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Clams and Abalone's
We cannot dispose of the shell fish of San Francisco without a word or two about clams, for certainly there is no place where they are in greater variety and better flavor. In fact the clam is the only bivalve of this part of the coast that has a distinctive and good flavor. Several varieties are to be found in the markets, the best and rarest being the little rock clams that come from around Drake's Bay, just above the entrance to Golden Gate. These are most delicious in flavor and should never be eaten otherwise than raw. The sand, or hard shell, or as they are sometimes called little necks, are next in choiceness, and then come the Pismo beach clams, noted for their flavor and enormous size. The mud clam is good for chowder but not so good as either of the other varieties mentioned.
The Bohemian way to have your clams is to go to the shore of Bolinas Bay or some other equally retired spot, and have a clam bake, or else take a pot along with the other ingredients and have a good clam chowder. This, however, may be prepared at any time and is always a good meal.
Clam fritters when prepared according to the recipe given herein, is one of the best methods of preparing the clam, and it has the peculiarity of being so tasty that one feels that there is never enough cooked.
Of all the ways of cooking clams chowder takes precedence as a rule, and it is good when made properly. By that we do not mean the thin, watery stuff that is served in most of the restaurants and called clam chowder just because it happens to be made every Friday. That is fairly good as a clam soup but it is no more chowder than a Mexican soup approaches a crawfish bisque. There is but one right way to make clam chowder, and that is either to make it yourself or closely superintend the making, and this is the way to make it:
Take one quart of shelled sand clams, two large potatoes, two large onions, one clove of garlic, one sweet pepper, one thick slice of salt pork, one-half pound small oyster crackers, one-half glass sherry, one tablespoonful Worcestershire sauce, one tomato, salt, and pepper. In a large stewpan place the salt pork cut into small dice, and let this fry slightly over a slow fire until the bottom of the stewpan is well greased. Take this off the fire and put in a layer of potatoes sliced thin, on top of the salt pork, then a layer of onions sliced thin, and a layer of clams. Put on this salt and pepper and sprinkle with a little flour and then a layer of crackers. Chop the sweet pepper and tomato fine and mix with them the bruised and mashed garlic. On top of each succession of layers put a little of the mixture. Continue making these layers until all the ingredients are placed in the stewpan, and then pour on the top sufficient water to just show. Cover tightly and let cook gently for half an hour. Pour on the Worcestershire sauce and sherry just before serving. Do not stir this while cooking, and in order to prevent its burning it should be cooked over an asbestos cover.
When done this should be thick enough to be eaten with a fork.
Among the good Bohemians who lived in San Francisco as a child when it was in the post-pioneer days, and who has enjoyed the good things of all the famous restaurants is Mrs. Emma Sterett, who has given us the following recipe for clam fritters which we consider the most delicious of all we have ever eaten, and when you try them you will agree with us:
Take two dozen clams, washed thoroughly and drained. Put in chopping bowl and chop, not too fine. Add to these one clove of garlic mashed, one medium-sized onion chopped fine, add bread crumbs sufficient to stiffen the mass, chopped parsley, celery and herbs to taste. Beat two eggs separately and add to the clams. If too stiff to drop from a spoon add the strained liquor of clams. Drop tablespoonfuls of this mixture into hot fat, turn and cook for sufficient time to cook through, then drain on brown paper and serve.
Abalone's are a univalve that has been much in vogue among the Chinese but has seldom found place on the tables of restaurants owing to the difficulty in preparing them, as they are tough and insipid under ordinary circumstances. When made tender either by the Chinese method of pounding, or by steeping in vinegar, they serve the purpose of clams but have not the fine flavor. The Hof Brau restaurant is now making a specialty of abalone's, but it takes sentiment to say that one really finds anything extra good in them.
Another shell fish much in vogue among the Italian restaurants is mussels, which are found to perfection along the coast. These are usually served Bordelaise, and make quite a pleasant change when one is surfeited with other shell fish, but the best recipe is:
Thoroughly clean the mussels and then put them in a deep pan and pour over them half a glass of white wine. Chop an onion, a clove of garlic and some parsley fine and put in the pan, together with a tablespoonful of butter. Let these boil very quick for twelve minutes, keeping the pan tightly covered. Take off half shells and place the mussels in a chafing dish and pour over them Béchamel sauce and then add sufficient milk gravy to cover. Serve hot from chafing dish.