March 31, 2013

National Clams on the Half Shell Day

"She ate so many clams that her stomach rose and fell with the tide." - Louis Kronenberger

It's National Clams on the Half Shell Day!

Poor clams. If ever you were going to feel badly for a creature, it's these little guys you should sympathize with. They can't see, they can't hear, and they can't smell. They just kind of eat all year long and procreate (which I'm guessing is probably a little clumsy given their lack of multiple senses). But, some clams can live upwards to a 100 years. So... yay?

Don't let today's random food holiday scare you away. I think the more comfortable you get with your dietary choices - whatever that may be - the more confident you feel trying new things. If you had asked me at the beginning of my twenties if I could make "clams on the half shell" I would have just laughed at the absurdity of me trying to cook anything (probably while stuffing my face with chicken fingers, and drinking a Jack and Coke... did I ever mention how classy I was in those early years?). Even a few years later, after I had become an herbivore with some experience in the kitchen, I probably would have shrugged the entire idea off - "clams" seemed like an impossible thing to recreate entirely veg-friendly.

But now? I fear nothing.

(Then again, eating the year forces you to face some serious challenges regardless of how you choose to eat.)

I did some research and found that oyster mushrooms can easily be used as a replacement for clams in dishes that call for them. Unfortunately, instead of following my gut (which was to dip the beautiful, spongy mushrooms in a bowl of spiced flour, then buttermilk, then panko) I decided to attempt someone else's recipe which called for a heavy flour, Chinese Five Spice, and ice water batter. In my opinion, the thick consistency of it overwhelmed the mushrooms making them soggy and no longer the focus of the dish. If you're going to attempt these, my suggestion is to go the three-dipped panko route with cocktail sauce and homemade tartar on the side.

And don't forget, for the full effect, serve your "clams" on shells you picked up from the beach. Don't wash 'em and you get that extra authentic saltiness, too!

(I think I'm supposed to give you some kind of disclaimer here about always being sanitary in the kitchen and thoroughly washing the stuff you pick-up from the ground outside or something. So... do that, okay?)

Happy National Clams on the Half Shell Day!