May 2010 brought a new adventure that we hope will be an annual event: “duck” hunting. No, not the kind that fly and quack, the kind that burrow three feet deep in the intertidal zone. I’m talking about geoducks; the world’s largest burrowing clam! Geoducks are only found in the Pacific Northwest and they make up the largest biomass in Puget Sound. That means if you were to put every type of living creature found in Puget Sound in it’s own pile, the geoduck pile would be the largest (by far!) We’d never tasted one, and had only seen the offensive looking creatures at the Pike Place Market, but we’d heard they were tasty and we thought we were up for the challenge.
Geoducks can only be dug at the lowest tides of the year. We checked the tide charts and decided on a weekend in May. Luck was on our side because it was the ONLY nice weekend in May this year. We loaded up our canoe with our friends in Olympia (hi Adria and Andy!) and headed out to an island for the weekend in hopes of finding some geoducks. We learned a lot that weekend. We learned the difference between a piddock, a horse clam and a geoduck (piddocks and horse clams are not what you’re looking for). We learned that hunting this mega-clam is challenging!!!! (It helps to have a tenacious attitude and a long reach.) And we learned that geoducks are delicious.
That last lesson wasn’t fully realized until we made geoduck chowder. Sure, we’d fried up some clams that weekend in May and made some fresh geoduck cevichi based on this recipe, but it wasn’t until we tasted the geoduck chowder that we realized what a special clam we had. This was hands-down the best chowder we have ever tasted. The flavor is almost sweet the way scallops or oysters are and because we processed them late that Sunday night in May, they were tenderized and frozen in ziplock bags waiting for us in the freezer.
We based our recipe on one for razor clam chowder we found here. It turned out so good we made it again for Christmas Eve. Everyone around the table loved it, including my 86 year old grandma (hi Mimi!) who didn’t think she liked geoduck (though she had never tried it.) Hope you’ll be inspired to try this clam someday too.
- 2 cups chopped geoduck (dug near Olympia, WA)
- 4-5 strips of thick, quality bacon, diced (Hemplers – Ferndale, WA)
- 1 large onion (WA, organic)
- 2-3 cups peeled and cubed potato (backyard)
- 3 tbsp butter (Golden Glen Creamery – Bow, WA)
- 3 tbsp flour (Stone-Buhr, WA)
- 1 quart chicken stock (homemade-freezer)
- 1 1/4 C. heavy cream (Golden Glen Creamery – Bow, WA)
- 3/4 C. milk (Golden Glen Creamery – Bow, WA)
- 6 sprigs fresh thyme (backyard)
- salt and pepper to taste
Sauté bacon in heavy pot, then remove with slotted spoon. Sauté onions 1 minute in bacon fat, add potatoes and cook 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove onion-potato mixture for later use. Melt butter and mix in flour to make roux. After the flour begins to brown slowly add stock over medium heat, stirring constantly. Return onions and potatoes and simmer until potatoes are tender. Add thyme and seasonings. Slowly add cream and milk. Add clams and cook over low heat for a couple minutes immediately before serving. Serve piping hot with good bread.
Melvin and Gertrude, our geoduck Snooter-doots went to a friends house the night we made chowder. To them, it was as if nothing happened. It’s probably better that way. 🙂