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Thursday, May 26, 2011

5/18 In search of Mexico's famous Chocolate` clam.

In the nine days we stayed at San Juanico we had several opportunities to try our hand at capturing the great Chocolate` clam. I will add a disclaimer before we upset anyone. In spite of the widely held belief that gringos are not allowed to harvest any clams or shellfish numerous cruisers had talked about the chocolate` clams in isolated anchorages that “just jump into their dinghies.” So it was a rule often broken and rarely if ever enforced but we were not comfortable with breaking any laws or the possible penalties for doing so in a foreign country. Then while at Loreto fest we talked with a Fish and Wildlife official who said that wasn’t and was never true. If you have a current fishing license it is OK to take clams, crabs, lobster etc “in amounts for personal consumption only.” He also debunked the myth about fishing licenses themselves. That being –and pushed vigorously by the agencies in San Diego that sell Mexican licenses- that “if there is even one hook on your boat it is necessary to have a license for everyone on board your boat.” And that further “the penalty of breaking this rule carrying punishment up to and including a heavy fines and the confiscation of your boat! He assured us that as long as people who are actively fishing are properly licensed those who have no interest do not need to purchase one. And he even gave us the website and a contact email for a person who could verify that.

So, being told that there were Chocolate` clams at San Juanico and getting some helpful hints from Peggy on “Interlude” we set out to try our luck. Armed with snorkel gear, game bag and dive gloves to protect our hands we set off. We dove and dug and dove and dug but after nearly an hour I had come up with zilch and Bill had a measly five. Not enough for a meal that’s for sure. We obviously needed a bit more information from Peggy!

The next morning armed with a few more helpful hints we set off with Leonard and Wilma of Midnight Sun to a nearby shallow sandy bottomed beach. The signs we were looking for would be two holes side by side about an inch or inch and a half apart. They should be in 8 to 20 feet of water and they were reported to dig deeper if you swam over them with the sun to your back, the shadow apparently alerting them to the presence of predators. Leonard and Wilma came equipped with snorkel gear, a game bag attached to a life preserver to keep it afloat and their abalone bars –a metal pry bar with a handle and a wrist tether. Bill went for the bare handed method but carried our game bag and I brought along my trusty garden trowel tied to my wrist with a length of cotton rope.

We split apart and in no time all you could see were splashes and flippers and bums in the air. I found my first clam on my second dive and stuffed it into the top of my wet suit. The extra information was already paying off. It was easy when you were looking for the right signs. We knocked em dead for the next half hour. I “captured” roughly 2 ½ dozen and Bill at least that many. Our game bag was so heavy with clams that when I swam back to bill to drop off my haul with him I could barely stay afloat while holding the bag. Wilma and Leonard were just as successful and in no time we were back to our boats with a six pm date for dinner and a game of Farkle aboard their boat.

The feast was delicious and because I am nice I will give you a great recipe that will work for any clams you might happen to have jump in your boat. Chocolate` clams are the shape of our butter clams back home and about the size of the palm of your hand. They have a chocolate brown shell and the meat inside is roughly twice the size of a butter clam. We have been told they are great just cooked on the BBQ but we decided to try something a bit more gourmet.

Clams San Juanico

2 doz. Chocolate` clams (shells of 1 doz. Reserved)
2-3 T mayonnaise
2 cloves garlic minced (I used more like 4)
Salt and pepper to taste
¼ cup (give or take) of freshly grated parmesan cheese
Toasted bread crumbs ( I toasted them on the top of the stove in some EVOO and fresh garlic)

Hang the clams for a few hours so they rid themselves of any sand. To open them I put them in the fridge until they began to open on their own then with a heavy glove to protect my hands I pried them open with a knife. (Only take out two or three at a time because by the time you get the third clam open the fourth will have shut back tight again.) Remove the main stomach part and discard and chop the rest of the meat into a mince. Add the mayo and garlic. Salt and pepper to taste then fold in the parmesan cheese. Refill cleaned shells and top with a tsp of bread crumbs then cook for just a few minutes on the BBQ or bake at 350 for about ten minutes.

The captain of Midnight Sun produced a delicious red sauce – I am lazy and would use Prego spaghetti sauce- then mixed in the steamed minced clam meat like you would add ground beef. Top with parmesan cheese and serve with fresh bread baked in your sun oven!

The second night I steamed the remainder of the clams for a minute or two to make it easy to remove the meat and added it to a simple pasta.

3 cloves of garlic minced
5 cloves of roasted garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
1 ½ of chopped clam meat
Grated parmesan
½ a box of Mexican La La brand “media crema”

Cook garlic in EVOO till soft but not browned in large pot. Add chopped roasted garlic and season to taste. Remove from heat and add chopped clam meat.
Prepare pasta as directed reserving a cup or so of the pasta water when through. Add drained pasta to pan of clams and stir. Add parmesan and check seasoning. Pour 1/3 to ½ small box of La La crema media and stir. Add pasta water as needed to desired consistence. Serve with three or four of the baked clams San Juanico arranged on top of each plate.

*La La brand media crema is a Mexican product that comes in small boxes and can be stored on your shelf indefinitely. It makes a great instant cream sauce. It is roughly like half and half and is also delicious used like heavy cream over fruit or baked deserts if you add a bit of vanilla and chill.

Bon appetite! Kat

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