Clams at The Island Room Restaurant in Cedar Key don’t get any fresher. Not only does Chef Peter Stefano set a fine Gulf-side table, but the clams he serves are more than likely from his own boat!
Cedar Key, once home to a mostly fin-fishing industry, has in recent years grown to be the epicenter of clam farming in Florida. “Cedar Key Sweets” are the Northern quahog variety and are mostly sold in the 2- to 2.5-inch size, commonly called “littlenecks.” The bite-sized and tender meat is perfect for pasta and chowders—or for just plain steaming. Cedar Key clams are readily available at major supermarkets and most specialty seafood markets in Florida and the Southeastern U.S.
There are likely thousands of clam recipes, some so simple as tossing a handful of fresh clams over a campfire and watching them open, as probably was done by the Native Americans who inhabited our Gulf Coast thousands of years ago. But it’s not often that a really unique recipe appears. Peter Stefano’s dish, “Clams with Andouille sausage” is a good example—crossing the line between Southern/Cajun and fresh seafood.
It’s easy to prepare, slightly spicy, and when served over pasta, is an excellent headliner for your next seafood supper. FS
Cedar Key Clams with Andouille Sausage and Plum Tomatoes
48 Cedar Key clams washed and scrubbed
1 pound Andouille smoked sausage, thinly sliced
2 tbsp. chopped garlic
2 tbsp. olive oil
3 cups chopped plum tomatoes
2 cups stock or dry white wine (or one cup of each)
3 tbsp. chopped fresh herbs: basil, oregano and marjoram
2 tbsp. sliced scallions or chives
Heat a pan large enough to hold the clams, without crowding, over medium-high heat. Add oil and garlic and cook until garlic is soft, but not burned. Add the clams, sausage, tomatoes, stock and/or wine and herbs. Cover and cook until clams open. Top with scallions or chives and serve over linguine or spaghetti. And be sure to have some crusty bread on hand to sop up what’s left of the delicious sauce. (Serves 4)
First published Florida Sportsman September 2015