Rice Bran Oil & Fried Clams


When I meet with my dear friend Leslie Harlib, who is a brilliant food writer in the Bay Area of San Francisco, I have to have a note pad because she is so forthcoming with fantastic information and ideas. On her most recent visit to New York she mentioned her excitement about rice bran oil, telling me that it had many virtues and that I must try it. I decided that a fair test would be both savory and sweet so I made deep fried clams and lemon chiffon cake.

I've been working on the perfect recipe for fried clams for a while now. Thanks to my friend Sam at the Lobster Place on Bleecker Street, I was able to pick up some steamer clams. First try he actually shelled them for me which is not an easy task for this type of clam. I found it was best to steam before frying--just enough to have them open on their own, as that kept the clam intact. The fried clams were a perfect golden brown with not a trace of greasiness (of course temperature is also a factor here as too low a temperature results in absorption of any oil).

Here's my recipe for Fried Clams: 30 steamers (about 2 1/3 pounds) The one problem with steamers is that they are invariably sandy. There are two ways to deal with this:

1) About 2 hours before cooking use a stiff brush to scrub the outer shell under cold running water. Fill a large bowl with 1 gallon of water and stir in 1/3 cup of salt and 1 tablespoon of cornmeal. Add the clams, refrigerate, and allow them to soak for about 1 hour. This will cause them to expel any sand. OR

2) After steaming the clams just until they are open, strain the liquid and use it to wash any sand from the clams.

Method: Steam the clams for about 3 minutes or just until they open. Remove the clams from their shells. In a shallow dish, stir together 1.7 ounces/50g cornmeal, 1.7 ounces/50 g all purpose flour (about 1/3 cup of each), and 1/2t salt. Lightly combine 1 whole egg with 3 tablespoons of evaporated milk. Dip the clams first in this mixture and then coat in the cornmeal mixture. Heat oil to 350˚F/177C˚. Fry the clams in two batches for about 2 minutes or just until golden. Drain onto paper towels and salt to taste. Serve with a lemon wedge to squeeze on them just before eating.

I was most interested to see what would happen with the chiffon cake as some oils impair foaming and result in a less airy texture. As you can see, the crumb was slightly more open but perfectly spongy and excellent.

Here are some interesting facts from the California Rice Oil Co.: Rice oil is the healthiest oil on earth, rich in a natural occurring vitamin E complex (tocopherols and tocotrienols, a unique antioxidant known as gamma oryzanol). Skin & muscle are a couple things that reap the benefits from this complex. There's been many studies proving the lowering of LDL "bad" cholestrerol. Rice oil is trans-fat free & hypo-allergenic & additionally, our rice oil is GMO free as well. Comparing known vegetable oils and rice bran oil to the fatty acid profile recommended by the American Heart Association, we find RBO is the closest to the AHA recommendations. Compared to other oils RBO is the most "balanced fat" which is easier for the body to digest & process throughout.

Rice bran oil has a shelf life of minimum 18 months and it is recommended to keep it in a cupboard or pantry at room temperature and away from direct sunlight (as with most oils).