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Gathering clams on Puget Sound and Hood Canal beaches is a fun outdoor activity, and is relatively easy to do especially during a week-long period of low tides that begins this Thursday.

In this week’s seafood recipe of the week, executive chef Pat Donahue of Anthony’s Restaurants offers a delightful summer-time Manila clam recipe.

Head chef Pat Donahue of Anthony’s Restaurants.
Head chef Pat Donahue of Anthony’s Restaurants.

Low tides expose beaches for gathering clams

Some of spring’s lowest tides will occur Thursday through June 9 exposing ample Puget Sound and Hood Canal beaches for gathering a wide variety of clams especially the highly sought after Manila littleneck clam.

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An extreme low tide starting Thursday (May 25) and through the Memorial Day weekend will expose a lot of Puget Sound and Hood Canal beaches for oyster gathering.

Clam populations have increased allowing for longer seasons at Indian Island County Park, Potlatch State Park, Potlatch Department of Natural Resource (DNR) tidelands, Port Gamble Heritage Park and Twanoh State Park.

Tiffany Hoyopatubbi (yellow shirt), water resources specialist, digs for butter clams with Annitra Ferderer, water quality technician.
Tiffany Hoyopatubbi (yellow shirt), water resources specialist, digs for butter clams with Annitra Ferderer, water quality technician.

Places like Oakland Bay (located off Highway 3 north of Shelton) have an abundant population of Manila clams and is open year-round.  Belfair State Park (located a few miles west of Belfair) is open year-round and there are some clams – mainly Manila clams.

Potlatch State Park off Highway 101 in Hood Canal has been extended now through Aug. 31. The Potlatch Department of Natural Resource tidelands are also open for clams and oysters now through Aug. 31. Quilcene Bay Tidelands are open for clams and oysters through through Dec. 31, with no restrictions on hours of harvest.

Diggers should note that all eastern mainland beaches from Everett south into southern Puget Sound are also closed for shellfish due to unsafe pollution levels.

Before heading to a beach, call the marine biotoxin hotline at 800-562-5632 or visit the website at www.doh.wa.gov. Also check the state fisheries hotline at 866-880-5431 and website at http://wdfw.wa.gov. State Fish and Wildlife offers a good interactive shellfish map at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/shelfish/beachreg.

Barry Finkbonner digs for clams on tidelands in La Conner.
Barry Finkbonner digs for clams on tidelands in La Conner.

Low tides: Thursday (May 25), minus-2.2 feet at 10:33 a.m.; Friday (May 26), -2.9 at 11:17 a.m.; Saturday (May 27), -3.1 at 12:03 p.m.; Sunday (May 28), -2.9 at 12:52 p.m.; Monday (May 29), -2.3 at 1:42 p.m.; Tuesday (May 30), -1.4 at 2:35 p.m.; Wednesday (May 31), -0.3 at 3:30 p.m. The next low tide series in June is from June 7-14 and June 21-28. Additional low tides for the rest of the summer can be found at http://www.saltwatertides.com/dynamic.dir/washingtonsites.html.

Here’s Chef Donahue’s take on Manila clams:

Manila clams originated in Japan. They were accidentally introduced to Washington State in oyster seed shipments from Japan back in the 1920’s. They quickly became acclimated to our waters and they can now be found from British Columbia to northern California. Since they are a shallow burrower, they can be easily harvested by hand diggers and sport diggers.

The clams are very similar in size and appearance to littlenecks except that they are more oblong in shape. The internal surface of the shells are normally stained a deep purple color or yellow. They are known for their small size and incredibly sweet flavor.

Tiffany Hoyopatubbi, left, digs for butter clams (top photo) with fellow state Department of Ecology water-quality technician Annitra Ferderer at Lone Tree Point. Swinomish Water Resources Program scientists test the clams monthly for paralytic shellfish poisoning.
Tiffany Hoyopatubbi, left, digs for butter clams (top photo) with fellow state Department of Ecology water-quality technician Annitra Ferderer at Lone Tree Point. Swinomish Water Resources Program scientists test the clams monthly for paralytic shellfish poisoning.

