These handfuls of buttery, baked clam stuffing are a regular menu item in Cape Cod, everyone’s recipe varying in sweetness and spice. I try one at each restaurant I go to; none are quite the same! And they can carry some controversy as well, as everyone has their favorite.
My recipe below has competed in a local Cape Cod contest at the Quahog Republic in Falmouth twice, and reigned champion both times! I keep my recipe spicy with two kinds of Portuguese sausage, sweet with ritz crackers instead of bread, and tangy with dijon mustard.
A surprising circumstance of this recipe has been the cutthroat measures my family has taken to support it. The first year I entered the competition, my mom was visiting from Chicago. Upon swinging into the Quahog Republic, she asked the owner how many tickets a certain amount of money would get her. His reply was that the community contest would not be discredited by votes being sold. In true Chicago-politic fashion, my mom responded with “Don’t you want money for the charity you’re supporting with this thing?” Luckily the owner was stubborn, and Just Me and the Clams prevailed by merit.
Winning another year in a row meant Just Me and the Clams was more memorable. Before what would have been the third win, the contest was discussed on a local radio station. My rival competition was on the air asking to come out and vote for her. My boyfriend’s mother heard this and called into the show, explaining that I would be out of town for a wedding during the contest, so it looks like my rival had a chance to win!
Competition aside, this recipe is a goto in our house. After a day quahogging, we’ll get the group shucking and make a big batch of stuffies.
- 3lbs fresh cherrystones or littlenecks
- 1 jalapeno
- 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
- 1/4 cup finely chopped celery (the leafy top parts are more flavorful)
- 2.5oz (about 1/2 cup) ground chourico
- 2.5oz (about 1/2 cup) ground linguica
- 1 silo of Ritz Hint of Salt crackers crushed into crumbs (don’t get the regular ones, it will be too salty!)
- 2 tablespoons Franks Hot Sauce
- 2 tablespoons Dijon Mustard
- Olive oil for brushing the shells
Get the clams and jalapeno on the grill on high heat. If you have the time and will to shuck clams, I recommend only grilling them until they slightly open. Taking them off of the grill sooner prevents the meat from being too dry, but if you just want to get the clam meat out as easily as possible, grill them until they completely open, and just pull the bellies out. Either way, the clams get chopped and set aside in a large mixing bowl.
Be sure to clean and set aside some of the nicer looking shells. Once the jalapeno is blackened, remove it from the grill. When it’s cool enough to handle, remove the burnt skin and seeds. Chop half of the jalapeno very finely and add it to a large mixing bowl with the chopped clams.
Saute the celery and onion with olive oil or butter until onions are just about to caramelize. Once these are cool, add them to the mixing bowl. Add the hot sauce and dijon to the bowl and combine. Then add the crushed ritz crackers slowly to combine. Prepare the shells by removing any loose bits, placing them on a baking pan, and brushing each lightly with olive oil. Ball the stuffing and place each ball lightly onto a half shell. Bake at 350F for 20 minutes, or until brown and cooked through.