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Rhode Island Food Trail: Stuffies

Rhode Island Food Trail: Stuffies
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Although you’ll find many versions of stuffed clams around New England, it’s only in Li’l Rhody that they’re called “stuffies,” and there are as many variations of them within the borders of this tiny state as there are delis, pizza shops, grocery stores, seafood shacks, fish markets, and upscale eateries to make them.

As with many other bread-based dishes, stuffies came into existence to stretch budgets and to provide carb-stoking meals for fishermen, farmers, and other long-day laborers. In Rhode Island, stuffies begin with quahogs, the clams in those big shells with the purple markings inside, once polished for wampum by Native Americans.

To make stuffies, you first shuck the quahogs, capture their juice, and add some extra clam juice to moisten the bread cubes or cracker crumbs. Some stuffie cooks add chopped onion, celery, and sweet or hot peppers; some spice the mix like Thanksgiving stuffing; others make a Portuguese stew, complete with chourico. Still others swear that a true stuffie should taste only like chopped quahogs and clam-juice-soaked bread–just add your own hot sauce or lemon juice on top. One old-timer, who once made thousands of stuffies by hand at his Warwick fish market years ago, used to say, “Putting sausage in a stuffie is like putting raisins in meatballs.” So there you have it–something for every taste, simple to spicy.

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