For us Yankees, quahog fritters (if you're not from New England, quahogs are simply hard-shell clams) are the taste of summer at the Rhode Island or Connecticut shore. The dough absorbs the briny taste of the meat, and the tartar sauce gives it a sweet, zingy finish.
For the sauce:
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup sweet relish, drained
2 tablespoons minced onion
1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
First, make the sauce: In a small bowl, stir together the four ingredients. Set aside.
For the clams:
2 pints shucked quahog meat, finely chopped (squeeze out and discard blacks)
1 medium onion, minced
2 small cloves garlic, minced
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup vegetable oil, plus more for frying
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Fill a 4- or 5-quart heavy-bottomed pot with 3 inches of oil and set over medium-high heat.
In a medium bowl, stir together quahogs, onion, garlic, eggs, and 1/4 cup oil. Add flour, baking powder, salt, and pepper, and mix just until evenly combined. The batter should have the consistency of whipped cream. If it's too thick, add some quahog liquor or water. If it's too thin, add a bit more flour.
When oil temperature reaches 360°, drop the batter by the tablespoonful into the fat. Don't overcrowd the pot. When fritters are dark golden-brown, transfer to paper towels to drain. Serve hot, with tartar sauce on the side.
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