Clams on the Half Shell

I’m going out today to eat some fresh clams on the half shell.

April Fool’s.

Actually, I have eaten some clams on the half shell recently, abeit frozen, not fresh. I picked them up at the Hugo’s store in East Grand Forks, after Denny Wynne, the manager of the meat department, pointed them out to me. The clams come from Stavis Seafoods Inc. in Boston.

To prepare the tasty clams, all you need to do is put them on a cookie sheet and pop them in the oven for 30 minutes at 450 degrees, or microwave them on high for 2 minutes. I preferred the oven method.

Not only does the store have the clams, it also has shrimp, raw oysters in the shell, mussels, scallops, crab cakes and, believe it or not, frog legs.

Denny says he decided to try something different, and the response has been tremendous.

I’m going to pick up a few more of the clams. They cost only about 70 cents apiece, a real bargain. And while I’m at it, some of the other goodies might find their way into my shopping cart for the seafood soup recipe below that looks quite appealing. 

Smokey Tomato and Seafood Soup
8 to 10 ripe plum tomatoes or 1 can (15 ounces) diced fire-roasted tomatoes, undrained
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 large shallots or 1 white onion, finely chopped
1 small leek, trimmed, chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded, chopped, or 1 bottled roasted red bell pepper, diced
6 large cloves garlic, finely chopped or crushed
1 quart vegetable broth
1 8-ounce bottle clam juice or water
½ cup dry white wine
¼ cup tomato paste
1 teaspoon salt or to taste
¾ teaspoon smoked sweet Spanish paprika (pimenton)
1 pound small fresh clams, scrubbed clean, or 1 16-ounce box frozen steamer clams in garlic butter sauce, left frozen
½ pound large (26-30 count) raw shrimp, peeled, deveined
1 pound boneless, skinless fish fillets, such as tilapia, pollock or snapper, cut into 1 ½-inch pieces
½ pound bay scallops
Garlic mayo (optional, see recipe below)
Chopped fresh parsley and chives
If using fresh tomatoes, heat the broiler to high; put tomatoes on a foil-lined baking sheet. Broil 6 inches from the heat source, turning occasionally, until the skin is lightly charred on all sides, 10 to 12 minutes. Cool, peel and chop coarsely, collecting all the juices.
Heat the oil in a 4- to 5-quart Dutch oven or deep saucepan. Cook the shallots and leek until soft, about 4 minutes. Stir in the red pepper and garlic; cook 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, broth, clam juice, wine, tomato paste, salt and smoked paprika. Simmer 15 minutes. (This base can be refrigerated, covered, up to 3 days. Shortly before serving, heat the tomato mixture to a simmer.)
Add the clams; cook 3 minutes. Add the shrimp and fish; cook 2 minutes. Add the scallops; cook 1 minute more or until all fish is opaque but still tender. Ladle the soup into wide serving bowls. Place a dollop of the garlic mayo into the center. Sprinkle with parsley and chives.
Garlic mayo: Mix 1/3 cup mayonnaise and 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice in a small bowl. Use a garlic press to crush in 1 large clove of garlic; mix well. Add a pinch of salt if needed. This can be made up to 1 day in advance; cover and refrigerate.
Yield: Serves 6 (main course).
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 392 calories, 27 percent of calories from fat, 12 grams fat (2 grams saturated), 211 milligrams cholesterol, 20 grams carbohydrates, 51 grams protein, 1,420 milligrams sodium, 3 grams fiber.