It’s like a tomato-y chowder, but not. Like a goulash with its paprika notes, but not. And like a stew, but it’s more than that. There’s a lot going on in this lively and delicious stew, and it’s super comforting, relaxed, and easy.
I live in the US Pacific Northwest, and we’re lucky to have razor clams for the picking (chasing!) on our ocean beaches. They’re tender, mild flavored, and just amazing. A friend invited us to her family’s 1890’s homestead cabin on Washington’s Long Beach peninsula, where we spent a gray, drizzly morning hunting these very special clams.
Back at the cabin we cleaned our haul, preparing some for freezing and some for dinner. The cabin relies on an old wood-burning kitchen range for heat and cooking, and we put it to good use with a big pot of traditional white chowder on the stovetop and my homemade sourdough in the oven. My first go at wood-fired cooking!
If you’re not familiar with them, the Pacific Razor Clam (siliqua patula) is a big prize for a bivalve, measuring rarely up to 6″, and more usually from 3 to 5 inches, with a lot of meat between the shells. They’re strong and fast, and for the novice can be a little tricky to catch. A clam tube or “gun” is the favored digging equipment; it gets you in and out fast, before the clam knows what you’re up to.
I came up with the Paprika Razor Clam Stew after I was back at home. It’s rooted in Spanish cooking, with its signature flavor-meld of garlic, onions, peppers and tomato, plus the sweetness of bay and earthiness of Spanish smoked paprika. And it’s all bound together beautifully with potatoes cooked in the broth.
Preparing the potatoes is key. I use a method called “chasquear”, in which you break the potatoes into chunks (1″ is good) using the knife as a wedge. Peel and cut the potatoes, then insert the knife blade into potato about 1/2″ then use the blade as a wedge to break a chunk off the rest of the way. This method–“patatas chasqueadas”–is perfect for stews because the irregular surface lets the potato release more starch into the stew for better thickening. Here’s a great demo video. No worries if you don’t understand Spanish; just watch.
Paprika Razor Clam Stew
3T extra virgin olive oil
1/2 c chopped yellow onion
1/4 c red bell pepper, diced
1/4 c green bell pepper, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
2 grated tomatoes (grating is easier if semi-frozen)
1t Spanish smoked paprika “pimenton de la Vera”, sweet or picante
1/3 c white wine
1 pound cleaned, fresh clam meat, chopped if necessary (see note, below)
Salt and Pepper
2 medium-sized starchy potatoes “chasqueadas” (see note, above), like yukon gold
1 c cooked, drained garbanzo beans
2 T chopped cilantro or parsley, for garnish (optional)
Heat olive oil in a large, heavy pot over medium heat. I like a dutch oven.
Add the onions, garlic, peppers and bay leaf. Saute until tender and translucent.
Add the tomato and pimenton and combine. Continue cooking over medium/med-low until you have a nice, thick jam. Add about 2t salt, stir. Pour wine over and cook down a bit more.
Stir in the raw clams, then add water to cover. Simmer for about 15 minutes, until clams are cooked through but tender. Add the potatoes cook until tender. Just before the potatoes are cooked, add garbanzo beans.
When all is cooked and hot, taste for seasoning. Grind in fresh black pepper into stew, and adjust salt to your preference.