Razor Clam Rillettes

Do you know how to catch razor clams, and how to cook them? Try these razor shell rillettes. It’s kind of a spread, or a pate – pâté – as we would say in French.

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Digging razor clams is very exciting. Kids love it and are very good at it. My daughters caught dozens of them last time. In the Northern part of France, along the Channel coast, at low tide, families head to the sea, seeking for the best sand beach spot and starting to search for anything seafood that might be in the sand or on the rocks (mussels, clams, winkles, abalone, soft shell clams, razor clams…). In Brittany where my family in law stays, once the tidal coefficients reaches 70/80, the low water tradition is to go for razor clams. Harvested with salt, it’s indeed quite funny and always a great time.

Razor clams are bivalve shells (made of 2 shells) that hide in the sand. Their French name – couteau, meaning knife – comes from their elongated shape, looking like the horn handle of a knife.

To catch them, first we have to find a keyhole shape hole in the sand, a hole by which they suck in water to feed themselves by filtering. At the slightest sign of danger they can plunge to a meter deep in the sand, making them difficult to catch. But when we sprinkle salt in their holes, razor clams are dumped. Feeling it’s high tide and that the sea is back, they rise to the sand surface, giving us the opportunity to catch them.

Like any shell, razor clams contain little fat. They are rich in protein, iron, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus and B vitamin. Cooking razor shells is quite tricky because if they are overcooked, they may get an elastic and rubbery texture (like squid can be).
I’ve cooked them as rillettes and served them on toasts of bread as an appetizer. You can also use it as a side to a fish.

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tartinade de couteaux

Razor Clam Rillettes

Briefly cook razor clams until shells open (just like you would do with mussels). Mix razor clams and briefly fry them with chopped parsley and garlic, and with cream.
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: French
Occasion: Fancy dinners, Picnic
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Portions: 10 shares
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  • 3 garlic cloves chopped
  • 10 sprigs parsley chopped
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • 1 knob unsalted butter
  • 10 cl cream or use razor clams cooking water
  • Bread for toasts
  • If possible enough sea water to immerge clams to wash them. Otherwise water + salt.


  • First wash the freshly caught razor clams. Take off any dirt from the shells and soak them in sea water or salted water (9 gr of salt per liter of watefor 2 to 3 hours so that they disgorged (they release their impurities such as sand). Then drain them.
  • Heat a pan without any fat. Once hot, throw razor clams in with thyme and bay leaf. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until all shells are all open. It’ll only take a few minutes. Then drain. If you want to avoid the use of cream in this recipe, keep the remaining cooking water.
  • Peel garlic. Finely chop garlic and parsley leaves together. Remove the shells of razor clams. Cut into 3 and then chop the mussels of razor clams, with for example a blender. You may wish to chop them coarsely or quite thin, it all depends on your taste.
  • Heat a pan over medium heat with a knob of unsalted butter. Fry for 5 minutes chopped razor clams with garlic, parsley and cream (or cooking water). Adjust the quantity of cream or cooking water, depending on the consistency you wish to have.
  • Serve chilled on toasts.
  • For 60 razor clams of medium size, I got about 500 gr of those rillettes.
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Bon appétit !

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