Recipes

Rhode Island Stuffies

These jumbo stuffed clams call for smoky Portuguese sausage and buttery herbed bread crumbs.

  • Serves

    12

  • Cook

    3 hours

MATT TAYLOR-GROSS
Kat Craddock

By Kat Craddock


Updated on September 15, 2023

This recipe is excerpted from Stirring the Pot, a collection of recipes and wine pairings from the New York chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier. Preorder your copy here; proceeds benefit LDNY’s scholarship fund.

I grew up in Rhode Island, but it wasn’t until I left that I really appreciated just how special my home state’s food culture really is. With a history of fishing, shipping and manufacturing, New England’s coastline has been a cultural melting pot for generations. Today, Rhode Island’s cuisine is still shaped by a wide range of international influences: global foods like French Canadian meat pies, Cape Verdean cachopa, fresh Italian pastas, Portuguese custard tarts, Syrian stuffed grape leaves, and Lao sour sausage abound in restaurants, bakeries, and homes.

Overfishing and other environmental concerns have pushed Rhode Island’s fisheries to operate more sustainably; while certain species are less bountiful, others, like squid and clams, still thrive. Quahogs (large, hard-shelled Atlantic clams) can be found along the coast, from Cape Cod to New Jersey, but Rhode Islanders feel a particular ownership of them. Too tough to eat from the shell, their meat is added to specialties like clamcakes, chowders, and “stuffies.” While similar to dainty clams casino and oysters Rockefeller, the stuffy is less of a pinkies-up affair. Paired with chowder, a single one is a meal. This version is just about as classic as they come. Seek out Portuguese-style chouriço, which is softer than Spanish chorizo. (Michael’s is a reliable, New England–made brand that is available online from Portugalia Marketplace.)

Ingredients

  • 12 whole quahogs, scrubbed
  • ½ cup shucked clams
  • 8 Tbsp. unsalted butter, divided
  • 6 oz. hot or mild Portuguese chouriço, finely chopped (1¾ cups)
  • 6 oz. yellow onions, finely chopped (about 1 medium, 1¾ cups)
  • 5 oz. celery, finely chopped (2 cups)
  • 1 Tbsp. Tabasco sauce, plus more for serving
  • 1 tsp. smoked paprika
  • ½ tsp. celery salt
  • ½ tsp. crushed red chile flakes (optional)
  • 8 oz. (6 cups) coarse bread crumbs (preferably homemade)
  • 3 Tbsp. finely chopped Italian parsley
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Lemon wedges, for serving

Instructions

Step 1

Purge the quahogs: fill a large bowl with generously salted cold water, add the quahogs, and set aside for 15 minutes. Place the shucked clams in a medium heatproof bowl and set it by the stove.

Step 2

Transfer the quahogs to a pot, leaving any grit behind in the bowl. Add 2 cups of cold water, cover, and turn the heat to high. Steam just until the clams begin to open, 3–5 minutes (start checking after 3). Using tongs, transfer each open clam to a large bowl, allowing up to 8 minutes for all of the clams to open; discard any that remain shut. Strain the hot cooking liquid through a fine-mesh sieve over the reserved shucked clams, discarding any solids from the pot. Set aside until the clams are slightly firm and the liquid is cool enough to touch, about 5 minutes. Rinse and dry the pot and return it to the stove.

Step 3

Meanwhile, pull the quahogs from their shells (add any accumulated juices to the bowl). Set the shells side. Finely chop the meat and transfer to a large, clean bowl. Remove the shucked clams (reserving the quahog-cooking liquid); chop them too, add to the bowl and set aside.

Step 4

Add 6 tablespoons butter and the chouriço to the pot and set over medium heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until the sausage begins to brown, 8–10 minutes. Add the onion and celery and continue cooking until the onion is translucent but not yet browned, 4–6 minutes. Stir in ¼ cup of the reserved quahog liquid, followed by the Tabasco, paprika, celery salt and crushed red chile flakes (if using); turn the heat down to low and continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are soft and the liquid has evaporated, 8–10 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool slightly.

Step 5

Using kitchen shears or a sharp knife, cut through the quahog shell hinges to separate. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and arrange 12 of the half shells on it, open side up. (Discard the remaining shells or reserve for another use.)

Step 6

To the bowl of chopped clams, add the bread crumbs, parsley, the contents of the skillet, and 1¼ cups of the reserved quahog liquid; toss well to combine. (The bread crumbs should be thoroughly hydrated but not soggy; if necessary, add a bit more reserved quahog liquid or water.) Season to taste with salt and black pepper.      

Step 7

Divide the stuffing evenly among the half shells, packing gently into loose mounds. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 and up to 24 hours. 

Step 8

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Uncover the baking sheet, dot the cold stuffies with the remaining butter, then bake until browned, sizzling, and heated through, 25–30 minutes. Serve the stuffies hot, with extra Tabasco and lemon wedges.

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