Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Secrets of the Chocolate Clams Revealed

Anne-Marie and I have heard about these mysterious “chocolate clams” which are supposed to be “everywhere” ever since we got to the Sea of Cortez. One day Anne-Marie and I managed to get a couple of local fishermen to teach us how to find these chocolate clams. Of course it is not permitted for foreigners to obtain chocolate clams, so we helped the fishermen, and then purchased the clams from them.

We started off snorkeling with the fisherman, and he would point out the chocolate clams, and draw a circle in the sand around it. Then we would dive down and dig furiously in the circle until we got to the chocolate clam.

The clams are only about 2 inches under the sand, in 6-8 feet of water. However at the time Anne-Marie was very new to free diving still and found it exhausting. Our Spanish-speaking fisherman guide did not realize this and kept pointing out clams for her to get one after the other. Eventually Anne-Marie swam over to me to ask me how to tell him she was tired.

Towards the end of our lesson we were able to spot the clam “eyes” by ourselves, which was very rewarding. Below is a picture of what the clam “eyes” look like when open, and after the clam has closed. The clams filter water for food, so the “eyes” are actually an intake and exhaust tube.

Clam "eyes" as seen from surface of water.
Hole left after the clam retreats into its shell.

Once you have your clams back to the boat, the real work begins! The clams need to be cleaned (at least for raw or lightly cooked dishes), which involved the following steps:

  1. Slice the clam in half carefully!
  2. Clean out the orange and brown colored guts of the clam
  3. Separate the clam meat from the shell
  4. Salt water rinse the remaining meat
Freshly sliced open clams. 
Clean out the pinkish, cream consistency stuff.
Cleaned and rinsed clams.
Some people advise leaving the clams in fresh water for a couple days to help clean out the salt/sand. We haven’t tried that though, and think it is probably more applicable if you intend to steam the clams or otherwise not perform the above cleaning routine.

The way we like to prepare the clams best is on the BBQ. Take the cleaned clams while still in their shell, and add a tablespoon of melted butter, sautéed onions, garlic and a touch of Parmesan cheese to each half shell. Then simply put the open shell on the BBQ and bring the butter to a boil for a few minutes. Once ready just spoon the contents of the shell into your mouth, or put it on a piece of toast. Anne-Marie had just made a fresh loaf of bread, which was perfect with the clams!

Bringing the butter to a boil on the BBQ.
The final product.
Lastly, it seems that the chocolate clams are not “everywhere”, but are mostly found along beaches with a sand bottom and a very gradual slope, such as Timbabiche, Candeleros, and Loreto.


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