably David Cronenburgy about it.  Particularly the mouth (I prefer to think) part at the end.  I recommend not looking at that.  And definitely not thinking about it.

So, while not looking too closely at one, let’s turn our thoughts to eating razor clams.  Probably the best I’ve had were at Barrafina in Soho - very simply done, with just a little garlic and parsley, if I recall correctly.  These were small, no more than about 10cm long, which may well have been a key factor in how delicately tender they were.  I have to admit though, that I’m not entirely sure whether it’s really okay from a sustainability point of view to be eating small, presumably young clams.  Let them grow, give them time to breed.  Also, you need fewer big ones to fill your plate.  I do think though, that the bigger meatier clams do need a little more going on than just a little garlic and parsley to keep them interesting and appealing to the end (and, perhaps, to keep your mind off the whole David Cronenburgy thing).

When I think of seafood, I pretty much automatically think of Spain (no coincidence, then, that the best I’ve had should have been, if not in Spain, then at least at, in my experience the best tapas bar in London) so if I’m looking to add something a little more to a seafood dish, then chorizo – which as I’ve mentioned before makes a great partner to seafood anyway (and I’m not alone on this) – is always likely to be among the first things to spring to mind.  I had a couple of Theobald’s little cooking chorizo in the fridge, so I diced up one of those.  I’d already marinated my clams in the zest and juice of half a lemon, garlic, chilli and olive oil.

In a heavy bottomed, lidded pan I first dry fried the diced chorizo, then tipped the clam marinade into the pan for a few moments sizzling, then the clams themselves.  Just a splash of white wine (about half a glass of whatever you’re drinking), cover with the lid for about two minutes, uncover and chuck in a generous handful of roughly chopped parsley, and you’re done.

In season, as it is now, and available either free if you’re near an appropriate part of the coastline, or cheaply from any decent fishmonger, a handful of samphire, just blanched in fresh water (certainly no need to to add salt here!) is the perfect accompaniment to any fish or seafood.

Put a bed of samphire on the plate, arrange the clams on that, and spoon over the wine and chorizo sauce.  Delicious.  Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall, with whom I often find myself of like mind, has a recipe for just this dish in his Fish book (which is almost, if not quite, as essential as his Meat book – which I’ve mentioned so many times before on this blog, and I think would have to get on to at least the shortlist for my Desert Island book.  Actually I think I would request to have it in place of the statutory bible, allowing me to have the collected works of Raymond Chandler as my free choice.  I’d be happy with that.  And if my luxury item could be a lifetime supply of chorizo, and the beaches of the island supported clams, and maybe a few other choice, and catchable items of seafood, then I’d see very little reason to leave…

Oh, and just a reminder that if you still haven’t voted for me in the 2011 OFM awards, you still can (at the time of writing), up until the 24th of June.  Just click here.

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