I grew up on the coast of Rhode Island where our fairs always featured clam cakes. Crispy on the outside and soft and pillowy inside, we put them in a paper bag with sea salt gave them a good shake.
Basically what summer tastes like. Photo by James Ransom
While I grew up eating both New England and Manhattan-style clam chowders, clam cakes were a special treat I had to figure out on my own because my family didn’t typically fry food. In the fifth grade, I made my first batch of fritters while I was home alone—both shocking and delighting my family. Later, I experimented with combining corn with clams to make these hybrid cakes. They have a hint of sweetness—almost like a plain doughnut—that makes these so good on their own, but feel free to serve with butter pickles, cocktail sauce, or clam chowder.
For your clams, quahogs are best, but other hard shelled clams work well, too. This recipe is also great with just 1 cup of all fresh corn and 1 1/2 cups of plain milk, but would need 4 teaspoons of baking powder to compensate for the decreased acidity. For a vegetarian version, simply use 3/4 cup each of buttermilk and beer with 1 cup of corn.
Lastly, you might want to keep your fan on and windows open. The hot oil cooks up the fritters quickly. I rarely do any deep frying, but this is my exception!
Clam Cakes, my Rhode Island style
- 1-1 1/4 cups minced clams, Quahogs preferred, or other hard shell clams
- 3 eggs
- 1/2-3/4 cups corn cut off the cob, raw or cooked, silver queen or shoepeg preferred
- 1/2 cup buttermilk (or regular milk otherwise)
- 1/2 cup clam broth
- 1/2 cup beer, Narragansett suggested, or more clam broth
- 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon light brown sugar or maple syrup
- canola oil for deep frying