Razor Clam Fritters & Wasabi Slaw: Fusion Comfort

Something tried-and-true, something new: clam fritters and wasabi slaw – fusion comfort food.

My dad gave me two pieces of advice which have stood the test of time – 1) Take the stairs whenever you can, and take them two-at-a-time, and 2) eat as much fried food as you can when you’re young, because at some point you won’t be able to.

Clam fritters are so easy, I’m not sure why I don’t make them more often. Although I made these with razor clams, in South Carolina I made them out of the whelks I’d find, and at other times I’ve made them out of canned clams. The slaw is comprised of fairly standard ingredients – mayonnaise (homemade), pickle juice, vinegar, sugar, salt, pepper, carrots and cabbage – and given a kick with two teaspoons of powdered wasabi.

The fritters are adapted from Craig Claiborne’s recipe as it appears in The New York Times Cook Book, with the only difference being my substitution of dried tarragon and basil, which I have, for fresh parsley, which I do not have.

Clam Fritters: serves 4


  • 1 cup chopped clams
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp chopped tarragon (or substitute dry tarragon or marjoram)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup clam juice
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 tbsp melted butter
  • couple dashes cayenne pepper (to taste)
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • oil for frying


  1. Chop clams on a cutting board. Not too fine. Place them in a mixing bowl.
  2. Add the egg, lemon juice, tarragon, baking soda and flour and stir.
  3. Blend the clam juice and milk. Add gradually to the clam mixture, stirring continuously. Do not make the batter too runny.
  4. Stir in the butter, cayenne and black pepper.
  5. Heat about 1/8 inch of oil in a frying pan.
  6. Drop batter in the hot oil – about 2 tablespoons per fritter. (They’ll cook better if they’re fairly small.)
  7. Turn when the bottom is browned, as you would for pancakes.

We served these with salmon sauce. Tarter sauce, shrimp sauce, or a squeeze of lemon works well, too. These seemed to beg for an amber ale. (Or maybe it’s Barbra and me doing the begging after nine months of living in a dry village!) Enjoy!

Manhattan-Style Razor Clam Chowder

Growing up, soup usually meant opening a can of Campell’s. Their Manhattan clam chowder was my favorite. When I got out of the navy and began cooking for myself, Craig Claiborne’s Manhattan Clam Chowder was probably the second recipe I attempted – right after his chili recipe. The results were a revelation, and I never went back to Manhattan from a can.
Generous amounts of thyme, tomatoes, onions, potatoes, clams, carrots, celery, and a hint of heat from red pepper flakes keep this recipe close to the spirit of Claiborne’s, but with the addition of corn, green beans, and chard it strays from tradition, although I doubt the Portuguese immigrants who introduced this style of chowder would object. The smoked sea salt gives this soup a hearty warmth.

This recipe makes about 3 1/2 gallons.

  •  4 lbs razor clams chopped coarse
  • 1 cup clam juice (Razor clam juice is milky and will detract from the soup’s color if more is used.)
  • 6 pounds potatoes cut in 1/2 inch cubes
  • 3 1/2 pounds sweet onions, chopped fine
  • approx. 3 cups collard greens or chard, leaves cut away from the main stems and chopped into approx. 2″ squares
  • 1 lb. carrots, sliced
  • 1/2 lb. celery, chopped
  • 1/4 pound fresh green beans, chopped into 1/2″ pieces
  • 3 cups sweet corn
  • 1/3 pound bacon, broiled, drained and cut into small pieces
  • 2 tbsp dried thyme
  • 3 bay leaves
  • several cloves garlic, chopped fine
  • 72 ounces (4.5 lbs) diced tomatoes with liquid (fresh or canned)
  • 12 ounces tomato paste
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • olive oil
  • smoked sea salt to taste
  • 1 tbsp pepper flakes
  • olive oil
  • water

Chopping up all these ingredients is a bit of work. After that the cooking is pretty standard. This chowder freezes well and allows for many substitutions – including substituting a white-meated fish for the clams, or adding mussels, shrimp, squid, octopus, etc.

1. Mix tomato paste and thyme with approx. three cups of water and two tablespoons of olive oil and set aside

2. Cover the bottom of a large pot with olive oil and heat over medium-high. Add the carrots and cook for a minute stirring occasionally. Add the onions and cook for two minutes, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium and add the celery, green beans and garlic, stirring occasionally for about three minutes.

3. Add the diced tomatoes, the tomato sauce mixture, the potatoes and remaining seasonings. Add enough water to cover the potatoes and simmer until soft. If the soup seems watery, add more tomato paste. Stir occasionally. Depending on the type of potato and size of cubes, this takes 20 to 50 minutes.

4. When the potatoes are of desired softness, stir in the chard or collard greens. Continue simmering for about 2 minutes.

5. Stir in the sweet corn, the clams and the clam juice. The corn will add considerable sweetness, as will razor clams. Give it a taste to see if it needs more salt, pepper, chili flakes or thyme.

Don’t overcook. As soon as the clams and corn are heated, the chowder is ready to serve. Garnish individual servings with a very thin slice of lemon, a few strips of nori, or grated parmesan cheese and serve with a hunk of crusty, fresh-baked bread.

(For more posts on razor clams, click on the tag “razor clams” in the upper left below the photo. Or click here for New England Razor Clam Chowder.)

