I had not heard of razor clams until our arrival in the Pacific Northwest. At the market they are as elusive as wild truffles, seasonal wild mushrooms and fiddlehead ferns. If you find them fresh, change your dinner plans and prepare for a bivalve buffet. Option B, check for tides and conditions and forage your own. Option C, buy frozen. They do freeze well but you may have to purchase by the pound in set quantities.
In my opinion, forget the fancy or complicated preparations for these clams; simply pan-fried is best. Truthfully, there are many recipes for razors, just like other varieties, so if you prefer, get-a-googling and find one that suits you. Because of their enormous size, one clam, maybe two, should constitute an entree for one adult. Think clam steak!
The photo below shows you just how large they are compared to the shovel next to them. These babies came from the Long Beach Peninsula in Washington State just north of Astoria, Oregon. Ninety-five percent of the razor clams in Oregon are harvested on the 18-mile stretch of beaches in Clatsop County, the north-westernmost county of the state.
Shucked and cleaned razor clams aren’t the prettiest food. They remind me of my 8th-grade biology days of dissecting small critters−without, thank goodness, that dreadful smell of formaldehyde. The three monsters below are on a full-size dinner plate and were so fresh they still smelled of the ocean.
Breaded and Fried Razor Clams
- Fresh, cleaned razor clams, at least one per person*
- Buttermilk for soaking
- 1 or 2 large eggs mixed with a little milk for coating
- Panko bread crumbs or all-purpose flour for dredging
- Salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste (in place of salt, a little Old Bay Seasoning may suit you)
- Peanut or canola oil for frying
* Here’s a pictorial guide to cleaning razor clams.
To pound or not to pound – that is the question. Razor clams are one of those proteins that can be succulent and tender or like industrial-strength rubber bands, depending on how you handle and cook them. I opt for the pounding. Be careful, though; you want them to remain in one piece.
- If pounding, lay them between plastic wrap and let them have it with a meat tenderizer.
- Let rest in the buttermilk for 30 minutes to an hour. (Buttermilk is not only a great marinade but a tenderizer as well.)
- Remove and season with salt and pepper.
- Beat the egg(s) and milk until homogeneous.
- Dip the clams in the egg/milk mixture.
- Coat thoroughly with the panko.
- Place all on a parchment-covered platter or sheet pan and place in the freezer for 20 minutes, no more. (This helps the coating remain on the clams.)
- Heat oil in a heavy, non-stick pan, large enough to hold at least two of the clams at a time, to 375° F (190° C).
- Fry until deep golden on the first side (about 1-1½ minutes) then turn and raise heat to brown the other side quickly.
- Remove to a warm platter and keep warm while you cook the remaining clams.
Serve immediately with your favorite sauce.
When it comes to seafood sauces, we’re a two-sauce family: thems that like tartar sauce, thems that like cocktail sauce and thems that like both (that would be me and Vic’s mom, Pranee.) Here are my favorite recipes for each.
Seafood Cocktail Sauce
Adapted from a Bon Appétit recipe
- 1 cup (240 ml.) ketchup
- 3 tablespoons (45 ml.) grated onion
- 3 tablespoons (45 ml.) prepared horseradish
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml.) fresh-squeezed lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml.) fresh tarragon, minced
Mix all together and chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour. Will keep for about 2 days.
Adapted from The Best Recipes by Cooks Illustrated
- 3/4 cup (180 ml.) mayonnaise
- 1½ teaspoons (7.5 ml.) minced cornichons or baby dill pickles
- 1 teaspoon (5 ml.) juice from cornichon or baby dills
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml.) scallion, minced
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml.) red onion or shallot
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml.) capers, minced
Mix all together and chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour. This will keep in the refrigerator for several days. I love leftovers on saltines with cocktails.
About the Author (Author Profile)
Music, food and photography are at the center of Charles’ life. He performed with the Dallas Symphony, Dallas Opera and was assistant principal bassoonist with the Fort Worth Symphony for more than 20 years. When Charles and Victor moved to Baltimore, Charles created Lone Star Personal Chef and Catering Service and taught cooking classes at Williams-Sonoma. Now in Salem, Charles is a Realtor with Coldwell Banker Mountain West Real Estate, taught cooking classes for children at the A.C. Gilbert Discovery Village, and owns and operates Charles Price Photography. Charles and Vic enjoy entertaining and frequently host dinners as fundraisers for local non-profits and charities