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Click here to read the recipe for Baked Quahogs Katama

  


New England Nostalgia

Joseph K. Mitchell began cooking at age seven, when he made mayonnaise and sold it for twenty-five cents a pint. The proceeds went to the Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Episcopal Church where his father was a minister.

Many jars of mayonnaise later, Joseph, his wife, and their three young daughters settled on the island of Martha's Vineyard. There, in the 1960s, the business man, who also creates beautiful woodwork on the side, began to record his food memories, cooking tips, advice on fishmongers and local products, and, of course, recipes, or rules, as he often called them. Many members of the Mitchell family remain today on the Vineyard, including Lucy, one of Joseph's daughters, who remembers that when her father cooked, it was an event.

Joseph amassed a large collection of recipes, some his own, some gathered from island locals, as a legacy of food and family. His writing is evocative of both his childhood in Pennsylvania and his life on Martha's Vineyard, with its reliance upon fresh-caught seafood; quahogs, striped bass, scallops, and lobster were particularly favored in the Mitchell household. His recipes include a wide range of foods, many influenced by traditional New England cookery (there's a recipe for New England boiled dinner), others by the Portuguese community on the island. There are "rules" for chowders, piccalilli, roast woodcock, parsnip croquettes, and "scallop fandango," to list a few.

Most dramatic were the clambakes. In his writings, Joseph notes that clambakes originated with the Penobscot Indians, he muses that perhaps one of them "clandestinely whispered the bake secrets to an open and canny Yankee ear." The process of "puttin' down a bake" demands long and careful planning, and Joseph includes instructions on how to hollow a bowl in the sand, what size stones to gather, and how to gather rockweed. His food plan includes lobsters, steamers, quahogs, corn, onions, potatoes, and plenty of melted butter.

Quahogs are quintessential Vineyard food, and their appearance on the dinner table never failed to please the family. Here is Joseph's recipe for Baked Quahogs Katama. (Katama is a small beach on Martha's Vineyard.)


Baked Quahogs Katama

Serves: 4
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes

20 quahogs (If you cannot find quahogs, substitute twice the amount (40) of cherrystone clams.)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup chopped mushrooms
1 tablespoon dry sherry
1 small white onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon chopped chives
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 1/2 cups fine bread crumbs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
paprika for sprinkling
10 lemon wedges for garnish

 

  1. Scrub the quahogs and place them in a large kettle with enough water to barely cover the bottom. Cover the kettle and steam over medium heat until the clams open, about 5 to 8 minutes. Remove the meat and reserve half of the shells for stuffing. Reserve the clam broth.
  2. Chop the clams into small pieces or process briefly in a food processor. Place the clams in a large bowl and set aside.
  3. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  4. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and sauté until the mushrooms are tender, about 3 minutes. Add the sherry, cook 1 minute more and remove from heat.
  5. Combine the clams with the onion, chives, parsley, bread crumbs, salt and pepper. Add the mushrooms and just enough clam broth to bind the mixture.
  6. Stuff the mixture into the reserved clam shells. Arrange them on a baking dish and sprinkle the tops with paprika. Bake until golden brown and thoroughly heated, about 15 to 20 minutes. (If you are using cherrystones, they will heat in about 10 minutes.)
  7. Serve the clams hot with lemon wedges.

Nutrition Facts (per serving — about 5 quahogs):

Calories: 116
Total Fat : 3 grams
Saturated Fat: 0 grams
Sodium: 289 milligrams
Dietary Fiber: 1 gram
% Calories from fat: 21 %
% calories from saturated fat: 0 %

By Bich Minh Nguyen

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