When purchasing clams, you want to make sure they have a completely closed shell, as this means that they are still alive. If the clams are open, tap the shell to watch if it closes. If it does not, it means that the clam is dead and should not be purchased. When cooking clams, you only want to eat the ones that have opened their shells. If a clam shell remains closed during the cooking process, it means that it was probably dead at the time your purchased and should be discarded and not eaten.

One of the most common ways to cook manila clams is to simply steam them. They are classically made with pasta dishes or soups and pair wonderfully with a salty meat such as pancetta or dry salami. One of Chef Pat Donahue’s favorite preparations is to serve them in a ginger, black bean sauce topped with some chopped red bell pepper.
Stir-Fried Manila Clams in a Ginger Black Bean Sauce

Photo Manila clam dish courtesy of Anthony’s Restaurants.
Photo Manila clam dish courtesy of Anthony’s Restaurants.

Ingredients

2 pounds of fresh Manila clams

3 tbsp of olive oil

2 tsp of garlic, minced

4 pieces fresh ginger, peeled and sliced ¼ inch thick

3 tbsp of unsalted butter

2 tbsp of black bean sauce (store bought – Lee Kum Kee brand was used)

1/4 cup of water or clam juice

2 tbsp of dry white wine (optional)

¼ bunch of fresh cilantro leaves, washed

1/4 cup of 1/4-inch diced red and yellow bell peppers (approximately 1/2 pepper each)

Directions

Wash and discard any clams with broken shells or shells that are open.  In a large pan or wok over medium heat, heat oil and butter to melt.

Add garlic, ginger and black bean sauce. Saute for 1 minute, stirring to combine. Then add the clams and splash of wine (if using).

Gently swirl pan or stir the clams in pan until they begin to sizzle (approximately 1 to 2 minutes). Add clam juice or water and the cover and steam for 3 to 4 minutes until all the clams have opened.

Transfer the clams from the pan to a deep-dish platter, discarding any that did not open.  Pour any residual sauce over the clams and sprinkle with fresh cilantro and diced peppers.

Serve with crusty bread.

(Yield two to four servings. Note: This recipe has been adapted by Anthony’s Restaurants for the home cook.)

Recipe feature comes to an end

I have enjoyed posting from spring to early fall my Seafood Recipes of the Week by esteemed local chefs over the course of the past six years, but it’s coming to an end soon due to my departure from The Seattle Times as the fishing/hunting and outdoors reporter that dates back more than 25 years.

It has been a privilege to work on story ideas and gathering yummy tips, advice and recipes from the likes of Chef Tom Douglas, owner of Lola, Palace Kitchen, Dahlia Lounge, among others; chefs at Maria Hines’ Tilth Restaurant including executive chef Joel Panlilio; Abby Canfield and Agrodolce restaurants owned Chef Maria Hines; Chef Taichi Kitamura, owner of Sushi Kappo Tamura; Chef Shota Nakajima, owner of Adana; Executive Chef Paul Duncan at Ray’s Boathouse Restaurant chefs; Head Chef Pat Donahue and other chefs at Anthony’s Restaurants; Executive Chefs Tristan Chalker, Ken Sharp, Jonathan Garcia, Jesus Boites and Wesley Hood from El Gaucho and AQUA by El Gaucho; Jason Wilson, owner of Miller’s Guild, The Lakehouse and Civility & Unrest; Chef Ben Godwin at RN74; Chef Jun Takai from Shiro’s Sushi; and Chef Maximillian Petty from Eden Hill Restaurant; and Chef/Owner Taylor Hoang of Pho Cyclo.

I hope that past recipes I’ve shared come in handy when you get “lucky” enough catch some of the best tasting fish and shellfish the Pacific Northwest has to offer!

Due to popular demand we will have two more recipes posted on Thursday by chef Jason Wilson of Miller’s Guild in Seattle, and a final one on Fridayby chef Joe Sato of Shiro’s Sushi in Seattle’s Belltown.