The Literate Chef

Clam Shucking

In General Articles on June 16, 2012 at 9:15 AM

Summer is fast approaching and it is time to make one of our favorite pasta meals, Linguine with White Clam Sauce. This is a quick and easy meal to prepare, with most of the work centered on opening the clams. Fortunately, Big Mike’s best friend, my ‘Uncle’ Joe, was a master clam shucker and taught me the technique, at the many clambake/cookouts he hosted in his Long island backyard in the 1950s.

Uncle Joe moved with his family from the Bronx to Long Island in the early 50s as the potato farms in Nassau County were being sold to real estate developers and constructing tract housing for the returning WWII GIs was a booming business. We still lived in Inwood, without a car. But at least once a month, Uncle Joe drove all the way in from Franklin Square on a Saturday morning to pick up our family, drive us out to his house, and return us to our one-bedroom apartment on Sunday night.

Besides learning how to shuck clams and eat them on the half-shell, Uncle Joe taught me how to pour a beer, build a charcoal fire and grill sausages, skills that have served me well in life. He loved life and lived it to the fullest. I wish our daughters could have known him, but he died much too young. Those weekend outings to ‘the country’ were a real treat, and I remember them and Uncle Joe’s generosity with great fondness.

Dorothea, who did not learn how to shuck clams, taught me how to make a clam sauce the easy way: sauté some chopped garlic in olive oil, toss in some chopped fresh parsley, add a bottle of clam juice and a can of minced clams and voila, homemade clam sauce. It was darn good as far as I was concerned and I didn’t know any better, so that recipe sufficed until I began to experiment on my own.

At first, I merely substituted fresh clams for the canned ones, a significant improvement. Then later, after comparing notes with Tommy T, he convinced me to add butter to the olive oil to finish the sauce. Finally, after reading a few cookbooks, I decided that a little bit of dry white wine would round it out perfectly. So here it is, Chef Scar’s own Linguine with White Clam Sauce. And, if like me, you enjoy cheese with your pasta, don’t listen to the so-called purists who will admonish you for adding cheese to seafood, go ahead and liberally heap several  tablespoons of grated Pecorino-Romano, preferably Locatelli brand on your Linguine. Mangia!

The secret to opening clams is to get them ice cold so that they relax, and use a good thin-bladed clam knife, don’t try to use a kitchen knife or an oyster knife.

  1. What a tribute to a truly wonderful person. Just thinking about him and all that he was makes me miss him all the more. We were blessed that he was a part of our lives.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: