The cockle you see above is called a blood clam. It's very rare for these to show up Houston, as importing the blood clams from Southeast Asia is prohibited due to health concerns. Yet Philippe Gaston has them tonight at Cove -- but only a limited supply.
But that's because the blood clams that are cultivated in Southeast Asia -- and the blood clams, therefore, that most people eat -- can be filled with hepatitis A, hepatitis E (did you even know there was a hep-E?) and typhoid, among other things. This is due to the fact that blood clams filter 40 liters of water a day -- far more than your typical clam or oyster. And the waters where these clams are cultivated are severely polluted. Because the clams are typically served raw, none of those little nasties are killed off with heat.
(Does this sound anything like the argument against raw Gulf oysters and vibrio? Just checking.)
Either way, the blood clams that Cove is serving tonight aren't from Southeast Asian blood clam farms -- they're from closer to home, off the shore of Cape Cod. And they're perfectly safe, despite looking a bit like clam survivors in the clam version of Texas Clamsaw Massacre.
"Once you get past the off-putting name and appearance," reports the New York Times, "you will find that blood clams have a deliciously crisp succulence, like geoduck, and a flavor that is not as briny as a littleneck or cherrystone clam."
Oh, and that name? It's not a euphemism. Blood clams have very high levels of hemoglobin inside them, the very same stuff in your red blood cells.