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The Two Captains



Volume XIV - Around Loreto
Clams & Wedgeshells

About the time we moved north from Agua Verde into the Loreto area, the water at last began get warm enough to get into, although our first outings were still in 5mm wetsuits! At the same time we met Dennis and Lisa of Lady Galadriel in Bahia Candeleros and were introduced for the first time to chocolates. That’s cha-coh-LAH-tays, which is not a confection made from cacao (although Dennis and Lisa also later introduced us to See’s, a Californian chocolatier!), but rather a smooth, glossy-shelled clam.

Personally, I haven’t been clamming since my Fire Island days, back when I was a typical New York yuppie enjoying beach weekends. And as for the Indiana boy…well, enough said. Clamming, Baja-style, is usually done on snorkel, which makes it a bit of work. The first trick is to learn to identify the siphon pattern. Chocolate clams live buried an inch or two under the sand from where they extend out two siphons, which are just visible side by side. The clam is not always directly beneath the siphons, so this adds the second bit of challenge whilst digging around while holding your breath! Many cruisers cook their chocolates on the BBQ, but we like them best raw with a squeeze of limón, a drop of picante sauce and perhaps a dot of horseradish.

There are several other almejas in the sands of the Sea: oversized amarillos (yellow clams), rough-shelled steamers, and my special favorite – wedge shells. “Wedge shells” at least is the name given to them by one popular cruising cookbook Cruising Cuisine by Kay Pastorius. These tiny clams no larger than you thumbnail are found in the first few feet of water on several soft sand beaches. One can sit waist deep and cool off, while combing your fingers through the sand around you, sifting these little guys out like gold nuggets. In an hour you can collect a couple of cups worth, which when steamed are great to eat straight from the shell or to add to linguine. It’s a wonder of nature how much clam seems to be packed in those tiny packages.

Linguine with “Wedgie” (Clam) Sauce (Serves Two)

2-3 cups of wedge shells (depending on how much snacking you & your shucker will do!), or about a cup of chopped larger clams, or 1 large can of baby clams
1 cup water
¼ cup white wine or white vermouth (be sure to reserve the steaming broth!)

3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons of olive oil
1 Teaspoon red pepper flakes
¼ cup of cilantro or parsley or both
¼ - ½ cup of reduced steaming broth (see above)
1-2 Tablespoons of cream (optional)
½ lb. linguine, cooked

grated Parmesan cheese

Start by rinsing the wedge shells to make sure they are free of sand from collecting. It’s always best to let clams hang in salt water a day to let them purge themselves of sand, although the wedge shells seem to contain very little. The smooth shells are so small, that scrubbing them is not really feasible. Steam them over a steaming broth made of water and wine until they open (probably about 3-5 minutes …keep watch!) Strain and reserve the steaming broth.

Set your mate to picking the meat from the shells. Plan for attrition as the wedge shell meat makes sweet, easy-to-sneak bites. (Save the multi-colored shells for jewelry projects.)

Bring water to a boil and cook the linguine. On our boat, the pasta pot is the same pot as the steamer. When al dente, drain the pasta, and return to pan. My Italian friend says “Do not rinse pasta or add olive oil to it as the sauce then can’t stick.”

While the pasta is cooking, sauté the minced garlic in the olive oil for about a minute. Add the red pepper flakes. Add the clams and cilantro/parsley and stir until well coated. Gradually add in the steaming broth. Thicken with a little crema (or sour cream) and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Before serving, stir in about half of the sauce with the pasta and toss to coat. Divide onto two plates and top pasta with rest of clam sauce. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan.

Serve with green salad and break out the wine!


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Published at Burlington, VT