As a kid, I was never excited when someone served stuffies at a gathering. For those of you unfamiliar with a stuffy, it’s a mixture of quahog clam, breadcrumbs, and seasonings mixed together, stuffed into a clam shell and baked. The ones I was introduced to were like loaded weights and sunk to the bottom of your stomach like a mooring ball. The tradition of stuffing clams with breadcrumbs goes back to the Great Depression, when clams were cheap and breadcrumbs filled you up. Over the years, various ethnic groups tweaked the combo to fit their tastes, the Italians adding oregano and the Portuguese chopping up pieces of smoky chourico. This version is a nod to the Portuguese iteration, and is much lighter than the kind you’ll often find in fishmonger’s displays. Serve with a few wedges of lemon and serve as a retro and classy appetizer or side.
-6 quahogs, rinsed and scrubbed
-1/2 loaf of stale bread (preferably sourdough or other crusty kind) to make 2 cups homemade breadcrumbs
-2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
-2 Tbsp butter
-1/2 link of Portuguese chourico (I use the turkey kind. If you can’t find Portuguese chourico, Spanish chorizo will work but you’ll have to cut it into small chunks), casing removed and roughly crumbled
-1 small onion, finely chopped
-1 stalk celery, finely chopped
-1 clove garlic, minced
-2 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
-1 tsp fresh thyme
-1 chicken bouillon cube, crushed
-2 tsp lemon juice
-salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- To cook the quahogs, place them in a single layer in a large pot. Fill with water up to their hinges (should be about 3 cups), and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat immediately and remove from stove to cool.
- Meanwhile, to make the breadcrumbs pulse stale bread in a food processor until pea-sized chunks are formed.
- Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil and 2 Tbsp butter over medium heat in a pan. Add breadcrumbs and cook, stirring frequently, until toasted and crispy. Set aside.
- Clean pan and add remaining 1 Tbsp olive oil. Saute onions, celery and chourico until vegetables are soft and chourico is warmed through. Add garlic and cook for another 3 minutes. Set aside.
- Remove cooled quahogs from the pot and take the clams out of their shells, reserving the shells. Roughly chop clams and place into a bowl.
- Break the hinges of the clam shells and set shells on a sheet tray.
- Strain 1/2 cup of clam water/broth from cooking theclams into the bowl with the chopped clams, add the chourico mixture and stir. Add chopped parsley,thyme, bouillon, lemon juice and 2 cups of the bread crumbs. Mix until combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Fill each clam shell with the mixture (about 1/4 cup per clam), and top with remaining breadcrumbs, patting down so they stick.
- Bake for 15 minutes, until golden brown, and serve with lemon wedges, parsley and hot sauce