Clams are summer food, not because you can’t dig them in the winter — people do — but because you don’t want to; working in damp, exposed mud flats during a windy low tide is no one’s idea of fun. But whether you dig your own or not, thoughts of fried-clam shacks and steamers and clambakes make it feel like clam season. And there are many options for cooks.
There are also many kinds of clams, but we can make two categories: soft-shell clams, which have thin, brittle shells and are typically called “steamers” (razor clams fall in this group); and hard-shelled clams, which are called by a thousand different names, including littlenecks, cherrystones, Manilas, cockles and quahogs (and which, of course, can be steamed, though are never called steamers). Soft-shells are almost always sandy and take more care, so these recipes are generally best with hard-shells, which require almost no work to get ready: Rinse or scrub off exterior sand, discard any that can be pulled apart easily with your fingers (or those with smashed shells), then wash in several changes of cold water — as you would salad greens — until all traces of sand are gone.
Read the rest of this column and get the recipes here.