If you are a clam eater you probably have, often without knowing it. At the farmers market baskets of little necks and cherry stones were my first order of business to make linguine with clam sauce. However, a lovely Japanese lady in front of me inquired about some giant clams and when the vendor gave her the sushi name for them, the delicate little lady jumped for joy. Hokkigai – or surf clam tongue – is quite a delicacy and at 50¢ each a bargain to boot, so she promptly bought quite a few. I, of course, then had to buy some, also. I wasn’t sure that I had the skill to turn them into sushi, but figured that I could investigate them a bit and always steam them and chop the meat for my sauce. In talking to the lively vendor, I learned that these big fat guys are what is used to make clam strips – the breaded and fried summer treat served all along the Eastern seaboard, either with tartar sauce for dipping or in a clam roll.
I bought 4 and took them home to check out. We were totally fascinated as their strange siphon poked out of the shell and, once placed in salt water, the tongue shimmied like my sister Kate. Steve photographed them and I have to admit that I realized I didn’t really know how to turn them into sushi so I cooked them and then chopped up the meat to add to my clam sauce.
And here is how I made my sauce. I used the cooking broth of the surf clams for my base. (I did strain it through some paper towel to make sure all of the sand stayed out of the sauce). Added some leftover white wine, a cup of homemade chicken stock, lots of garlic and red chile flakes along with a sprig or two of fresh thyme. Brought the mix to a simmer and let it simmer for about 15 minutes. Added the chopped clam meat along with 2 dozen little necks. Covered the pan and simmered it all for about 10 minutes or until all of the clams opened. Tossed in a handful of chopped parsley and served it over some chewy imported Italian linguine along with a loaf of steecci from Sullivan Street Bakery (www.sullivanstreetbakery.com) for sopping up the garlicy clam broth.