Razor clams move fast: up to a foot every 30 seconds, straight down through the wet sand on the shorelines of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans where they live. When the clams are in season, clam diggers at low tide use special shovels to pry the razor-shaped bivalves from the sand, where they can burrow up to three feet deep.

When Mark Grosz of Oceanique challenged Quince‘s Andy Motto to create a dish with razor clams, he didn’t know that Motto already had the clams on the menu at the Evanston restaurant. But what’s good enough for Quince’s patrons is good enough for the Reader: Motto stuck with the tried and true for his challenge and made a deconstructed version of clam chowder.

Motto steams the clams, which he says are mild in flavor and meaty in texture, in a court bouillon—a broth that in this case includes lemon and orange juice, white wine, onion, carrot, thyme, and bay leaf. Kaffir lime zest adds brightness to a celery salad; other elements of the dish include leeks and potatoes, smoked cream—cream with shallot, garlic, white wine, hickory-smoke powder, and xanthan gum—and Tabasco gel (Tabasco, water, and agar).

Motto describes the finished dish as creamy and buttery, with a meaty texture from the clams. “I think this could go on the menu, yes,” he joked after tasting it.

Who’s next:
Motto has challenged Joe Giacomino of A10 with banana blossoms—the purple flowers that grow at the end of clusters of bananas.

Deconstructed razor clam chowder

Two razor clams
Juice of one lemon
Juice of one orange
Half an onion
Half a carrot
Half cup white wine
4 sprigs of thyme
2 bay leaves
Combine all ingredients except the clams in a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and steam the clams in the court bouillon until they open, one to two minutes. Cool the clams, remove from the shell, and cut each in half.

Leeks and potato
1 leek
1 potato
1 celery stalk
Julienne leek, then rinse in cold water. Blanch in salted boiling water, then shock in an ice bath. Cut celery stalk into half-inch dice, then blanch in salted boiling water and cool in an ice bath. Reserve leaves for salad. Peel and cut the potato in half-inch dice. Fry in 350-degree oil, then let cool.

Celery salad
Diced celery and celery leaves
½ teaspoon mustard
1 egg yolk
6 ounces canola oil
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon mirin
Pinch of crushed pink peppercorns
Zest of one kaffir lime
Zest of half lemon
Salt and black pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients except celery in a bowl; whisk together. Just before serving, toss the vinaigrette with the celery and leaves.

Smoked cream
1 shallot, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
¾ quart heavy cream
½ cup white wine
2 tablespoons hickory-smoke powder
Xanthan gum
Sweat shallot and garlic in a pan until translucent. Deglaze with white wine and reduce until all the liquid has evaporated. Add cream and reduce by half. Stir in hickory-smoke powder and salt to taste. Transfer to a blender and blend on high speed. Add xanthan gum until desired consistency is reached. Strain and keep warm.

Tabasco gel
250 g Tabasco
250 g water
5 g agar
Bring everything to a boil for about 20 seconds. Cool until a gel forms and transfer to a blender. Blend on high until smooth.

To assemble: Place two spoonfuls of smoked cream on a place. Heat leeks and potatoes with butter, salt, and pepper, then spoon onto plate, then add spoonfuls of celery salad. Put clams on plate, and add a few dots of Tabasco gel.