Grit in my clams - and what didn't work to clean it out
I made a cioppino yesterday, using some little clams that I'd bought it the store. I can't recall the name, but it was something I hadn't heard of before. Not littlenecks, not cherrystone. Anyhow, having read about cleaning grit/sand out of clams in advance, I put them all in a bowl of cold water with a tablespoon or so of cornmeal. Into the fridge for about 2 hrs before cooking. Then rinsed off and threw in for the last 3-4 minutes of cooking.
At least 1/2 had lots of grit/sand in them. Like enough that if we collected it all we could've built a miniature sand castle. It was terribly unpleasant and sort of ruined the dish.
The grit, interestingly, wasn't in the shells, but in the bodies of the clams themselves.
So - what should I do next time?
I used to use cornmeal to purge clams--until I read Rick Moonen on the subject. He says that cornmeal works just fine; the clams exchange whatever impurities they may have inside for the cornmeal. But then, when you go to cook the clams, you've got polenta. Ha! So now I just purge clams and mussels in heavily-salted water--about 1/4 cup of coarse salt per quart of water. Soak about half an hour. Works fine. No polenta.
Huh. I had never heard of this cornmeal thing. The last time we made mussels at home we had a similar problem--but instead of sand it was more like chunks of gravel! It was disgusting and has put me off of shellfish for a while.
Thanks for the salt suggestion folks. I'll try that next. And sympathy to Sonia. It sucks to have a mouthful of gravel after pouring $30 into a home meal for 4. That's pretty pricey grit. I'm glad it wasn't for company!