Razor clams have been one of my absolute favourite types of seafood ever since I properly tried them for the first time as a grown-up at La Vache et Le Cuisinier in Paris five years ago. Their texture and taste remind me a bit of baby octopus, but they are much more delicate in my view.
Usually I would, of course, buy seafood at the market. Now, with lockdown and all, I just went and bought a very nice-looking pack of 15 frozen Irish ones from the local Portuguese delicatessen. I also bought some baguette from our Italian-Indian corner store. They have the best French bread in our neighbourhood, as it happens. I defrosted the clams in the fridge over a 24h period.
We already had all the other ingredients in our fridge and storage cupboard:
(Starter for 2 to 3 persons, in addition to 12 to 20 razor clams and baguette)
- Plenty of garlic (half a bunch or more)
- One large onion
- Two to three spring onions
- Small bunch of parsley
- One lemon (mainly for presentation)
- Plenty of lime juice
- 100ml of red wine
- 50g butter
- Plenty of high-quality, extra virgin olive oil
- Chop garlic into little bits, the tinier the better, put them into a little bowl.
- Chop an onion into slightly bigger cubes of perhaps 2.5mm side length, put them into a little bowl.
- Cut most of the green ends of the spring onion and the tips of the roots off and dispose of them, cut the rest into 2mm thick slices. Put them into a bowl.
- Clean a few sprigs of parsley and chop the parsley into little bits ideally no more than 4mm in length, put them into a little bowl.
- Heat up olive oil (several table spoons) in a little pot to upper low to medium heat.
- Add 2/3 of the garlic and 2/3 of the onion (START WITH CLEANING PROCESS NOW), let it simmer for 10mins.
- Regularly stir.
- Add salt and pepper.
- Add wine, 2/3 of the spring onion, and 2/3 of the parsley, let it boil at high temperature for another 15mins to reduce it. Keep the sauce/dressing on a very low flame until it is being served, add water or more wine if it reduces too much.
- Occasionally stir.
Add the butter just long enough before serving to make sure it melted completely and is mixed smoothly with the rest of the ingredients of the sauce/dressing.
(20 to 40mins work in total, depending on number and cleanliness of clams, start this process as soon as you have added the garlic and onion to the sauce)
- Prepare four bowls, a short, sharp knife, and a chopping board.
- Quickly rinse razor clams.
- Then place them in one bowl.
- DO NOT LOSE TRACK OF THE SAUCE AND CONTINUE WITH THE REQUIRED STEPS WHILE CLEANING THE CLAMS
- Take one razor clam out of the bowl, place it on the chopping board, and use the blunt back of the blade to remove the clam from the shell by gently sliding it along the shell on the open side of the shell, repeat process gently if necessary, gradually closer to the closed side of the clam until the clam easily drops out in one piece. (If unsure, please watch youtube videos, there are many very useful ones out there.)
- Put the shell into the shell bowl.
- You can usually spot the belly relatively easily, because it is a lot darker than the good, meaty bits (if not, again best to watch youtube videos). Cut the dark parts out and place them in the rubbish bowl. Do not worry about damaging the intestines, you will rinse and soak the meaty bits extensively later on. Do try hard to minimise damage to the meaty bits though.
- Put the meaty bits in the meat bowl.
- Repeat with every razor clam until done.
- Dispose of the rubbish.
- Move the meat into a large 3 to 5l plastic bowl.
- Rinse the clam meat thoroughly for five minutes in cold water, switching the water off and on, and stirring the water, moving the meaty bits around, then replace the water, start rinsing again, etc.
- Clean the small bowl, then gently move the clams from the big bowl to the small bowl.
- Clean the big bowl.
- Move the clams back into the big bowl and fill it with cold water one last time. (Let it rest for at least 15mins, the longer the better.)
- Clean the small bowl and dry it.
- Immediately start using a heavy brush and brush all shells carefully to get them as clean as possible. Be careful not to break shells unnecessarily, but do not panic if a few of them break. Make sure the edges are not jagged but even, and you can still use those shells for presentation. You only need 6 or 7 shells for every 10 clams, just put two clams into some of the shells, no biggie.
- Rinse all shells thoroughly, let the water dry off for a minute or two, then arrange them nicely on the presentation plate.
- Rinse the clam meat one last time, dry the clams (quickly and only roughly) with a paper towel. Place them in the dry small bowl.
- Cut the baguette into slices and place slices on the plate and/or into a separate bread bowl.
- Cut the lemon into slices and place them on the plate.
- Bring a heavy non-stick frying pan with a few tiny splashes of olive oil to upper medium to high heat.
- Sprinkle the remainder of the garlic, onion, spring onion, and parsley partially into the sauce and partially over the serving plate.
- Fry one clam on one side for 10 or 12 seconds and take a bite; most clams take 15 seconds or even slightly more, so if still underdone, put it on on the same side for another few seconds and press it into the pan with a turner, then try again to get a feel for how long the clams take.
- Now that you know how long your clams take, fry just four or five clams at a time for the right amount of time on one side, press them into the pan with a turner.
- Place the clams into the shells on the presentation plate.
- Repeat until done.
- Add sauce/dressing.
- Sprinkle plenty of lime juice over the clams.
- Enjoy the meal.
These roughly 40 steps might sound like a lot, but in essence it all comes down to three simple steps:
- Clean the clams.
- Prepare a very simple sauce/dressing.
- Cook the clams for a few seconds.
What’s time consuming is really the cleaning, both of the clam meat and the clam shells. The sauce takes some time, because you add ingredients gradually over time and because it needs time to reduce, but it is perhaps the simplest sauce/dressing recipe you will ever find anywhere.
Anyone with basic cooking skills and a fair bit of time to spare can cook this recipe easily without breaking a sweat, so don’t be shy and let me know how it went.
For more recipes, check out our posts about Kaiserschmarrn, Mushroom Cream Pork Medallions, and Clam Chowder. For other food related posts, feel welcome to eyeball our articles about the food tours we did in Strasbourg, New York, and Cambridge, the baking course we did at Borough Market, or our visit to Café Central in Vienna.