Words by Paula Marcoux. Photos by Jake Walker.
Quahog Pie Filling
- Pastry for a large double-crust pie (link at bottom of article)
- 3½ to 4 cups shucked quahogs (this should be at least 2 cups meat and 1½ cups liquid)
- 3 ounces salt pork, homemade if possible (say, a 1” X 4” chunk of slab), cut into very small dice
- 2 medium onions thinly sliced
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour (or 2 to 3 ounces broken pilot or common crackers)
- 2 large or 3 medium potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
- Freshly ground black pepper
Making the Filling
- Strain the quahogs away from their juice, setting the latter aside. Chop the quahogs coarsely in a wooden bowl with a curved blade or, failing that, on a cutting board with a knife. Try not to lose any of their precious bodily fluids.
- Meanwhile, heat the wee salt pork cubes in a large skillet until they begin to render their fat. Continue frying over medium heat, turning and tossing the fat bits, until they are reduced to tiny, bronzed, super-salty flavor-bombs, swimming in a puddle of hot fat. Without decanting any of that fat or the mysterious heavy sediment (deliciously porky salt actually), haul out the golden-brown “cracklings” (in Newfoundland charmingly called “scruncheons”) and set them aside on a dish.
- Add the onions to the hot fat and fry until limp and beginning to take some color. If you plan to thicken the filling using flour, add that now and stir it all around with the onions, allowing it to cook for a couple minutes. Add the quahog “liquor,” stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until it comes to a simmer and thickens. Stir in the potatoes, and cook about 5 or 10 minutes more, until they are just crisp-tender. Remove from the heat and stir in the chopped clams. Season with pepper.
Assembling The Pie
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Find a 10-inch pie plate, and a rimmed pan large enough to set under it to catch the inevitable pie-drippings. Have a small sharp knife and a little dish of cold water standing by.
- On a floured surface with a floured pin, roll out the larger (unbuttered) segment of pastry to an even, round circle, about ⅛” thick. Center upon the pie plate without stretching.
- Roll out the smaller pastry, also to an even circle. It can end up a tad thicker than the bottom crust, but of course must provide ample coverage to the filling and a good seal on the edges, so aim for at least ½-inch larger in diameter than the pie plate. Make a small (½-inch) hole dead-center with the point of your little knife, then a couple radiating slashes, if desired.
- Working quickly and carefully, pour the filling into the lower crust. (If you have opted to thicken with pilot crackers, intersperse them in a layer within the filling.) Dab or brush a line of cold water on the pastry laying on the rim of the pie plate. Use your rolling pin to transfer the pie’s lid into place, centering the vent hole. Lightly press the pastry together to seal the edge, then use your sharp knife to cleanly trim away both layers of excess pastry at one go. Avoid manhandling that cut edge as much as possible.
- Place the pie on its underliner and pop it in the hot oven. Bake about 15 minutes at 400, then turn the oven down to 375 degrees and continue baking until you see bubbling at the vents and the pastry is golden-brown, perhaps 45 minutes. If the pie should brown too quickly, as ovens vary markedly in this regard, let it slide to 350 and very lightly tent the pie with a dome of aluminum foil.
- Remove from the oven and let it cool and settle at least 15 minutes before cutting while you prepare a green salad as a sort of an antidote.
- Makes one 10-inch pie, which four hungry people can put away at a sitting. It pays to make two if you have your eye on breakfast leftovers.