Last month, reading about the recent Modernist Cuisine Dinners, I was struck by the method of opening clams that was mentioned in one description. It said, or at least I remember it to have said, that the clams were opened with the help of liquid nitrogen. Well, that was just a smart idea. We are huge advocates of using liquid nitrogen for everything from cryo-blanching to powdering just about anything. Utilizing this kitchen ingredient to facilitate the opening of raw clams and oysters would be icing on the cake. Unfortunately all the information that I had to go on was that the clams were opened with the help of liquid nitrogen. There were no further details available. As I pondered, various scenarios played out in my mind and were tested in our kitchen.
Our trials led to amazing results. For our method clams and oysters need to be submerged in liquid nitrogen for 10-15 seconds and then allowed to defrost in the refrigerator. As they thaw, they pop open and can be shucked with a spoon. And if you are impatient, just use a spoon to pop the hinge approximately 30 seconds after they come out of the nitrogen. The results of Nitro-Shucking are like nothing I have been able to produce before. The fully intact mollusk is raw and juicy, reminiscent of the pressure opened clams I sampled at The Flemish Primitives last year.
As for how the Modernist Team utilizes liquid nitrogen, I will have to wait and ask them when they return from their world tour.