A qua-what? 'Ace of Taste' star Duff Goldman says 'stuffed quahogs' are among his favorite foods, but what are they?

·6 min read
Duff Goldman says he's recently started trying to improve his chicken soup recipe.
Duff Goldman says he's recently started trying to improve his chicken soup recipe. "I've been roasting [chicken bones], getting them really dark and then squeezing them," he says, "so the soup is really cloudy and dark and has a ton of flavor." (Photo: Charm City Cakes; designed by Quinn Lemmers)

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Food Network star Duff Goldman known best for his mind-blowing cakes, which were featured on his reality show, Ace of Cakes. But at home, this celebrity chef gravitates toward simple meals that taste amazing and are rich in tradition.

In Goldman's book, flavor beats out flashy. He loves to elevate simple dishes, carefully planning out each ingredient to take classic meals to another level while keeping the integrity of the dish intact. A recent example? Chicken soup.

"Passover was kind of dying out in my house, so I brought it back with a vengeance," says Goldman. "I was like, we're not losing this." Passover, a high holiday in the Jewish faith, has many specific dishes tied to the celebration. For Goldman, the holiday has always revolved around home-cooked favorites he was determined to share with his growing family.

"I've been working on my chicken soup," he says. "Usually with Jewish chicken soup, you don't roast the bones, you just put them raw in the water. I've been roasting them — getting them really dark and then squeezing them — so the soup is really cloudy and dark and has a ton of flavor."

"It's more like ramen now than regular chicken soup," he adds. "My mom's like, 'That's not traditional,' and I'm like, 'It doesn't matter, it's amazing.'"

In his latest show, Ace of Taste, Goldman returns to the Food Network, this time sharing something quite different than he did on Ace of Cakes, the show that followed Goldman and his team while they created imaginative cakes at his Baltimore, Md. bakery Charm City Cakes.

"What I'm really trying to do, now that I'm a dad and I'm doing all the cooking in the house: I wanted to share that because I make good stuff here," he says. "I make food like a chef, and I think what's cool is that it's not super-duper difficult."

On Ace of Taste, Duff shows off his skills in the kitchen, cooking and baking dishes inspired by friends, family and his passion for cooking. "When you can explain [a recipe] to people in plain English, then things aren't scary anymore and they're like, 'Oh, I can totally try that,'" he explains. "Like chili: So many people have never made a pot of chili. They don't know how it works. There's meat and reducing [liquid] involved, but once you can break it down and demystify it, it's like, 'Wow, chili is super easy, and when you do it right, it's amazing — transcendent.' But it doesn't have to be difficult to be amazing."

As a longtime fan of the Food Network and cooking shows, Goldman says he's thrilled to be back again, this time sharing a true cooking show. "My whole life I've watched cooking shows," he says, adding that in the ’80s and ’90s, he spent time watching not only famous television chefs, but also more obscure cooking programs that inspire him to this day.

"Great Chefs — it was this really great series — I think it was on PBS," he says. "It was like the worst most boring television show you've ever seen, but it was all these big resort hotel chefs making all this crazy food ... there was something really cool about it."

"I just love cooking shows," he continues, "shows where it's just about cooking and that's it. It's not a competition or a travel log, it's just about, 'Here's how to make good food.'"

The 47-year-old chef says there's something special about watching someone authentically do what they love. "I find it's beautiful watching somebody make food who loves to do it ... and I really wanted to kind of bring that back a little bit with Ace of Taste," says Goldman. "Because my enjoyment of what I'm doing is evident and people can take that and feel it."

Goldman grew up on Cape Cod in the small town of Sandwich, Mass., and says his favorite restaurant was Marshland, where he fell in love with clam chowder and quahog, a hard-shelled clam native to the Atlantic coast.

Among Goldman's favorite foods are quahogs, a hard-shelled clam found near his childhood home on Cape Cod. (Photo: Getty Creative)
Among Goldman's favorite foods are quahogs, a hard-shelled clam found near his childhood home on Cape Cod. (Photo: Getty Creative)

"Six months before my birthday, my wife asked me what I wanted and I said I wanted fried clams from Marshland," he recalls. "And so, unbeknownst to me, she called them up ... she said, 'Listen, you know my husband, he loves your restaurant and he wants your fried clams for his birthday — how do I make this happen?'"

The restaurant, which was well-aware of Goldman's long-standing love for their establishment, sent stuffed quahogs, clam chowder, raw clams and all of the ingredients for their unforgettable fish fry. "I turned on my oven, baked those quahogs, warmed up the soup and breaded up all the clams and fried them up. We had fried clams and chowder and stuffed quahogs from my favorite restaurant in the entire world and it was the best birthday ever."

In addition to choosing delicious meals for himself, Goldman enjoys comforting others through food. Many years ago, while living in Colorado, Goldman made a more than seven-hour drive to Wichita, Kans. to cook a beloved family recipe for his grandma one last time.

"My mom called me and said, 'Grandma stopped eating,' I was like alright, what should I do?" he recalls. "She said, 'I know she loves her mom's mushroom barley soup.'"

"My mom talked me through it and I went to my grandma's and I made several big batches of it in her little tiny apartment kitchen and she was crushing it," he says. "I made it exactly the way my great-grandma taught my mom … I made her a whole bunch and put it in the freezer. Unfortunately, that was the last time I ever saw her."

After his grandmother died, Goldman's mom took time to clear out her mother's home, where she found the leftover soup and ate it, finding extra comfort in her time of loss. "She ate it all while she was there and for me, it just felt really nice that I made all this food and my grandmother ate it and it was sustaining her and then my mom took it up," says Goldman. "It felt really poetic and beautiful. I just love that that happened. The food was there and my mom was able to get it and be warmed."

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