Cooking for Mills is love, art, and heritage. “My ancestors are with me as I prepare or enjoy favorite foods. I never make fish cakes and beans without feeling my father is back in the kitchen with me.”
He spent over an hour explaining the fine points of breading shellfish: never use anything finely ground with clams or oysters; a finely ground meal such as flour will absorb too much liquid and turn quickly to mush, not giving the shellfish the delicious “crunch.” Unsalted saltines are oyster’s ideal breading.
Hold shucked clams in your hands, in a shallow bowl of a little water and the clam liquid. Gently feel for broken shells, cupping your hands in the liquid beneath the clams. Lift the clams, again with your hands, gently out of the liquid and into the breading.
“As you want to get the breading on, you want to get it right off again!” As soon as the clams land in the breading lift them out and shake them a bit to get any excess breading off. That would be the “too moist” breading that will again make the crust too mushy.
Baked or broiled scallops need only a dusting of bread crumbs on top because they will take a shorter time to cook. Oysters and clams need a thicker cover of bread crumbs, basically to protect them from the heat in the time it takes to cook them.
The “milk,” the white liquid that bay scallops release when heated, is lots of flavor, and needs to be saved. Broiling scallops is tricky, because that “milk” just runs right out.
Mills understands more about what grows, swims, and moves on Cape Cod than most naturalists. (He told me that wild blueberry bushes are still alive under the ground, but the overgrowth is too thick to let the plants through; a controlled burn would open up this land to those kinds of Cape Cod plants again.) He says in “Son of Mashpee,” “In many ways Mashpee (the development there, the struggles of the native people to retain their heritage) is a microcosm of this country. To understand Mashpee is to understand our society better.”