Capturing the elusive geoduck clam near Vaughn. Photo: Jim Bellamy

The minus tides of summer deliver a golden opportunity to practice the fine art of the dig and to experience the time-honored thrill of pulling up your very own geoduck.

Regardless of whether you’re digging on your own beach or at an approved public beach, you’ll need a recreational shellfish license from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to harvest geoduck. It’s always advisable to call the shellfish hotline the day of your dig to double-check for last minute closings. 

How to Dig a ’Duck

First you’ll need to cut the bottom out of a metal garbage can. You can make your own metal tube but it must have handles to pull it out of the sand. 

After you locate the tip of the geoduck siphon––also called the neck––sticking out of the sand, start by digging a 12 to 18 inch circle around it. Dig down until the hole starts to collapse––about 2 to 4 feet. Next center the can over the geoduck. Work the can down in the sand until it is level with the surface, encircling the geoduck.

Remove the sand from around the neck, being careful not to cut it. The neck has likely retracted so you’ll want to use your hands to dig around it. When you reach the shell, dig by hand underneath to break the suction on the bottom. 

Now you should be able to work the shell back and forth to pull it out. Don’t try to pull it by the neck without breaking the suction below and freeing the shell, otherwise the neck will break off. Once the geoduck is removed from the hole, pull up the garbage can and fill the hole. Leaving holes on the beach is illegal. 

Preparation

If you love eating butter clams but came away unimpressed with the king clam, chances are it was overcooked. While all parts of a geoduck are edible, more people are familiar with the geoduck foot and the neck. This tender delicacy can be eaten raw in sushi or cooked very quickly to avoid becoming tough and chewy. Although many people discard it, the stomach, once cleaned, can be used in a mousse or paté.

To prepare the geoduck for use, run a sharp paring knife along the inside of the shell. With the sides free, cut the base of the neck away to remove the meat, leaving the stomach aside. Slice the siphon lengthwise along the middle to open and remove any remaining debris. Dunk the whole thing into a pot of boiling water for no longer than 10 seconds, and immediately plunge it into an ice water bath. Peel away the outer skin and you’re ready to prepare your meal. Another simple way to prepare the neck or siphon can be slow smoking until the outside is charred and peels off easily. The inside then peels off like string cheese.

Geoduck Crudo with Shiso Oil

½ lb. geoduck siphon meat, well cleaned

½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 T seasoned rice wine vinegar

6 fresh shiso leaves

Freshly ground pink peppercorns

Gray sea salt

Slice the geoduck paper-thin and keep cold while you prepare the garnishes. Combine olive oil and rice wine vinegar with shiso (available at Asian markets) in a blender and process until smooth and emulsified. Drizzle generously over artfully arranged slices on a chilled platter. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

­—From Good Fish by Becky Selengut, published by Sasquatch Books, 2011

Sautéed Geoduck and Wild Mushrooms

3 to 4 cups Shiitake and Oyster Mushrooms, sliced with stems removed

3 geoduck feet, sliced thin

5 T unsalted butter, divided

2 T Worcestershire sauce

¼ cup plus 3 T chicken stock

1 T cornstarch or arrowroot

1 teaspoon kosher salt plus more to taste

1 T olive oil

2 T dry cooking sherry

2 T fresh parsley, chopped fine

Begin by preparing the mushrooms. In a fry pan over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter and 1 tablespoon oil. Add mushrooms and stir to coat. Cook for three minutes until brown. Don’t stir too much. Add salt and Worcestershire. Let cook two minutes. Deglaze with ¼ cup of chicken stock. When liquid is absorbed, add sherry to deglaze again. Make a slurry from the cornstarch and the three remaining tablespoons of chicken stock and stir into mushrooms to thicken.

Turn up the heat to medium high and add two tablespoons of butter. Add sliced geoduck and cook for two to three more minutes. Sprinkle with fresh parsley. Serve immediately with polenta, rice or pasta. 

—From Ann-Marie Ugles, Lakebay 

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