Stuffy Quahog Shells

Stuffy Quahog Shells


For those unfamiliar with the rather blunt term, a stuffy is a very large quahog shell, the interior of which has been packed with a mix of bread crumbs, seasonings, and chopped quahog meat. The concoction is baked in a hot oven and served to the fussy with a squeeze of lemon, to the rest of us without. Stuffies originated as the means to turn oversized and hence nearly unchewable quahogs into something worth eating and were considered the food of the working class.

Although I love soft-shelled clams, I was delighted to learn that my adopted state does, in fact, have quahogs in its midst. Quahogs, whose name comes from the Narragansett Indian word poquauhock, meaning horse fish, are a hard-shell clam found from the Canadian border to the mid-Atlantic states. Its scientific name, Mercenaria mercenaria (derived from the Latin word for wages), was allegedly given to the quahog because the Narragansett and other Native American tribes in New England used the white and purple shells to make wampum, which was used in trade.

While they can live in cold water, a happy quahog tends to be one found in warmer water, thus the species is dominant along the south shore of Rhode Island and Connecticut. Quahogs also like low-salinity water, something in the range of 18 to 26 parts per thousand, so they thrive in brackish estuaries with a soft bottom. Maine's few quahog beds can be found in select small bays such as Maquoit, Middle and, once upon a time, Quahog Bay in Harpswell.


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