We don’t know how many states have named an official shell, but we do know that Rhode Island’s is the quahog. Made nationally famous as the fictional town where the The Family Guy‘s Griffin family lives, quahogs are locally famous for showing up all over our beaches and in dozens of local dishes from clams casino to chowder. Those dishes can be found coast to coast, but one appetizer – the stuffed quahog – remains a mostly local delight.
Commonly known as “stuffies,” stuffed quahogs are typically comprised of breaded stuffing, onions, peppers, linguica, a touch of chili sauce or flakes, and, of course, clams. All of this is baked into a quahog shell and served hot. And there are about as many recipes for the dish as there are restaurants serving them.
But just what is a quahog? Allow us to set the record straight. Little necks, cherry stones, top necks, and quahogs are actually all different sizes (listed from smallest to largest) of the same type of clam, collectively known as quahogs. (To be clear, all quahogs are clams, but not all clams are quahogs.) How you want to prepare them affects which you’ll choose to cook with, since they get a bit chewier as they get bigger. (The largest, quahogs, are frequently for used for stuffies and chowders.)
This clam is such an important part of Rhode Island’s economy that the governor declared this week the first Quahog Restaurant Week, and chefs across the state dreamt up dishes that celebrated the mollusk. The bivalves, which are plucked from our shores year round, are part of the local seafood boom that could be “poised to spur the next wave of food-based economic growth,” according to the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management. Last year, a whopping 27 million quahogs were sustainably harvested here. We can’t say how many were sliced, diced, and baked into stuffies, but we do know that we’ll never view the humble stuffed quahog in quite the same way again.