Well actually it's called Cape Cod but I'd much rather be eating fried clams than cod! In fact, I'd much rather be eating fried clams in a shack by the ocean than a 4 course dinner in any of the Cape's fanciest restaurants.Always in pursuit of the perfect fried clams I think I arrived during our too short visit to the Cape for Elliott's conference in Chatham.
When I discovered Nickerson's Fish and Lobster shack I returned every morning for a late breakfast/early brunch of fried clam bellies (hold the roll and the fries). In NY it's near impossible to find anything but the strips which are more batter than clam. I adore the taste of clam probably because it reminds me of the ocean. I was born in Far Rockaway, close enough to the Atlantic Ocean to smell the salt air. My first sandbox in our small yard was filled with the golden sand from the nearby beach and my first toy was a large clam shell great for scooping up the sand. I used to collect the garnet red-brown 'stone' that attached the two halves of the shell, thinking they were gems but they disappointingly darkened to dark brown.
Sitting by the dock at Nickerson's, eating the clams and watching the boats take off and return with the fresh catch brought back many of these memories.
Nickerson's first opened in 1948. The name comes from the first settler of Cape Cod in the 1600's. The Reilly's have owned it for the past 6 years and the whole family works together during the high season. Their chef is a graduate of Johnson and Wales and has worked as a chef in several top New England restaurants. Tom Reilly always on the job Obviously the fish is day boat fresh, but Nickerson's has something extra beyond that: A 65 foot deep salt water well at 52˚ to 55˚F/ 11˚ to 13C˚ (the same as the ocean) provides a filtration system that circulates through building, and is responsible for the pristine quality of the clams. For frying the clams they use soy oil (0 transfats) which they clean every night and change every 3 or 4 days.
Happily, I discovered that Nickerson's will ship the shucked clams (and they have to be steamers--nothing else gives the perfect contrast of plump bellies and slightly chewy 'strips.) frozen. To order call 508-945-0145. You can also order the special New England cornmeal breading but here is their recipe which is easy enough to make yourself.
Heat oil to 350˚F/177C˚. While it is heating, mix together: 50% corn meal and 25% bleached white flour. Lightly combine whole eggs with a little evaporated milk. Dip the clams first in this mixture and then coat in the cornmeal mixture. Fry for about 2 minutes or just until golden. Drain onto paper towels and salt to taste.
And for dessert, a 10 minute walk into the town of Chatham will land you at Buffy's ice cream parlor. The ice cream and the waffle cones are homemade. My favorite: Coffee ice cream with Heath Bar. There will be a long line but it moves quickly though never quickly enough! An imaginative use of tap wheels in a flower box on Main Street.
A first visit to the Cape would not be complete without a drive to the end of the peninsula--Provincetown. We quickly bypassed the quaint but claustrophobically crowded town to reach the Race Point beach. It was like standing at the end of the world.