Cockle Fritters with Aïoli

New Zealand chef Dean Betts usually makes his fritters with the tiny fish called whitebait, traditional in New Zealand. The kind of whitebait he uses is not readily available in the U.S., so he supplied us with this recipe, another of his favorites, using cockles.

Cockle Fritters with Aïoli
These tasty bivalve fritters are fried to a golden brown and topped with a creamy garlic aioli.
Yield: serves 4

For the Aïoli

  • 1 clove garlic
  • Salt
  • 12 cup mayonnaise
  • 12 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves

For the Fritters

  • 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 shallots, chopped
  • 14 cup white wine
  • 4 lb. cockles or small clams, scrubbed
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. For the aïoli: Put garlic and a pinch of salt into a mortar and crush with a pestle into a paste. Transfer paste to a bowl; add mayonnaise, lemon juice, parsley, and salt to taste; stir well. Cover aïoli with plastic wrap, pressing it against surface; refrigerate.
  2. For the fritters: Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add shallots and cook, stirring, until softened, about 1 minute. Add wine, 1⁄4 cup water, and cockles and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until cockles have opened, 7–8 minutes. Remove from heat and, using a slotted spoon, transfer cockles to a bowl, leaving liquid behind. When cockles have cooled, remove from shells and roughly chop meat; set aside. Meanwhile, strain liquid through a cheesecloth-lined sieve into a small saucepan and simmer vigorously over medium heat until slightly thickened, 8–10 minutes; set aside.
  3. Preheat broiler. Heat butter in an 8" nonstick ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Put cockles, eggs, and 2–3 tsp. of the clam liquid into a medium bowl and stir well. (Reserve remaining clam liquid for another use.) Add cockle mixture to skillet and cook, lifting edges with a rubber spatula to let egg run underneath, until slightly set and underside is light golden brown, about 3 minutes. Broil fritter until completely set and light golden brown on top, about 4 minutes. Invert fritter onto a cutting board, cut into 4 wedges, and serve with a dollop of aïoli and with a wedge of lemon, if you like.