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Jul 10, 2010 07:18 PM

In which I conquer (mostly) my fear of razor clams

I have had a fascination with these things for ages. I see them for sale in my 'hood, both in fish markets and on menus - they are very expensive: $30 an order, last time I asked. I remember that fearless leader Jim Leff once mentioned that he had a stellar version of them (also in my 'hood):

And when the topic "What food always catches your eye but that you (almost) never buy?" is broached...well, that would be razor clams.

Alors! The Sea Tuck guys at the Union Square Greenmarket are selling razor clams today for $6.50/lb, which is not too much to throw away on a failed experiment, should said experiment fail. I have no idea how to cook these things. Chowhound is not a huge help, nor is the rest of the internet, although I manage to cobble together some guidelines: soak 'em in salt water, steam 'em more or less as one does regular soft shell clams. I have plenty of experience with regular soft shell clams, so I'm not worried.

But these bastards move. They start reaching around with their siphons. Gah! I like my food to be still - regular soft shell clams are very still! - so as not to be reminded that I am killing it. I knock back a couple of Yeunglings to mitigate my terror. And I steam the clams, in beer & garlic & parsley & butter. They shell themselves, which is really the least they can do, considering. And they are good. I'm not sure I'll ever buy razor clams again, but now I can say I gave it a go.

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  1. Well small h, there are two species of clams which go by the moniker "razor clam". There are the ones dearly beloved by generations of folks in the Northwest (digging them is a favorite family activity). These are dispatched by dunking them in hot water, then they must be cleaned before cooking.

    Then there are the Atlantic ones, which I assume you are referring to, since I see that you appear to be from Manhattan.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Sharuf

      The first time I bought NW razor clams I cooked them whole, and encountered a lot of sand. So the next time, I followed cleaning instructions similar to these:

      . Basically you remove the obvious intestinal parts, and split the siphon and foot open to clean out any sand. While I could have cooked those pieces whole, I chose to cut them into strips, and make a quick pasta sauce.

      1. re: Sharuf

        You are correct. I found the WDFW site immediately, but it was of little help to me. I couldn't find anything similar about the Atlantic razor clam. But I'm glad that's what I had, 'cause the cleaning process for the NW kind seems pretty daunting.

      2. I'm delighted to hear that you drank Yuenglings to build up your courage--a beer from just north of where I grew up. Somehow it became a hip brew back when I was in grad school.

        Congrats on conquering your fear of razor clams. You are an inspiration.

        3 Replies
        1. re: nofunlatte

          Thanks for the kind words! Yuengling happens to be the cheapest beer sold at my local supermarket, and I like it. It deserves hipness way more than, say, PBR.

          1. re: small h

            If you happen to make it to Costco up in Harlem, a case of Yuengling bottles sells for something like $15-17.

            Congrats on the razor clam conquering. I've been tempted when I saw then at the USQ market but didn't have the courage to get them... plus like you, I'd have absolutely no clue what to do with them. Do love them at restaurants though.

            1. re: ESNY

              Well, that's quite a great price for Yuengling; wish I was closer to Harlem. Be a bear getting a case of beer back to BK on the A, plus J and the 4 block walk. It's probably more at Costco here.

              My parents instilled fear of razor clam in me; sad, as my dad was born and bred in Maine and should have known better, but people just didn't eat them back in those days. Same family attitude problem with mussels, but periwinkles were fine to consume.

              I found that razors are about that same flavor as soft shell steamers, for the unintiated.

        2. Wow. I have a lot of respect for what you've just done. I've had an extended vacation from employment, and promised myself I would conquer my cooking fears, one of which is cooking seafood, ranging from mollusks to shellfish. And whole fish so that I can try the eyes. And crustaceans. I haven't checked a single item off of my list. I have to say, your (wonderfully written) description of the project isn't very . . . encouraging ("But these bastards move. They start reaching around with their siphons" made me shudder).

          I have to start work again in less than two weeks, and I'm a little inspired. A whole fish is child's play, compared to what you've just described.

          4 Replies
          1. re: onceadaylily

            I've cooked whole fish: steamed snapper with garlic & scallions, grilled trout stuffed with lemon and dill). The hardest thing about it is keeping the fish looking pretty en route to the plate. I eye the eyes but do not partake of them.

            Shrimp would be a good way for you to start slow. It's hard to screw up, and unless you get the live kind, they don't jump around. Don't think I'm not considering buying the live kind, 'cause I am. As soon as I recover from this last adventure.

            1. re: small h

              Thanks for the encouragement. I'm certain there's a "I Have a Whole Fish Sitting On My Counter, Now What? Anyone? Anyone?" Chow post in my near future.

              I can cook shrimp . . . I just can't clean it; I can't get the poo out and still have an appetite.

              1. re: onceadaylily

                May I introduce you to...the Shrimp Master?


                It de-shells! It de-veins! It does everything but make cocktail sauce! The spousal equivalent swears by it. Me, I'm fine with using a knife, but I just like to cut things.

                1. re: small h


                  My mother bought me a pair of de-veining shears (actually two, because she never remembers what she got me for Christmas--ask me how many sets of shrimp forks I have), but they don't have a *scooper* on them. No more manic sessions with the nail-brush?

                  Did I mention that my mother keeps buying me shrimp-cooking-implements even though I have a fear of preparing the freshest specimens? With the Shrimp Master, I can long last be the daughter she always wanted!

          2. I'm glad you conquered your fear of razor clams. I too suffered from the fear for years, and would see razor clams on the beaches of New England, but couldn't bring myself to collect and eat them. It just wasn't done.

            Then a fearless friend cooked a few, as per your style, and they were good; my fear was gone. I've since had them at a farily well known Chinese restaurant in the city, (although no longer as good as it once was) with black bean sauce.

            1. Living in the northwest digging razors is a family ritual and I feel blessed to able to enjoy them as well as dungeness crab.We put live clams in a bucket with cornmeal before removing from shell and rinsing.Cooked quickly in butter.