In Season: Razor Clam Recipe

In the annals of bivalve mistaken identity, pity the poor razor clam. Alternatively known as stickbait (South Africa), finger oyster (Australia), and jack-knife or bamboo (USA), this elongated, mottled, greenish-brown-shelled mollusk has one label that trumps vernacular every time: delicious.   

At the beach, you’ll know our East Coast alias—which can grow to six inches long—by the keyhole shape it leaves when burrowing in the sand; you’ll also know it by the deep cut you’ll get if you step on its sharp (right, as in razor), rimmed shell. That’s not likely, though; this mollusk is more speed than danger, a fast, deep digger, making it difficult to harvest commercially.

But thanks to some intrepid (and assumedly well-gloved) fishermen, the razor clam is inching its way onto menus right about now. At Caffe Regatta (133 Wolfs Lane, Pelham 914-738-8686;, Chef Anthony Labriola has his buttermilk batter, burbling oil, and aioli ready to coat, deep-fry, and sauce them. “Razor clams are sweeter and milder than typical clams,” he says, “and they won’t get rubbery when you cook them.” But forget about using them in your next pot of linguine with clam sauce. “Razor clams are delicate and mild,” Labriola notes, “so their flavor gets lost when combined with other ingredients. They’re best served on their own.” That said, don’t expect to find them on his iced shellfish platter: “They’re way too large to consume raw.” Come early spring, they’ll show up on the half-shell, marinated in citrus in a simple ceviche. But for now, stick with his deep-fried version. A crunchy clam drizzled with lemon and dipped in a tangy mayonnaise is the way to go; there’s no mistaking that.

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Buttermilk-Battered Razor Clams                                                                                                                           
Courtesy of Anthony Labriola, Caffe Regatta
(Serves 4)

12 razor clams, shucked*                                                                                                                                        
1 egg                                                                                                                                                
1 cup buttermilk                                                                                                                                      
3 cups all-purpose flour                                                                                                                                           
1 Tbsp paprika                                                                                                                                         
salt and freshly ground black
pepper, to taste                                                                                                     
vegetable oil, for frying                                                                                                                                          
lemon wedges for squeezing

Lay shucked clams on paper towels to absorb excess moisture, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, beat egg and combine with buttermilk. Stir dry ingredients into egg mixture. Pour oil to reach about halfway up sides of large pan and heat over medium-high flame. (Oil is ready when a pinch of flour dropped into it sizzles.) Season clams with salt and pepper, then dredge in batter. Shake off excess, and carefully place into pan. Fry about 4 or 5 minutes, until golden brown. Remove onto paper towels; season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve on platter with lemon wedges.

*To shuck clams: Place in freezer 5 minutes to loosen clam’s hold. Holding with hinge toward you, insert dull, thin knife between shells and cut through hinge. Open shell and slide knife between clam and top shell, then slide knife between clam and bottom shell to free.           

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