The powers that be have opened the fall/winter Washington razor clam season three weekends so far and I’ve missed them all. Good thing razors keep so well in the deep freeze. We’ve been busting out vacuum-sealed packets of last year’s catch to keep pace with the comfort needs of the season, and while nothing beats a piping hot chowder on a wintry day, this Big Apple recipe for clam dip with a decidedly south-of-the-border twist is a close second if you have any leftover clams. As a pairing with potato chips and beer on a snowbound day of football-watching, it’s just about perfect.
A single chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, minced, is enough to turn up the heat on what is ordinarily a fairly innocuous dip. Chopped cilantro, lime juice, and a garnish of festive red pepper and green scallions add extra zing. Otherwise it’s the clams that puts gas in the tank. I can’t remember where this recipe came from; now it’s just a yellowed newspaper clipping taped to an index card. Chances are I got this from relatives down in Arkansas, who, despite being landlocked, know their football and their clam dips. Put this out at your Superbowl party with a couple bags of good chips (mine are Cape Cod, Tim’s Cascade, or Kettle) and I guarantee you’ll be throwing flags as you watch your guests lick the bowl before half-time.
18 littleneck clams or 6 razor clams
1 can of Rainier (Miller High Life is acceptable)
4 slices bacon, chopped
3 tbsp onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
3 tbsp sour cream (or Mexican crema)
3 tbsp cilantro, chopped
Juice of half a lime
1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, minced
1/2 red pepper, diced
scallions, sliced for garnish
hot sauce to taste
1. With littleneck clams, steam open in beer, reserving 2 tablespoons of broth; if using frozen razor clams, thaw out and similarly save 2 tablespoons of liquor. Chop clams.
2. Fry bacon in skillet, then remove to paper towel with slotted spoon when crispy. Saute onion and garlic in bacon fat for a minute or two, then spoon into serving bowl. If using razor clams, saute in remaining fat for 5 minutes and add to bowl.
3. Whisk together softened cream cheese and sour cream in same bowl with clams, reserved clam juice, onions, garlic, bacon, cilantro, lime juice, chipotle pepper, half of diced red pepper, and a few dashes of hot sauce. Garnish with remaining diced red pepper and sliced scallions.
Yields about 2 cups.