Alaskan Clam Chowder

New England Style Clam Chowder garnished with a slice of lemon and salmon berry blossoms. All fruit blossoms are edible, and in addition to being beautiful, some are downright tasty.

These days, there seems to be a trend toward making New England Style Clam Chowders thicker and thicker. Unfortunately, to our taste, the thickness is achieved by adding lots of flour, resulting in a somewhat pasty if not downright bland bowl of soup. Our favorite chowders put clams and potatoes up front and emphasize flavor over thickness. We make both New England Style and Manhattan Style Clam Chowders in large pots, freezing the finished product in smaller containers and pulling them out on cold nights throughout the winter. While this is a great way to put to use all the razor clams we used to dig in Oregon and now dig in Alaska, it works well with other kinds of clams, too, as well as with canned clams such as the big, 51 ounce (3 pounds, 3 ounces) cans of SeaWatch chopped clams sold at Costco and other stores. The recipe is never the same twice. The one below is a recent version. One of the keys is to use not more than twice the potatoes, by weight, as clams.

Up here in bush Alaska, many of the communities are “dry” and I can’t use one of my favorite ingredients–sherry. If I could, I would add about a 1/4 cup of a quality dry sherry such as Dry Sack.

Ingredients: (We cook with dairy products from grass-fed cows, which research increasingly is showing is a significantly more healthful choice than dairy from cows fed on grain and processed feed.)

  • 3 pounds razor clams, chopped coarse (This is the weight of clams after they have been drained. But save and set aside their juice.)
  • clam juice you’ve set aside. The more, the better.
  • 4 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold or yellow potatoes. (These cook up creamier than than Russets)
  • 2 sweet onions, chopped coarse
  • 1/2 pound bacon, cut into small pieces
  • water (as needed to cover potatoes while cooking)
  • 4 cups milk
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 6 cloves of garlic, chopped fine
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons sea salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon Italian seasoning (The Spice Hunter’s Italian blend is excellent)
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper (either black or rainbow)
  • 1 teaspoon dry tarragon, crushed (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg (optional)
  • 5 – 7 very thin slices of lemon

1. Wash potatoes and remove any eyes, but do not remove the skins. Cut into ½ inch cubes and place in a large bowl. Set aside.

2. Fry the bacon pieces till tender. Do not crisp. Drain the grease and set aside.

3. In a large pot, add the olive oil and heat over medium-high. Add onions, stirring frequently for about five minutes until they begin to turn translucent. Add garlic and stir again.

4. Add flour and stir in thoroughly. Add two tablespoons of butter (or more olive oil) if necessary to completely mix in the flour.

5. Immediately add clam juice and milk. Stir.

6. Add potatoes, seasonings and salt and enough water to cover all. Slowly bring to a simmer and cook until potatoes become tender, stirring occasionally. About 45 – 60 minutes.

7. Add cream and lemon slices and return to just under a simmer or barely simmering.

8. Add the clams and the remaining butter and turn heat to low. On a propane stove, you may need a flame tamer. Continue cooking for 10 minutes.

Serve with a big hunk of toasted sourdough bread and a Chardonnay, a Pinot Gris, or a good ale.

Razor Clam Fry

Jack has put the finishing touches on our kitchen in our new home and is already feeding us well. The above razor clams were dusted with seasoned flour, dipped in beaten eggs, and rolled in cracker crumbs in preparation for frying in olive oil. Having been frozen fresh, they tasted like they were just dug. Every bite evoked the wonderful memories of digging those clams just weeks ago.

I’m grateful that our school not only has a pool, but also a weight room this year!

One Hundred-twenty Clams

One-hundred and twenty clams

That’s a lot of razor clams. Back on the Oregon coast, the limit was thirty for the two of us. We love razors, they are THE best eating clams. Driven by our love of clams and the best clamming tide of the summer, we cruised down the Kenai coast to see what we could catch.

We got to the beach well before the peak low tide. The beach was suspiciously devoid of people and very rocky. The day before, a family of campers had told us that this beach was “loaded” with clams. Maybe we had been punked! Patience, Donachy’s, patience.

We walked south in hopes of finding sand or evidence of clams. The day was sunny, and the blue skies were reflected in the glassy waters of Cook Inlet. Shouldered with snow, Mount Iliamna loomed in the distance, catching clouds like wisps of cotton. Bald eagles seemed to be everywhere. We walked immersed in the beauty and stillness, the sun warming us.

As the tide continued to recede, here and there patches of sand began to show. And then, so did the people. Trucks and ATVs drove by and continued down the beach. A-ha! After a few more minutes of walking we joined the two dozen or so people who were beginning to dig. There were old, young, and in between. Dads were coaching kids. Groups of young girls were squealing and giggling with each clam they pulled from the wet sand.

As we joined the diggers, we were amazed at the quantity of shows—the tell-tale dimples in the sand made by each clam’s syphon. Two years earlier, we dug some clams at a nearby beach. They were huge, but we didn’t find many. On this beach, the clams were smaller, but still a good size for eating. After digging for a bit over an hour, we decided we’d better count and see where we were. We were shocked to find we had already dug one hundred clams! We were almost disappointed knowing that we only could dig twenty more.

The morning of clamming and walking the beach had been a blast! We knew we had our work cut out for us cleaning and prepping the razors for cooking. Armed with a six-pack of Alaskan White Ale and the high the two big bags of clams left us with, we went back to camp to finish the task.