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Happy as a clam

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Happy as a clam

Before I left the Seafood counter at Whole Foods, Lynn was already chastising me: Don’t twist the plastic bag closed! They’ll die. “Oh,” I thought. They’re alive? Indeed. Clams are alive until prepared. They keep their little traps shut mostly until they’ve become food. If you don’t use them right away, however, they can die and get too rank to consume. So you have dinner guests before you have them for dinner. What do you do?

Little-neck Clams are stocky and, as it turns out, thirsty as hell. The seafood counter gal had them in crushed ice which turned to about three-quarters of a cup of water last night. This morning, after drinking like fish, the clams were in a bone-dry plastic bag. It turns out that crushed ice is best for lots of reasons. They like to burrow. They like the cold. They drink.

One thing to not do is clean the outside of the clam. Being filter feeders, they depend on a fine layer of mucus that can get a little green – it’s not a problem, they just haven’t had dinner yet. They clean themselves as they eat what they’ve gathered up on their shells. It can take about two or three days for them to acquire a new layer of food-attracting mucus which means they’re not eating in that time.

There’s a misconception out there that adding corn meal to a bowl covered with a wet towel is the thing to do. This is close but it’s for mussels, not clams. Clams like to have a place to be shy, to burrow. Just covering them with a wet towel is insufficient on its own. Crush up a little ice and check in on them daily.

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