State rep Genevieve McDonald harvests her own clams to make this New England classic. (You can buy yours.)
Photographed by Derek Bissonnette
State representative Genevieve McDonald, who has lobstered out of Stonington for more than 15 years, didn’t set much gear in the water last year, in part because of pandemic challenges: lack of childcare for her toddler twins and extra demands on legislators’ time, even out of session. “And what do you do at home in a pandemic?” McDonald asks. “At our house, we cook.” McDonald, who represents all-island House District 134, harvests hen clams (aka surf clams) for this recipe she adapted from the New England Clam Shack Cookbook(the original uses quahogs, and standard chopped clams from the seafood market will work too). It’s one of the dishes she prepped last year for a Christmas Eve “Feast of the Seven Fishes,” sharing her efforts on social media to spotlight the Maine Aquaculture Association’s #EatMaineSeafood campaign.
6–8 large hen clams (or 2 cups chopped clams and liquid) 1 cup raw bacon, chopped 1 cup onion, chopped finely 1 cup celery, chopped finely 8 garlic cloves, chopped finely 1⁄4 cup lemon juice 1⁄4 cup fresh parsley 2 tablespoons hot sauce 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce 1 stick butter 6–8 cups panko bread crumbs
Shuck the clams and remove the meat, reserving the liquid. Rinse the clam meat and grind in a food mill or processor or chop by hand. Break the clam shells apart at their hinges, rinse, and reserve.
In a large skillet, sauté the bacon, onion, celery, and garlic until tender. Then add the clams and liquid, lemon juice, parsley, hot sauce, and Worcestershire sauce. Bring the ingredients to a simmer (but not a boil, or the clams will release too much moisture), then reduce heat to low.
Add butter and bread crumbs gradually, stirring over low heat until most of the liquid is absorbed.
Spoon into shells on a baking sheet (or a casserole dish if you’re working without shells), then bake at 425 until the stuffing is nicely browned.