What is a geoduck? Don't feel bad if you've never heard of the large clam before. Outside of the Pacific Northwest, where they grow, and Asia, where they've become a delicacy, the place most people are likely to see one may be on television.
The geoduck (Panopea abrupta), called the elephant trunk clam in Chinese, is a large bivalve characterized by a body encased by two shells and a long neck called a siphon. They can grow up to 14 pounds and a meter long, but most are harvested at about one to two pounds. The majority is shipped to Asia where they get served up in Chinese hotpots or as sushi or sashimi in Japan, where they are called mirugai.
Though they may be a rare find in the American supermarket, what if you manage to find someplace that sells live geoduck? Look for clams with siphons that appear fresh, plump and firm. Some people prefer to eat geoducks with pale necks, but color doesn't influence taste.
Like other clam species, live geoducks can be stored safely in the refrigerator for several days, tucked into the coldest part (though not the freezer) and wrapped in a damp cloth.
To prepare the geoduck for cooking, start by inserting a paring knife between the shell and the body at the base of the neck. Then, to separate the shell from the body, run the knife along the edge of the shell, being careful to cut through the adductor muscles that keep the shell and body connected. The stomach, which is dark, oval-shaped, and about the size of an egg, should be removed and discarded.
A tough skin encases the neck and body, but it can be removed by either quickly boiling the clam meat or running it under hot tap water until the skin begins to bubble. When it's ready, the skin should peel off easily.
There are a variety of ways to cook geoduck. It can easily be blanched, stir-fried or cooked up in chowder. However, "you don't want to overcook them or they get too tough," says Roy Ewen, who has been a recreational geoduck digger for more than 50 years. His wife, Linda, grinds up the siphon meat for fritters or patties and mixes it with horse clams for chowder. The more tender body meat will get sliced into thin strips and then breaded and fried, like other clam meat.
"We just keep it simple here," Linda Ewen says. But more adventurous cooks can find recipes for geoduck ceviche, carpaccio and scalloppine with a quick Internet search.