Hardshell Clams (Littleneck/Topneck)
Hardshells are the connoisseur’s choice for raw, halfshell clams. They are mild-flavored, sweet and briny. Cooked hardshells are soft, juicy and mild. Raw meat should be tender-crisp and plump, ranging in color from ivory to golden yellow, with some dark areas. Cooked meat is pale, pinkish-white. Hardshells have an off-white, oval, symmetrical shell with a purple or violet border inside. Discard clams with open or broken shells. Unlike softshells, hardshell clams can close their shells completely and “live on their own juices” for a time, giving them a longer shelf life out of water than softshells.
Enjoy littlenecks raw on the halfshell, fried or steamed. In soup, add minced clams at the simmer stage, steep 5 minutes and serve. Cherrystones are sometimes eaten raw but more often are broiled, chopped for chowder or baked in dishes like clams casino. Large hardshells are stuffed or used in chowders, clam cakes and similar dishes. [SeafoodSource.com]
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