Tracy Lee Karner

If you missed the Quahog Festival, here's how to make Stuffies at home

Tracy Lee Karner
Simply the best Stuffies. Ever.

I’m sorry–you missed the Warren Quahog Festival this past weekend and you didn’t get to try the stuffies.
But don’t feel terrible that you missed the great jazz combo, the juried art show, the sea breeze, all the lovely people in festival mood, and all those seafood vendors. You can make stuffies at home and actually, these are the best Stuffies ever. More clam, less bread crumb.
Translation and helpful notes for non Rhode-Islanders (pronounced Roe-DYE-Lunders):

  • A quahog (pronounced KO-hog) is a clam.
  • Stuffies are clam casseroles served in large clam shells. Large clams are cheaper per pound (sometimes, like right now for example, you can get them at Dave’s Marketplace for 99¢).
  • Large clams are tough–don’t eat them raw or casino style, or battered and  fried; mince them and make chowder (CHOW-duh)–or clam (CLEE-am) cakes, or stuffies, one of the rare Rhode Island words that’s pronounced as spelled.

Here’s how to make stuffies:

  1. Toss 8 nicely-sized rinsed & scrubbed Quahogs (on sale, they’ll cost you about $3.87 for all 8!) into a large pot with a few inches of boiling water. Cover and let them steam for about 9 minutes or until they open, and remove them with a tong to a tray. Let them cool, and reserve a couple tablespoons of the cooking liquid.
  2. While they’re bubbling away, in a medium frying pan, brown 2 ounces of chopped chorizo sausage then stir in a heaping 1/2 cup of  chopped onion, green pepper and celery (equal parts, approximately) and stir-fry it all until wilted. Add a clove of chopped garlic to the pan and fry for another 30 seconds. Sprinkle generously with your favorite all-purpose seasoning and a healthy dash of black pepper. (Frying the spices, especially the pepper, makes the flavor pop!) Set aside to cool.
  3. When the clams are cool enough to handle, gently pry the meat from the bottom shell and reserve the shells (to use as rustic casserole dishes). Then finely chop the meat with a chef’s knife (learn to use that handy non-electric, non-noisy kitchen tool, here).
  4. In a bowl, stir together the chorizo-vegetable mixture, the chopped clam meat, 1/2 cup of grated romano (or parmesan) cheese, 3/4 cup of panko (Japanese-style bread crumbs), and a few tablespoons of chopped parsley. Moisten the mixture with enough of the reserved cooking liquid and a splash of dry white wine to make it feel like dressing–not soupy, just moist enough to hold together if you smoosh it (but don’t smoosh it yet).
  5. Mound each of the bottom shells with dressing (you left them hinged together, right?). Now smoosh them a little bit to pack the stuffie into nice form. Top each with a teaspoon-sized pat of butter. Close each shell and wrap tightly in aluminum foil. It’s helpful to keep the folds on the top of the shell; makes unwrapping easier.
  6. Bake at 400F for 15-20 minutes until heated through. Unwrap the foil using two metal tongs for scissor-hands (a seriously neat trick which keeps your finger-prints intact, unless, of course, you want to burn off your finger-prints so you can start a career as a burglar).

Tracy Lee Karner
Tong-Hands prevent scorched fingers.

You can, if you like, crisp up the top of the stuffing under a broiler for a few minutes. If you have the patience to wait. I don’t wait, because even unbroiled, these are the best stuffies ever.
More neat tricks:

  • You can prepare these the day ahead and refrigerate the un-baked, foiled stuffies for up to 24 hours.  Bake them for 20-30 minutes.
  • Or freeze them for a couple of months. Bake from frozen for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
  • You could make stuffies with canned minced clams in ordinary small baking dishes, like these from Crate & Barrel. Offer the stuffies with a crisp white whine, as a first course appetite-opener at your next retro-is-chic gourmet party.
  • Now there’s a neat idea–a gourmet pot-luck party with an old-is-new theme. Bring whatever was all the rage once upon a time, but not currently trendy. You’re invited. I’m bringing the stuffies.

What will you bring?

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