Thursday, April 21, 2011


slipper shells
Chris Clarendon of Seapowet Shellfish (171 Preservation Way, Tiverton, RI  401-816-0791) has sold us oysters in the past but a few weeks ago at the Wintertime Farmers' Market he talked us into a crazy purchase, a big bag of slipper shells (a/k/a limpets) doing what they do best, sticking to each other (not for nothing is their Latin name crepidula fornicata).

Slipper shells are an invasive mollusk from the wild, found locally in shallow water. The dead ones aren't much too look at and are the most common shells found on RI and Massachusetts beaches. Two inches is a big slipper shell.

Chris supplied us with cleaning and cooking instructions - basically, rinse thoroughly in cold running water and broil for a minute or so. He didn't mention that pulling the little beasts apart takes a lot of time. Separate as many as you can, lay them out in a pan, some still co-habitating (but these may be gritty), and place under the broiler. They're not pretty but looking a bit more promising.

fresh from the broiler

Fresh from the oven the shells look like brass  exposed to seawater: green. The meat is easily prodded from the shells with the working-end of a chopstick. The slipper has a slimy tale which I pinched off. When you eat this sort of shellfish on an island in Greece, say, I'm guessing the tales are still attached. Don't smell your hands - they reek. In the end, for all your effort, there is a giant pile of shells and a small bowl of mollusks. Which are still not pretty - there is no gorgeous tray of oysters at the end of this adventure.

itty bitty mollusks

The slippers are good for chowders, or so we were told, but who wants them to disappear into soup after so much work? Better to add them to paella, but who's got time for paella-making after all this? Alternative three is tossing them on greens, adding olive oil, lemon and pepper.

Serve the little salads to guests and find a way to say, "Oh, these, just some native limpets foraged at the shore."  Then get your head examined.

Now you know you can survive on a desert island. In the interim, buy clams.

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