Clams were on sale (only 6 euros per kilo or US$ 3.50 per lb), which was a good reason to make clam cakes. They originate in New England and are also called clam fritters. Chopped clams are mixed with a batter of flour, eggs, clam juice, milk, baking powder, salt, and pepper. Some recipes also include minced onion or shallots. The local clams in New England are quahog or hard clams, but you can also make them from other clams such as cockles or vongole. In the Florida Keys they are made using conch and called conch fritters.
Good clam cakes are crispy and golden brown on the outside, and soft and airy on the inside with an elegant taste of the sea. They should be served with lemon and mayonnaise or a mayonnaise-based sauce such as remoulade or tartar sauce. Chopped clams are also sold in cans, but fresh is of course much better. Clam cakes can be either deep-fried or shallow-fried.
For 15 clam cakes
1 kg (2.2 lbs) fresh clams in their shells, yielding 200 grams (7 oz) of clam meat
150 grams (1 cup) all-purpose flour
50 ml (3 1/2 Tbsp) clam juice
about 50 ml (3 1/2 Tbsp) milk
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup minced onion (optional)
vegetable oil for frying
Put the clams in a litre (4 cups) of water with 30 grams (4 tsp) salt, which is as salty as the sea and will invite the clams to purge themselves. After an hour, rinse the clams with cold water to remove the salt.
If you have a vacuum sealer, an alternative way is to vacuum seal the clams in a single even layer…
…and to submerge the vacuum sealed bag in water that is almost boiling for 4 minutes. This is cooking sous-vide at 95ºC/200ºF. The advantage is a lower risk of overcooked clams and a higher yield of clam juice.
Heat up about 1/2 cm (1/4 inch) of vegetable oil in a non-stick frying pan, or 2 litres (2 quarts) of vegetable oil in a deep fryer. The oil should be about 160ºC/320ºF. Gently lower tablespoons of batter into the hot oil.
Spaghetti ‘Salmonara’ is not an authentic dish, but my own invention. It is a fish version of the well-known spaghetti alla carbonara that uses smoked salmon and red onion instead of pancetta or guanciale. Just like real carbonara, the ‘sauce’ is raw egg that is only cooked slightly by the heat from the pasta. It only takes as long as it takes to cook the spaghetti. This dish is quick, easy, tasty, and healthy thanks to the omega-3 fatty acids in the salmon.