RHODE BANK: STUFFIES FOR THE SUPER BOWL

chowdahousePieHole checks in with Rhode Island’s embassy in Red Bank, the Chowda House, to speak with chef Glenn Kovacs about stuffies. (Photo by Jim Willis. Click to enlarge)

By JIM WILLIS

morsels smallDespite being the smallest of the six states that make up New England, the breadth of unique, hyperlocal culinary contributions from Rhode Island make it a great place to look for inspiration for Super Bowl Sunday’s menu items.

The foods that are sure to make a Rhode Islanders’ mouth water that you’ve probably never heard of include hot wieners, the spinach pie and pizza strips, all polished off with a coffee milk.

But with a nod to the Patriots’ presence in the big game, the one Rhode Island food we’ve got our eyes on for this Super Bowl is the stuffed quahog, aka stuffie.

Clam shacks up and down the Rhode Island coast serve up quahogs (often referred to around the Green as a chowder clam) stuffed with bread crumbs, herbs and vegetables. Often linguica – a highly tasty Portuguese sausage – is added to the mix, but that’s a point of contention among some traditionalists.

Eaten on the halfshell and topped with hot sauce, the stuffie is perfect for watching the game. To get some details on preparing them locally, we stopped in at Rhode Island’s embassy in Red Bank, the Chowda House , and spoke with chef Glenn Kovacs.

“Stuffies absolutely fit the bill for Superbowl Sunday. It’s a finger food and something you can eat while you’re standing around drinking a beer and watching the game,” says Kovacs.

The first time we ordered stuffies at the Chowda House, PieHole was a but surprised by the diminutive size  – closer to a large cherrystone or top neck clam than the quahogs we’ve had in Rhode Island.

Kovacs tells PieHole size doesn’t matter, and he makes his smaller at the restaurant so that they can be served more quickly.

“At home, you can wait 15-20 minutes for a traditional-sized stuffie to cook, so [home cooks] can go with the large size,” he says.

As with his clam chowder, Kovacs says it’s important to use a substantial number of clams in the recipe. “I like a fresh, moist stuffing with celery, onions and garlic,” he says. “When we make them here, we shuck and shock the clams in boiling water, then ice them down and roughly chop them. We also deglaze the pan with white wine and add some clam juice.”

Also, he tells PieHole that he adds sausage to the Chowda House’s stuffies on request.

PieHole made a few calls, and if you’re interested in making stuffies at home, Lusty Lobster has chowder clams available and a nice, spicy chorizo sausage – an acceptable but not authentic substitute for linguica – can be purchased at Monmouth Meats in Red Bank.

If that all seems like too much running around, Kovacs tells PieHole that the Chowda House will make up stuffies (or mini lobster rolls, another New England staple) for you for the big game. Kovacs just suggests calling soon; prices available upon request.

As for his pick for the big game, Kovacs tells PieHole he just wants a good game that’s not a complete blowout.