Sunday, January 27, 2013

Clam Biscuits

If you come from clam land, clam biscuits may seem normal. But not to me. Now, before anyone points out that I am, in fact, from Massachusetts, I would remind you that I am the Berkshire Farmer. It's not possible to get any further from clams and still stay in Massachusetts than Berkshire County, where I grew up.
We did go to Eastern Long Island a couple of times when I was very young, to visit my great aunts and uncle. But the food that I associated with that visit was butterballs, which I ate like candy, not bothering to spread them on my bread. There was also afternoon tea, with a silver tea service, in which children were allowed to partake. The memory of that tea was so strong that I concocted a myth that the tea itself was some special blend, like Black Current. When I asked my parents about this years later, they chuckled and said, "It was Lipton."
However, in general, the beach was some sort of Shangri-la, an Eden without cows or tractors, where mystical beings called teenagers ate magic foods like chicken in a basket at a snack bar. Even though Cape Cod was only three hours from our house, I never made it there until I went to college. My parents vacationed in Vermont in the fall and later, after they had sent us kids off to boarding school, in Mexico in the wintertime.
So, that is why clam biscuits are not part of my culinary repertoire. Given, too, that my husband is allergic to shellfish, and I cannot eat foods containing gluten, you can see that clam biscuits had to wait for the church hospitality hour to make their debut in my kitchen. They seemed to be a popular item. There were only two left out of 20, as I doubled the recipe.
The recipe is just basic biscuits, with two teaspoons of chopped clams in the middle. I found them somewhat dry, because in the days when I could eat such things, I would slather my biscuits with butter or jam. But the congregation snapped them up quickly enough. Next time, Quahog Popovers!

Clam Biscuits

2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup lard (I used shortening. Lard is not easy to find.)
1 cup milk, approximately
1 cup clams, drained and chopped
2 tablespoons butter
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
2. Sift the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar and salt into a bowl. With the finger tips or a pastry blender, work in the lard. (Keep chopping at the shortening with the pastry blender, until the lumps become smaller than a pea.
3. Add enough milk to make a soft dough. Turn out onto a floured board and knead thirty seconds. Flatten with the hands (or you can use a rolling pin) to one-half-inch thickness and cut into two-inch rounds. (Use a small glass to cut out the rounds.)
4. Place two teaspoons of the clams on half of biscuits. Top with dot of the butter, salt and pepper. Moisten edges of biscuits and top with second biscuit. Press to seal. Place on agreased baking sheet and bake fifteen to twenty minutes, or until done and golden.
Makes eight.

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