In Alabama’s Gulf Coast, when you dig up the soft wet sand, in addition to sand you’ll also get a handful of coquina clams, which are little teeny clams with very pretty shells that come in all sorts of bright colors. We’ve always admired and collected the shells, but this year my friend Rick told me that they make the most delicious clam chowder. “Really? They’re edible?” I asked. Yep, he said, but it’s a lot of work to collect enough to make a decent amount of chowder. Well I had all day and lots of helpers! And by about 6pm I had a big bucket full of those beautiful little clams.
That night, after dinner, I rinsed them off, put them in pot, covered them with one part water, one part beer (Coors Light) and cooked them until they opened. While they were cooking, in another pot I put in a bunch of butter and sauteed some onions, carrots, celery and garlic. (I’d add the potatoes later.) Then I took the shells out of the water and enlisted my many helpers to separate the clams from the shells. This took quite a bit of time, and oh boy those are ugly little clams (they look more like mini mussels) but with the help of my awesome nieces and girl child, we were done in about an hour. Then I put the broth, the ugly clams, and the sauteed veggies into a big pot, and stuck it in the fridge. Tomorrow was our night to cook dinner, and we would be starting with a bowl of coquina chowder. When we were all done, I stayed up late with my nieces and they tried to teach me how to twerk. But I don’t think when you’re over forty that you can call it twerking. More like ‘ridiculerking’.
The next night at dinner I asked who wanted to try the coquina chowder, and everyone said yes, which surprised me. What surprised me even more was that every single person, young and old, ate every last drop, and many asked for seconds. It really was the most amazing clam chowder I’d ever had. The broth was out of this world. Thanks inspiring me Rick! I think we’ll be doing this every year now. Here are some photos: