We are digging up deliciousness today as we celebrate both National Clams on the Half-Shell Day AND National Oysters on the Half-Shell Day. Both are recognized on March 31st each year.
When it comes to oysters and clams on the half-shell, people either crave them or avoid them. The texture along puts some folks “off.” Many people prefer one over the other. Oysters tend to be larger with a stronger, brinier flavor. (Except for Pacific oysters, which are small, sweet, and less briny.)
Tidbits to ponder… Both clams and oysters are bivalve mollusks with hinged shells. They have no heads, biting mouth parts, nor arms or legs. Clams have a lifespan of about a dozen years, although some can live up to 40 years. The lifespan of an oyster is over 100 years. Oysters tend to be larger, reaching a 3-4” diameter for a 3-year-old oyster. Clams grow more slowly, and just reach the 2” legal harvesting size after 3 years. 78% of all the wild oysters harvested are Atlantic oysters, with 66% hailing from the U.S.
According to Food & Wine magazine, the most popular raw oyster varieties include Blue Point, Kumamoto, Pacific, Olympia, Well Fleet, and Belon. Clam fans may choose Quahogs, topneck, littleneck or cherrystone clams for their meaty, salty yumminess.
Clams and oysters on the half shell can be served raw, steamed, grilled, smoked, or stuffed. Raw is the way most people think of when it comes to a “half-shell” serving. Oysters are traditionally served with lemon wedges, 1 or 2 drops of hot sauce, and a splash of mignonette. (Mignonette is a fancy name for a simple combination of vinegar with finely minced shallots and black pepper.) Clams also get some fresh lemon wedges, along with tabasco and cocktail sauce. Mignonette can be served with either. However you choose to garnish, place the mollusks atop crushed ice for serving. Some warm French or garlic bread on the side is also great.
Not a fan of raw clams or oysters? Me neither. For me, I’ll take them baked, roasted, or grilled any day. A “Casino” approach means baking them with bacon and toasty breadcrumbs. This is a favorite method of mine for clams. Any baked or “Rockefeller” style for oysters also suits my palette. But today is the day to enjoy clams and oysters on the half shell… any way YOU like!