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Reel Time Fishing Northwest

Mark Yuasa covers fishing and outdoors in the Pacific Northwest.

June 4, 2014 at 9:08 AM

Chef Tom Douglas digs up delicious tips on serving Manila clams


(Photo by John Lock, Seattle Times staff photographer)

A big series of minus-low tides are coming up in the days ahead, and more will be happening throughout the summer months providing ample beach exposure for those heading out to gather steamer clams.

Seattle chef and restaurateur Tom Douglas will contribute some of his tasty cooking advice and recipes for the Reel Time Fishing NW blog in our Catch of the Week each Wednesday through October. Catch of the Day will also include recipes from other local chefs, tackle shop owners and fish-market owners.

Douglas is owner of Assembly Hall, Brave Horse Tavern, Cuoco,Dahlia Bakery, Dahlia Lounge, Etta’s, Home Remedy, Lola, Palace Kitchen, Rub With Love Shack, Seatown, Serious Biscuit, Serious Pie Virginia and Westlake and Tanaka San.

During the spring, summer and fall fishing seasons we’ll have weekly recipes and advice from now through October on how to cook up and dish out a wide variety of local seafood by other experts like Anthony’s Restaurant’s top chefs; Tiffany Haugen, Outdoor Cooking expert/author; tackle shop owners; local seafood-market owners; and fishing guides and charter services.

Here is Douglas’ advice on how to prepare Manila clams, and wow your guests at the next meal:

Originally from Japan, Manila clams were introduced into Pacific Northwest waterways early in the twentieth century. Today, they’re found abundantly in our local waters, both farmed and growing wild. Tender and sweet, Manila clams partner well with a wide variety of foods—white wine, sake, beer, butter, leeks, fresh herbs, roasted peppers, olives, and wild mushrooms to name a few. Fatty meats like bacon and sausage are particularly good counterpoints to the clean, lean flavor of the shellfish.

Spanish chorizo is a spicy cured sausage that’s especially tasty with clams. In a large skillet, sauté a bit of chopped onion in a splash of olive oil, then add slices of Spanish chorizo and sauté a for a few more minutes until the sausage is aromatic and releasing some oil. Then add a cup or two of chopped canned tomatoes, a good glug of white wine and the clams (figuring on about a pound per person). Cover the pan and cook over medium-high to high heat until the clams open. Serve in wide shallow bowls with a crusty loaf to mop up the juices.

I particularly like to make crunchy slices of garlic bread to serve with steamed clams. Rub the slices of bread with a couple smashed cloves of garlic, brush with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and grill or broil on both sides until golden and toasted. Gild the lily by making a smoked paprika aioli (that’s mayo well-seasoned with smoked paprika, lemon juice and lemon zest), and dollop some aioli over each toast before resting the toasts on the rims of the soup bowls. Open a bottle of wine and pass the lemon wedges.

c1clamxxm clams in netting

(Photo by Ellen Banner, Seattle Times staff photographer)

While it’s typical to find steamed clam recipes which include a bit of bacon or sausage, you might not think of adding shredded ham hock, but it’s another way to pair the lusty, smoky flavor of animal fat with the briny ocean flavor of shellfish. Buy a smoked ham hock and use a sharp knife to trim away any large pieces of fat and tough skin. Then trim the meat from the bone and shred the meat. For two pounds of clams, you’ll need about ½ cup of shredded ham hock.

I like to sauté a bit of minced shallot in butter, add some thinly sliced fennel bulb and the shredded ham hock, sauté a few minutes, then add the clams and a healthy splash of white wine. Cover the pan and cook over medium high or high heat until the clams open. Finish with a knob of butter, some chopped fresh herbs, and a squeeze of lemon and serve the clams as soon as the butter melts, accompanied by crusty bread or garlic bread.

One of our signature pizzas at Serious Pie, pizza with clams and pancetta, is another dish that celebrates the affinity of clams for pork fat. You could try the same pizza at home using your favorite pizza dough. For the pizza topping, steam the clams in white wine until they open, then remove the clam meat from the shells, discarding the shells. Saute some diced pancetta in a skillet until crisp then remove from the pan and drain.

Pat and stretch your pizza dough, brush with extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle lightly with red pepper flakes, and distribute the clams and pancetta over the top. Bake in a hot oven. Before serving the pizza, drizzle with a little more oil and sprinkle with grated Parmesan, a bit of fresh thyme leaves, and sea salt. Cut into wedges or squares and serve.


(Photo by Mark Harrison, Seattle Times staff photographer)

Low tides expose beaches beginning Tuesday, June 10

If you plan on making a shellfish gathering trip to a beach be sure to check the state Fish and Wildlife’s website to know what beaches are open and closed. For details, go to

Puget Sound low tides: Tuesday, June 10, minus-0.7 feet at 8:41 a.m.; Wednesday, June 11, -1.6 at 9:18 a.m.; Thursday, June 12, -2.3 at 9:58 a.m.; Friday, June 13, -2.8 at 10:40 a.m.; Saturday, June 14, -2.9 at 11:25 a.m.; Sunday, June 15, -2.7 at 12:11 p.m.; Monday, June 16, -2.1 at 12:59 p.m.; Tuesday, June 17, -1.2 at 1:49 p.m.

The next extreme low tide series will happen during the week of June 23-29.






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