Last week I went digging for the prehistoric looking, giant clam known as Geoduck (read all about the rather challenging excursion here). This week I’m going to teach you how to prepare and eat it. But before that, a little info on this mighty creature.
The name geoduck (pronounced gooey-duck) is the Nisqually Native American word for ‘dig deep’, quite logical because these clams live 2½-3 feet below the surface of the sand. They are the largest burrowing clam in the world and are exclusively native to the Puget Sound in Washington State, extending north to Vancouver B.C. The average weight is about three pounds, but specimens weighing over 15 pounds in not unheard of. They are also one of the oldest living creatures in the animal kingdom and can live as long as 168 years. There are an estimated 109 million ‘ducks’ living packed into the sediment of the Puget Sound, making them the largest biological mass in the Sound according to the Department of Ecology.
If you live outside of the Pacific Northwest, finding geoduck could pose a small problem. Aside from going digging for them yourself, you might get lucky at an Asian Supermarket in the live shellfish section. Or they can be purchased from Taylor Shellfish at any of their retail stores or from their online store.
Once you have your geoduck it is time for the preparation. While you are bringing a large pot of water to a boil on the stove, get a container of ice water ready. Dunk your ‘duck’ in the boiling water for 12 seconds and then immediately plunge into the ice water. Once it is chilled bring it out onto a cutting board. Blanching loosens up the skin around the neck, allowing it to easily slip off. When they are living in the wild their neck extends up to the surface of the sand, so I always like to stretch out the skin to see how big my geoduck was. Next, separate the shell from the body by slicing along the inside of the shell. I prefer a sharp, flexible-boning knife for this part. Discard the skin, shell and visceral ball. Separate the ‘neck’ from the ‘body’ by cutting where the two meet. Then slice the siphon in half lengthwise and rinse everything in cold water to remove any sand.
Geoduck siphon, or ‘neck’ is sweet, crunchy, has a bright clean clam flavor and is best eaten raw. With a sharp knife, slice the siphon on a steep bias, about one millimeter thick. At this point, preparations are endless, everything from ceviche to drizzling with lemon juice and olive oil. My personal favorite however, is with kimchi! Learn how to make your own here. I think that the fermented salty and spicy flavor of the kimchi compliments the sweet crunchy geoduck incredibly well.
Geoduck Crudo with Kimchi and Watercress
Yield: 4 servings
1 geoduck ‘neck’
½ cup kimchi, minced
¼ cup kimchi ‘juice’ strained from the kimchi
½ bunch watercress – I always prefer wild, but hydrocress will work just fine
Slice the geoduck neck as thin as possible, about 1 millimeter thick. Lay out on a plate, drizzle with kimchi juice, top with minced kimchi and garnish with watercress leaves.
The mantle, or ‘body’ is more tender than the neck and lends itself better to cooking. It will make the best clam chowder you’ve ever had, but I prefer geoduck strips. Think clam strips that are tender, sweet, and taste like clam rather than fried breading. This recipe also calls for aioli. I always, ALWAYS make my own, but if you’re feeling less ambitious, mixing Sambal into store-bought mayonnaise will work, just know that I’ll be judging you.
Pan-fried Geoduck Strips with Sambal Aioli and Lemon
Yield: 4 servings
1 geoduck ‘body’
1 cup flour
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup breadcrumbs – I prefer Japanese style panko breadcrumbs
1 cup Sambal aioli (about 1 tablespoon Sambal to 1 cup aioli)
Slice the geoduck ‘body’ into ¼ inch strips and do an English-syle breading. First, dredge through the flour, then egg, then breadcrumb, taking care to cover the strips completely in each step, as well as using one hand for wet ingredients and one hand for dry ingredients or else you’ll just end up breading your fingers. Next, put a large sauté pan on the stove with just over ¼ inch of canola oil. Heat on high until you see the first whisp of smoke and gently place the breaded strips in the oil. Flip after about 30 seconds, or until golden brown. Take out of the pan and let dry on paper towels. Meanwhile, spread a generous amount of aioli on a plate and pile geoduck strips on top. Finish by squeezing some lemon juice over the top.
Currently reading: Ma Gastronomie by Fernand Point
Currently listening: Laughing Out Loud by The Wallflowers