January 03, 2018

Fun With Clams


I once saw a recipe for a clam frittata in The New York Times magazine that stuck with me.

Now don't get me wrong -- even though I am somewhat of a legend among East Hampton baymen (some might say my name is synonymous with Bubby) I am not as infatuated with clams as many of the Bubbies and Bonackers are, but I can assure you I've eaten my share -- even a slice or two of clam pie.

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When I was a kid I used to go clamming by the little bridge on Short Beach in North Haven (which, oddly enough, is right before Long Beach, which is on Short Beach Road and runs the length of Long Beach -- and they wonder why I'm dyslexic). That was one of a dozen or so of our go-to spots where clams were plentiful.

I remember my dad and Uncle Tom would go and bring me along. I would marvel at their outfits, thinking surely they were the dorkiest adults around.

Dad would wear one of those crazy straw hats that you won at the carnival, a plaid shirt, bathing suit, and sneakers -- who would have thought to wear sneakers in the water?

But these weren't ordinary sneakers.

My father started as a male nurse but retired as the director of nursing at Brooklyn State Hospital, which was a mental institution.

Whenever I needed sneakers I would ask for money -- I wanted Converse All-Stars, of course. He'd reply by asking my size and bring sneakers home from work. But they weren't really sneakers -- they were mental patient sneakers. They didn't have laces. I kid you not.

He did the same thing when we needed "dress shoes." He brought home mental patient shoes -- you couldn't tell the left from the right. I looked like a clown and immediately started walking like a duck but don't ask me why.

When he'd get really mad at us during dinner he'd scream, "You're crazier than my patients!" He was probably right, which proves shoes make the man.

My uncle would also wear some odd concoction of mismatched clothes and the requisite mental patient sneakers. I concluded the types of clams who responded to clammers wearing this type of footwear were probably mentally-deranged clams, and that's why dad and Tom wore them in the water to begin with.

After a couple of hours the straw bushel baskets stuck in the inner tubes would be brimming with clams, and as everyone knew, the crazy clams tasted best.

We'd eat the little ones chilled with spicy cocktail sauce. Mom would make clam sauce, red and white, with the Cherrystones. Uncle Tom would chop up the chowder clams and make a huge pot of Manhattan chowder, enough for damn near the whole year.

But no one in the Forcucci family ever thought of making a clam frittata.

The challenge for me one night was to make my demanding and sophisticated new wife a suitable supper that would impress her. I could have said I was making scrambled eggs but that isn't very romantic.

I used to make a pretty mean frittata when I worked on the restaurant circuit. A couple links of sausage, a jar of artichokes, a couple mushrooms, spinach, an onion and garlic, and whatever cheese I had around. Anything will do, however -- olives, broccoli, asparagus, you name it.

I'd whip up a half-dozen eggs, add salt and pepper, a healthy squirt of Half and Half, and bake at 350 degrees in a baking dish lined with butter for one hour. The frittata comes out shimmering like a bowl of Jell-O but as smooth as custard, moist but not wet.

Serve it with garlic bread and a simple salad of tomatoes, black olives, red onions, and some home fries.

To make a long story short, my idea to surprise Karen, a city girl, with a clam frittata was ill-advised to say the least. Even if she didn't hate clams to begin with (she does), and even if she didn't have shellfish allergies (she does), there is a time and place for everything, and a clam's place is firmly centered in Bubbyland, where we used to have the aforementioned clam pie for dinner sometimes. You had to be there, folks.

So what do you do need on hand when you have to impress someone with a quick meal when clams won't suffice?

My answer is based on the belief one should be able to feed a family without having to go shopping — this comes in handy during snowstorms, terrorist attacks, blackouts, or if you are extremely embarrassed about your sneakers.

Here's my list in no particular order: 1) eggs 2) Half and Half or cream 3) breakfast meat 4) bread 5) potatoes 6) Novocain 7) pasta 8) cheese 9) parsley 10) wine.

I left clams off – apologies to my Bubby brethren.

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