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Scallop Saturation – Back to the Flats

January 12, 2010

November 12, 2009

It’s a curious thing when the abundance of a delicacy can result in over-saturation, or maybe over-satiation. For example, is it true that one can eat striped bass for too many nights in a row? I would answer in the affirmative, and that is why my extended family, neighbors and even roofers have been happy that I chase the great striped fish. If you have a method for handling more than a week of striper, let me know, I’m open to suggestions. But then, what makes one salivate is so subjective.

Appetite aside, while the hunt for bass never seems to grow old, panning for shelled gold can run a little low on the adrenaline-producing scale. And so our scallop harvest has gone. Case in point, after harvesting, opening and eating scallops for weeks, we bought a half bushel for fifteen bucks from someone who did a short drag in the wind-blown, churned-up Bay. For us it was no cold fingers, no walking waist deep in the water, just an exchange of short money and a lightning-fast opening session.

I have to admit I had already become bored and set off on a quahogging mission. We skipped all the high-falootin’ scallop concoctions and started dropping raw scallops in bowls of chowdah – an affair that lasted four days and a few dinner parties. I had enough to make a chowder base to freeze, which is always fun to break out when the flats are iced in. Note to self: never make quahog chowder again, if at all possible. Once spoiled by the sweet, buttery meats of steamers in a chowder and you will never go back to the tough, nutty ‘hogs.

Friends and family enjoyed the quahog chowder, with added scallops, but I felt the need to redeem myself in the eyes of the chowder gods, and I headed out for soft-shelled clams. I’m happy to report there were many, and they were easy to catch, in my favorite well-flushed saltwater spot. I did have to deal with handfuls of mud being thrown at me while I dug. The boots-off, wet socks toddler also took a fancy to plunging a clam rake into the basket of steamers, breaking a few. I redirected him by making a family friend of a seagull and we threw broken clams at the bird, who happily took the chum off our hands.

The steamers are purging away in the garage fridge. Purging steamers is absolutely, completely and totally essential to a good chowder or a nice fresh steamer dipped in butter. Some folks put cornmeal in saltwater or brine to aid in the cleansing, but I prefer a good long soak in ocean or bay water.

For a steamer chowder, you can open the clams, saving the liquor, peel back the membrane from the ‘neck’, and chop the bellies, discarding the necks. To make life easier, we steam open the clams, save the broth, open the clams and chop the meats. I’m trusting you have your own chowder recipe, which must never include cream. If you have some scallops, throw a raw handful into each bowl just before serving.

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