Many people are familiar with soft-shell clams, commonly referred to as steamers or longnecks, but they may be less familiar with hard-shell clams, or Quahogs.
Quahogs are commonly found along the shores of Eastern North America, especially New England and the Maritime provinces. The term quahog is usually used to describe the largest hard-shell clams. Littlenecks are the smallest, cherrystones come next (sometimes the term topneck is used to describe hard-shell clams that come between littlenecks and cherrystones), and finally quahogs.
Quahogs are tougher and meatier than steamer clams and because of this, they are usually used in chowders. However, another excellent way to prepare quahogs is to stuff the shells and bake them. There are plenty of recipes for baked stuffed quahogs, or stuffies as they are known in parts of Rhode Island. This one calls for chourico, a spicy Portuguese sausage.
12 live quahogs (you can use up to 15)
1 loaf of bread (I used wheat here, but rye or any kind of sourdough would work too), cubed
5 or 6 chourico sausages, cut up and fried
2 green bell peppers, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
3 jalapeno peppers, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
3 onions, chopped
4 stalks of celery, chopped
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup banana peppers (optional, or anything to spice it up a bit more)
1. Preheat oven to 350 C.
2. Chop your peppers, onion, celery and garlic and set aside in bowls.
3. Add about 1 and 1/2 inches of water to a large pot. You can add some dry white wine if desired. Bring the pot to a boil and add the quahogs. Cover the pot and reduce heat to medium. Cook for 5-7 minutes or until quahogs open. As they open, remove them from the pot and set aside to cool.
4. Once all the quahogs are removed, bring the heat to high and boil the broth for a few minutes. Strain the broth (through a fine sieve, or cheeseclothe if possible) and set it aside.
5. When the quahogs are cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the shells and chop it (or use a food processor if you have one, but don’t process it too much). Make sure there is no grit or sand on the quahogs before you chop them. Set aside.
6. Next,cut up the chourico and fry it on medium heat.
7. Add chopped peppers, onion, celery, and garlic. Stir into a mixture and cook on medium heat until chourico is cooked through.
8. Now, add the cubed bread to a large bowl. You can start with half a loaf and add more as needed.
9. Add the chourico veggie mixture and stir. Then add the chopped quahogs, Worchestershire sauce, soy sauce, lemon juice, parsley, thyme, and salt and pepper to taste. Moisten with the quahog broth if the mixture is too dry and add more bread if the mixture is too wet. You should have a pretty cohesive stuffing at this point.
10. Now you’re ready to stuff the quahog shells. Separate the shells and wash them, making sure they are free from any grit or sand. Oil the insides of the shell and place them on a large cookie sheet.
11. Spoon heaping piles of the mixture into each shell. You can form meatballs and press them into the shells, or just spoon it in with a large serving spoon. The shells should be full.
12. Bake the stuffed shells at 350 for 20 minutes, or until they are browned on top and cooked through.
The shells are ready to be served. Baked stuffed quahogs also freeze really well. If you can’t finish your batch, seal them in freezer bags. When you’re ready for more, just add a few drops of water to each shell and bake for5 or 10 minutes to reheat.