Recipe adapted from chef Amy Brandt. Published in A South You Never Ate by Bernie Herman. Photograph by Jay Fleming.

The Eastern Shore of Virginia is in fact, for all intents and purposes, clam country. In fact, the Old Dominion State has the largest clam fishery in the United States, hauling in hundreds of millions of both farm-raised and wild varieties, from little necks, cherrystones, and razors along the coastal peninsula’s Chesapeake Bay shorelines to quahogs off the banks of the Atlantic Ocean.

If you’re not eating them raw or roasted, there are few ways better to indulge than the local delicacy of pan-fried fritters. “Simplicity and perfection,” as Bernard Herman described them in A South You Never Ate. And in his neck of the woods, everyone has their own iteration, often steeped in age-old tradition. They’re the stuff of family restaurants, church fundraisers, country fair fare, and community gatherings of all sorts.

This recipe is a seafood-rich adaption, written by chef Amy Brandt of Amy B Catering in Cheriton, located less than three miles from water to the east or west. “Amy reminds me that cooks on the Eastern Shore use only clams,” writes Herman. “The blend of clams, shrimp, and rockfish are for folks ‘from away’ who might think of an all-clam fritter as a bit too clammy.” We’ll eat them any way we can get ’em.

Makes 6 servings of 3 fritters apiece. 

Best cooked in the Joan or Joe.


  • 1 cup chopped clams (see below note)
  • 1 cup finely diced rockfish
  • 1 cup finely diced shrimp
  • ⅛ tsp. nutmeg
  • ⅛ tsp. cayenne pepper
  • ⅞ tsp. fennel seed, finely chopped
  • ½ tsp. lemon zest, finely chopped
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • ¼ tsp. black pepper
  • 2 large eggs
  • ¼ cup rice flour
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • Canola oil
  • Horseradish, yellow mustard, or super spicy cocktail sauce, for serving


In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients except the oil and condiments. Cover and place in the refrigerator for 1 hour. Heat your pan over medium-high heat. Add enough oil to cover the bottom by ¾ inch. When the oil shimmers carefully drop the fritter mixture by tablespoonful into the pan. Cook for a couple of minutes until well browned on the first side. Tipping the pan away from you so the oi is in the curve of the pan hip the fritters. Cook until the second side is well browned. Serve immediately with horseradish, yellow mustard, or super spicy cocktail sauce, If not serving immediately, transfer to a cooling rack set on top of a sheet pan and keep warm in a 200-degree oven for up to 1 hour.

Note: If you’re using fresh clams, be sure to check each clam for any bits of shell left from shucking, then chop the clams fine and drain well. If you are going to chop fresh clams, buy chowder clams, freeze them, then shuck and chop them frozen.

December 30, 2023

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