Add depth, crispness to the humble clam cake

By Jim Bailey

“Use just four ingredients.” Yankee Chef logo
That’s the mantra I heard over and over again from my father, who heard it from his father, who heard it … I grew up believing clam cakes should be prepared with clams, cracker crumbs, clam juice (or liquor) and eggs. They are formed and fried in lard or vegetable oil. But I couldn’t help but think how great these would be if they just had a little more depth. After all, crab cakes are their principle rival. I didn’t, however, want to take away from the delicate taste of the clams but I did want to make them more acceptable to the masses. I think I may have succeeded in that endeavor.

New England clam cakes

At the onset, you may think that cheddar cheese would overpower any possibility in tasting the clams in these deliciously crisp cakes. But you would be wrong. The cheese plays a beautiful role in elevating this rather mundane side or main dish into something far less expensive than crab cakes. And with the addition of fresh cucumbers and the crunch of corn meal truly rounds out the entire recipe. But omit it if isn’t your thing.

Butter-fried clam cake with a cheddar twist

Butter-fried clam cake with a cheddar twist

2 (7- ounce) cans chopped clams, drained
2 eggs
1 cup crushed Ritz crackers
1/4 cup minced, seedless and peeled cucumber
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons minced onion
1/2 cup corn meal
4 tablespoons butter or margarine
Sliced cucumbers, for garnish
Creamy Cucumber dressing, if desired

In a medium bowl, mix clams, eggs, crackers, cucumbers, cheese and onion well. Divide clam mixture into 4 equal balls and flatten them out to about an inch in thickness. Refrigerate 15 minutes.
Add butter to a large skillet over medium heat until melted. Meanwhile, remove clam cakes from refrigerator and dredge both sides with corn meal. Add the clam cakes and grill for about 4 to 5 minutes per side, or until golden brown. Remove to serving plates and serve with sliced cucumbers and a side of Creamy Cucumber dressing, if desired.

Here is some interesting trivia for all you clam lovers (called Yankees, by the way):

Fannie Daddies is the original name for fried clams and boat steerers is the original name of clam fritters, which is said to have been first made by a Lawrence Woodman, at Woodman’s Restaurant, in Essex, Mass.,on July 3, 1916.

Yankee Chef book coverSchiffer Books of Pennsylvania has released Jim Bailey’s new book The Yankee Chef: Feel Good Food for Every Kitchen. It contains more than 550 traditional New England comfort-food recipes tweaked for today’s palates with hundreds of kitchen tips and food facts. The hardback book is 312 pages and contains 200 color images. Its ISBN is 978-0-7643-4191-5 and the cost is $34.99. The book can be ordered through Misty Valley Books, 802-875-3400.

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Filed Under: Community and Arts LifeThe Yankee Chef

About the Author: Jim Bailey is a third generation Yankee Chef, New England food historian and newspaper columnist. His first cookbook, simply titled The Yankee Chef, has been published. He welcomes all feedback, questions or comments at

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