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Particularly popular in coastal regions of the United States, clam fritters are chunks of clam deep fried in a flour-based batter. Usually made from canned chopped clam, fresh clams can also be used. Various seasonings and vegetables are often included in the batter, although the base ingredients are nearly always the same. These fritters can be found at some seafood restaurants, and they are also often homemade.
The batter for clam fritters is made with eggs, flour, baking powder, and clam juice. Beer or milk is also usually added, and butter and baking soda may be included as well. In simple versions, salt and pepper are often the only seasonings added to the batter. Many versions, however, add other flavorings, such as cayenne pepper or lemon juice. Vegetables and herbs, most often onion, but also sometimes bell pepper and parsley, may be chopped and added to the batter as well.
To make clam fritters, canned clams are drained and the juices reserved for use in the batter. The flour, baking powder, and baking soda if used may be first sifted together or simply combined with the other dry seasonings. The liquid ingredients, starting with the eggs, are then usually whisked into the dry ingredients. The clams and any vegetables or fresh herbs used are normally stirred in last.
Once the batter is prepared, a few inches of oil are heated in a pan. The clam batter is then spooned into the oil and fried. For more uniform fritters, some versions will shape the batter into small patties first and then place the patties in the oil. Fritters cook quickly and are normally deep fried for only a few minutes. When the breading is golden, the fritters are removed and allowed to drain on a paper towel.
Although canned clams are frequently used to make clam fritters, fresh clams can also be used. Fresh clams should be shucked and chopped before use. Shucking involves opening the clam's shell with a shucking knife and then cutting the muscle that connects the clam to the shell. Clam juice that results from the process should be reserved for later use. The juice can also be purchased bottled.
Clam fritters are usually seasoned with salt and pepper after they are cooked. Most often, they are eaten with hot sauce, malt vinegar, or tartar sauce. They can be served as an appetizer or main course dish.