Chubby and the Clam – Woodman’s celebrates 100 years

6a012876db717c970c01a3fd11bc5d970b-320wi“The ubiquitous fried clam was invented on July 3, 1916 at Woodman’s in Essex. Whether on purpose or by accident, Lawrence “Chubby” Woodman dropped a clam or two into a fryer while he was making a batch of french fries and lo and behold, the fried clam was born. To true New Englanders, a fried clam must have the belly and they must be Ipswich clams; those small, yet ever so succulent, bivalves (shells consisting of two halves, or valves). The Ipswich clam is really a bivalve king, monarch of the mollusks. Dug from tidal flats along the Essex River, the clams must, by law, be taken only by a hand rake and not dredged.”  Taste and Tales of Massachusetts

On Sunday, I saw an article about a new cookbook, Woodman’s of Essex — Five Generations of Stories, 100 Years of Recipes.  Immediately e-mailed a fellow food, Heather Atwood of Gloucester, who said it was great.  It came today and has all the famous recipes that countless thousands have enjoyed throughout the years, but one!  I figured it would be the fried clam recipe and I was wrong, it is the fried onion recipe.  So whether it is Nannie Woodman’s, Lemon Pie or the great cole slaw, they are all here.

Chubby and Bessie’s Fried Clams

  • 26 ounces whole belly clams
  • 12 ounces evaporated milk
  • 4 cups corn flour
  • Lard (Crisco can be used). Do not use olive oil.


  1. In a 4 quart saucepan, melt 2 3/4 pounds lard or vegetable oil to a depth of 2-inches in the pan. Heat to 350 degrees F. Using two bowls, pour evaporated milk into one, and corn flour into the other. In small batches put the clams in a hand-held strainer, and submerge into the bowl of evaporated milk to coat. Remove the strainer from the bowl and shake off the excess milk.  Next dredge the clams until they are well covered with corn flour (you may want to use a clean dry hand-held strainer to shake off the excess flour).
  2. Carefully place the clams into hot lard or oil. Be careful, because lard will spatter.  Cook in small batches, turning to cook both sides, until they are golden brown.  Using a slotted scoop remove from oil. Shake gently to remove excess oil. The clams will take approximately 1 1/2 minutes to cook. The color is the most important. They should be a golden brown.  Serves 8 (appetizer-sized servings).

For those few who have never been to Woodman’s, the restaurant is located on Main Street (Rt. 133), Essex, MA.

Courtesy of Woodman’s of Essex — Five Generations of Stories, 100 Years of Recipes

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