This hearty sandwich from Sara’s Secrets for Weeknight Meals (page 94) will make a memorable meal any time of the year. It is featured on Episode 102 of my public television show, Sara’s Weeknight Meals. Go to Weeknight Meals to find preparation, equipment, and ingredient tips. I just love fried clams. Let me back up here—I actually love anything fried, but you can’t always justify it from the mess and caloric point of view. Clams were made to be fried. Anybody who has been to Cape Cod or Ipswich, MA or to one of the many little food shacks along the New England coast knows how special they are. The trouble is when I asked my fishmonger about the availability of soft shell clams (the usual suspect for this dish) he said they were not so easy to find and really quite expensive if you got them already shucked. I decided to go with littlenecks instead and yes, littlenecks are a little chewy but the flavor is right there.
Hands-on time: 35 minutes
Total preparation time: 45 minutes
Beer Batter (recipe follows)
Quick Herb Sauce (recipe follows) or Rouille (Sara’s Secrets for Weeknight Meals, page 314)
6 hot dog rolls, preferably top split
2 tablespoons melted butter
Vegetable oil for deep frying
2 pints shucked (preferably by your fishmonger) littleneck clams
2 cups packed shredded iceberg or Romaine lettuce
6 lemon wedges
Make the Beer Batter, strain it, and let it rest while you prepare the Quick Herb Sauce. Combine the seasoned flour as directed in the beer batter recipe. Preheat the oven to 225° F.
Heat a griddle or cast iron frying pan over high heat until hot; reduce the heat to medium-high. Brush the outsides of the rolls with melted butter and toast on the griddle, turning until all sides are golden, 4 to 6 minutes total. Keep the rolls warm in the oven while you fry the clams.
Heat 2 inches of vegetable oil in a deep saucepan to 375° F. Drain the clams and pat dry. Working with about one-fourth of the clams at a time, dip them in the flour mixture, shake off the excess, then dip them in the batter to coat them and let the excess drip off. Add the clams to the oil and deep fry until they are golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain and keep warm in the oven. Repeat with the remaining clams.
Spoon a little Quick Herb Sauce on the toasted rolls. Divide the clams among the rolls. Top each with some lettuce and serve with a lemon wedge.
Beer Batter: Whisk together 1 cup beer, 1 cup flour, and 1/2 teaspoon salt until almost smooth. Strain through a strainer and let rest, covered, at least 15 minutes and up to 1 hour. Check the consistency, it should be as thick as a slightly thick pancake batter; if it is not, add more beer. Combine 1/2 cup flour with 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a soup plate or plastic bag. Dip the item to be fried in the seasoned flour, shaking off the excess before coating it in the batter. Most items should be fried at a temperature of 365? to 375?F and sprinkled with salt right after they are removed from the hot oil. Makes about 1 3/4 cups, enough to coat 4 servings meat, poultry, seafood, or vegetables
Quick Herb Sauce: Combine 1 cup packed fresh basil leaves, rinsed, and spun dry, 1 cup mayonnaise, 1/4 cup packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, rinsed and dried, 2 scallions (white and light green parts), coarsely chopped (about 1/4 cup), 1 large garlic clove, minced (about 1 1/2 teaspoons), 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest, and kosher salt and freshly milled black pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Makes about 1 1/8 cups.