Razor clam escabeche at Tessa in New York. Photo credit: Courtesy Tessa
We’re fresh off the plane from Paris, where we feasted on razor clams at Clamato. Then we returned to New York and saw razor clams on the menus at Tessa and Maison Premiere and Charlie Bird and Mary’s Fish Camp…
But it’s not razor clam season. In fact, razor clams don’t really have a season. “They seem to be available all year ‘round, provided the weather and the tidal range are good enough for the guys to get out and dig for them,” says Ian MacGregor, CEO and Head Fishmonger of The Lobster Place in New York City. Just because they’re available throughout the calendar year, though, does not mean razor clams are easy to get. On the contrary, they’re elusive little buggers.
“Our clam diggers tell me that they move around quite a bit—you’re not really digging for an inanimate object in the way you are for other clams,” says MacGregor. “Plus they do have a sharp edge. They can really chew up your hands if you’re not careful, but they’re hard to get a hold of if you’re wearing gloves.”
Plus, their harvesting is largely dependent on tides. “They don’t burrow down into the sand close to shore,” says MacGregor. “Clamdiggers have to wait for tide to go way out.”
Uff. And, of course, the hard-to-gets are the most wanted. (Side note: Why does life work like this?) In the last two months, MacGregor has sold 800 pounds of razor clams to New York area restaurants, as opposed to 180 pounds at the same time last year. “It’s all the rage,” he says. “Every chef wants to have it on his or her menu.”
His number one buyer of razor clams: Tessa restaurant. Executive Chef Cedric Tovar says that “it was a childhood thing” growing up in the south of France, and that’s why he loves serving them so much. “It has that Littleneck clam flavor profile but it’s more tender and sweeter,” he says. Tovar prepares it them in a vinegar-heavy escabeche marinade, “which is usually an application used for anchovies or sardines or mackerel,” but for home cooking, he says, the simpler the better. Steam them for 2-3 minutes in a little bit of white wine, some sliced fennel, onion, garlic, thyme, a bay leaf, and very little salt and pepper. “The shells are thin, the clam is long, and the flesh runs all along the shell, which is why it cooks so quickly.”
So, try them. If you can find them, that is.
Razor clams at Clamato in Paris. Photo credit: Wendy Lyn, The Paris Kitchen