In the tradition of the Bonac people, named for Accabonac Harbor–originally natives of England– who settled into the Springs area of Easthampton, NY(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bonackers) I am making a Bonacker Clam Pie. The recipes are guarded very closely and passed on from generation to generation. The best I ever had was made by Sean Bennett, a local oystermen out here. His mother was a Conklin, and both the Bennett and Conklin clans are true Bonackers. He would not divulge the recipe, but we got to talking and he let out a hint or two after a beer or three. Adding rosemary was one, and the general proportions another. His pie weighed about 8 lbs and was delicious. Thanks Sean. I am sure my pie will not be as good as yours, but I pay homage to you in my attempt. I owe special thanks to Ed E., of Sag Harbor, for our discussions on the subject and his insights into the families and lore of the area which led me to attempt this historic dish. Ed also shared with me is secret clamming spot, which is a great honor. “You know,” he said with a twinkle in his eye. “It is by the rock, the one with the seagull shit on it.”
The Dayton’s are another old EH family; and I am not sure if they are Bonackers. I am waiting for the local library to send me a recipe from “The Ladies Home Journal, July 1951 issue, which has Mrs. Dayton’s 1948 recipe. Te article is entitled “The Best I Ever Had.” In the meantime, I have done some research and decided that before following the LHJ recipe I would try my own compiled from that research. The truth is, I could not wait a week to make one and I already bought the clams.
At present, July 10, 2011 11:33 AM, my clam pie is cooling. It weighs about five pounds.
Shuck fresh clams, (I used Top Neck) so that you have 1 lb. of clam meat (about 30 clams). Put the clams in a colander so the excess liquid is drained. I left them in the colander for a few hours covered in the fridge. Be sure to put a bowl under the colander or you will have a lot of cleaning up to do. Note: Save the clam juice. It is wonderful in soups, over pasta with garlic, and spring onions, and my favorite is to add a few Tablespoons to a Bloody Mary. Trust me on this one. It is a healthier Clamato™ juice.
Prepare 1 lb of sliced onions. Method of slicing: Cut them on the pole and NOT the equator, and then slice thinly so you have slivers. Reserve the little root end for a soup or stock.
Take 1/4 lb. salt pork, cut into little cubes, about a 1/4 inch each. Render the salt pork in a heavy cast iron or enamel pan, and then add the onions with a 1/8 stick (2 Tbs.). sweet butter. Take your time, there is no rush. You are almost making an onion jam here. Do NOT let the onions color. It will take about 20-25 minutes. About half way through, chop up some FRESH rosemary (be sure to remove the woody stems before chopping) and add it to the onion and salt pork mixture. Add freshly ground black pepper to taste. DO NOT ADD SALT! Let mixture cool completely.
Chop up the drained clams, not too finely, and add to the onion mixture. Mix well. Now take 1 lb. of Yukon gold, or russet potatoes, peeled and chopped into ¼ inch cubes and incorporate those too. Filling should be at room temperature. Put filling into pie crust (see recipe below), and bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes. In the top crust, leave a hole in the center (about 2. inches in diameter) of the pie so the steam can escape. Fish out a potato from the hole. If the potato is cooked the pie is done. Let rest and eat warm, or even cold. Reheat gently…at 250 degrees for about 25 minutes.
A simple green salad with a classic vinaigrette (don’t you dare use Balsamic – another rant coming soon) and a glass of Muscadet sur Lie will go very nicely…thank you very much. Okay who am I kidding: a bottle, because that is how I roll.
1 lb. fresh clam meat
1/4 lb salt pork
1 lb. onions (white, or yellow)
1 lb potatoes Yukon or Russet
1 TBS. Fresh rosemary finely chopped
1/8 stick butter (2 tbs.)
Black Pepper to taste
FOR THE PIE CRUST (Makes 1 9 inch double crust pie):
3 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tbs. sugar
1.5 sticks. chilled butter (SWEET), cut into small pieces
1/2 cup chilled vegetable shortening, cut into small pieces
Blend dry ingredients, add butter bit by bit (I used a kitchen mixer with a leaf blade), and then add the shortening in tablespoon balls. When incorporated add 6-8 tablespoons of ice water. Let rest in fridge for at least one hour.