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Razor clams

Of all the seafood and fun shells one can think of, razor clams seem to have gotten a bad rap. Not as fancy as oysters or clams, razor clams are on the cheaper end of the seafood world, which means you shouldn’t be afraid of messing around with them a little bit.

This recipe is a spin on the traditional seafood and white wine pairing, which usually has us opening mussels or clams in some chardonnay steam, but it plays on one of my favorite hobbies, fermentation, using kombucha instead.

If you have ever tried your hand at it, you might have started with some lacto-fermentation (sauerkraut, kimchi), then went on with sourdough bread, or kefir, and if you went next-level you might have tried making tempeh or kombucha. (If you got to making your own miso or tamari, well, congratulations, I’m a little bit jealous.)

This is where I’m at, and kombucha bottles are lined up on my shelves as we speak. Like all fermentation, it relies on bacteria and yeast to eat up and transform the material you feed it. In the case of kombucha, a heavily sweetened tea is fermented thanks to a SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) that looks about as funky as its name suggests: it’s a big white blob. When making your own kombucha, flavoring and carbonating are the most fun, and they can open up a whole new world of possibilities in the kitchen. Think of kombucha as something in between a vinegar and a syrup; you could use it in a vinaigrette (fig kombucha in a walnut and cheese salad), a marinade (ginger kombucha with white fish), or as a syrup to poach fruit in and reduce (how about peaches poached in a lime kombucha, served with some raspberry ice cream?). Here, its acidity is used to pre-cook the razor clams as they marinate, making them more tender; the sugar in the kombucha also helps with caramelization in the oven. And, well, it also introduces one of my favorite flavor combinations: green apple, hazelnut, and seafood.

If you would like to explore the world of fermentation and funky kombucha uses, I recommend two books: Fermentation by Sandor Ellis Katz, the Pope of indigenous fermentation, and The Noma Guide to Fermentation, a very precise and inspiring account of how the Noma restaurant in Copenhagen uses fermentation throughout the year.

Spinning off this recipe, don’t hesitate to try other types of shells and seafood in your Städler Made oven: mussels, clams, oysters, shrimp… they will all benefit from a little trip into the fire.

Alright, now pour yourself a glass of ice-cold white wine (or kombucha), turn on the radio, and get out in the sun. Today is the day those shells get to see some fire action!

The clams:

1kg razor clams

150g hazelnuts

2 tbsp olive oil

3 tbsp green apple kombucha (or white wine for a more classic dish, or plain kombucha)

Soak the clams in a bath of cold salted water for one to two hours to get the sand out. You can now take out the clams from the shells, but keep those for presentation.

Chop, chop, chop the clams in two or three pieces each, nothing smaller, and put them in a bowl. Drizzle with the oil and the kombucha and leave to marinate for 15 to 20 minutes.

The apple:

1 green apple

While the clams get a soak, slice the apple very thin, preferably with a mandoline or a good knife. Pile a few slices and slice again to create long, fine sticks or, if you fancy a little French with your glass of wine, julienne them. Pour a little kombucha on top to avoid oxidizing and to keep them looking fresh and crunchy.

After 15 to 20 minutes, roughly chop the hazelnuts (you want to keep a bite) and add them to the bowl with the clams. Spread the contents of the bowl on a pizza pan or other oven-safe tray. You are ready to slide them into the oven! Keep an eye on the pan while the clams cook: they should brown and sizzle, but the hazelnuts turning black is your sign that you should take the tray out.

These generally do not need salting, but fresh ground pepper is always a good idea in my book, so be liberal here.

It’s time to finish off your dish already!

Scatter some of the shells on a plate and pile up the razor clam and hazelnut mix on top. Add your julienned apple slices, and as a last-minute decision, I added some salicornes for an extra touch of salinity.

What you’ll end up with is some super crunchy toasted nuts, caramelized clams, some fresh sea-tasting salicornes, and vibrant apple.

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