Ipswich Massachusetts is the where the fried clam was invented back in 1916. According to local lore, Lawrence Woodman was deep frying potato chips when he decided to save the hot oil and fry some of his large harvest of Ipswich Steamer clams. The rest is history and the Ipswich Fried Clam Roll is now world famous.
The Ipswich Fried Clam dinner is now served in clam shacks up and down the New England coast. Woodman’s clam shack (not really a shack anymore) now stands in Essex, Massachusetts where each day people – locals and tourists — line up to sample the delicious plate.
The mystery behind the fried clam is part of what makes them so sought after. People marvel at the flavor and wonder what tricks are used to create such a wonderful, regional specialty. But the secret truth behind the creation is that the crispy, crunchy briny flavor so loved comes from the selection of the clam. The Ipswich clam, also known as the steamer clam, is harvested from the muddy tidal flats indigenous to Massachusetts and Maine. The secret is that no other clam will do. Where the Ipswich clam lives is what makes it so special.
That’s because in these muddy flats the clam is fed by the ocean tides and the rivers. This helps them grow up clean and healthy. It is this special combination of mud, river flow and clean crisp sea water that creates the Ipswich clam. No other area in the world produces such a clam.
The Ipswich fishermen use rakes and pitchforks to gather the clams by hand; the same method used 200 years ago. They are then immediately sold to processors who hand shuck the clams and package them to be shipped fresh to clam shacks and restaurants like Woodman’s up and down the coast.
The good news is that today you don’t have to travel to Ipswich to enjoy an Ipswich fried clam roll. Thanks to online seafood services such as Lobsters-Online, you can have the very same Ipswich clam shipped fresh, overnight right to your door to make delicious Ipswich clam rolls. What a great idea for your next dinner party. Go ahead and try our Fried Clam Roll recipe with homemade tartar sauce.
Golden Brown Ipswich Fried Clam Dinner Roll:
1 pound freshly shucked Ipswich clams (must be fresh)
1 can evaporated milk
1 cup finely ground cornmeal (or masa harina)
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup pastry or cake flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground white pepper
1 pound lard (or 2 cups canola oil)
1/2 cup canola oil
4 New England style hot dog buns
Tartar sauce (see recipe below for New England style homemade tartar sauce)
1. Drain clams in a colander. Place clams in large bowl with milk. Let clams sit in the milk at least 30 minutes (The longer the soak, the better).
2. In another large bowl, combine cornmeal and flours with salt and white pepper. Mix well with fingers.
3. In an electric fryer, large wok or deep frying pan, heat lard and oil to a frying temperature of 365 degrees.
4. Take a handful of clams, let excess liquid drip off, and toss clams well in flour mixture, turning often to coat thoroughly.
5. Melt butter and brush on side of hot dog rolls and lightly toast both sides of each roll in a pan or on a grill.
6. Tear lettuce leaves into small pieces.
7. If using a wok or pan, add one or two clams at a time to hot oil adjusting clams so they are evenly distributed. Do not pile clams on one another. Adjust temperature to keep oil hot. Fry for about 1 ½ minutes, or until they are crisp and golden brown (large clams may take a few seconds longer). Remove with a slotted spoon, and drain on a paper bag or clean paper towels. If necessary, repeat with the rest of the clams. Add clams to rolls, sprinkle in lettuce and serve immediately with tartar sauce on the side.
8. If using an electric fryer set temperature to 365 degrees. Wait until fryer heats up, drop clams in basket and deep fry for 1 ½ – 2 minutes, until clams are crisp and golden brown. Drain clams on paper bag or paper towels. Add clams to toasted rolls and serve immediately with tartar sauce on the side.
Tartar Sauce Ingredients:
1 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons drained sweet pickle relish
1 teaspoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt (if desired)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne (or tabasco)
Note: Combine our clam roll recipe with our lobster roll recipe for a complete seafood feast.
© Wayne Howe 2014