Whether you are cruising the islands or having a home barbeque in honor of our nations independence, consider a good old fashioned Clam Bake! The clam bake comes to our shores from our ancestors and the art of clam baking is about as old as America itself. Today, we host clam bakes to gather the family and celebrate holidays, birthdays, births, anniversaries, wakes and also corporate parties or events. Traditionally, clam bakes are usually done New England Style, on the beach in a pit lined with stones and seaweed. This process usually becomes an all day event where the guests show up in enough time for a cocktail prior to the meal.
Picture Courtesy David Williams, 2010.
You won't believe how easy this is. All you need is fresh clams and a few other ingredients. If you want to bring your celebration up to the next level, invite some fresh dungeoness crab, lobster, baby red potatoes, corn on the cob and sausage to the party and I promise it'll be a good time. This platter of seasonal bounty is not only a sight to behold, but if you are in love with food like I am, you won't mind spending a little extra to satisfy your indulgence and prepare a meal your guests will be talking for months! So go get a cold beverage and let's get down to planning this mouth-watering event!
Tip! You can get clams individually or by the bag. Whatever the case, resist the urge to wrap them up tight on your way home. They need to breath since they are living shellfish. When you get them home, place them in a pot of very cold salted water (about 1 teaspoon salt to 2 quarts water) and put the pot in the refridgerator for no longer than 24 hours. I put them in the pot I plan on cooking them in because it makes clean up a snap.
Now for your grocery list. You are going to want to pay attention to ingredients and theme. Also keep in mind how you want to serve this dish and what your table top will look like. For summer, I would suggest a checkered tablecloth or newspapers. You can use shells or arrange a center piece or driftwood and white votives. Now, how pretty would that be? Your decore really depends on the style of your clam bake. When you do your shopping, remember to select a few different bottles of wine for the event. May I suggest something along the lines of a crisp Pinot Gris or Savignon Blanc. Being that this is a clam bake and has the potential to be a little messy, be sure to provide a bowl for shells and lots of napkins!
The Grocery List
1 C. butter (2 sticks)
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 lemons, sliced into wedges
1 t. dried basil
4 stems of oregano
1 lb. lobster(s) 2 bay leaves
6 stems of thyme
2 bottles of beer
4 C. water
4 stalks of celery
2 large yellow onions, quartered
1 T. black peppercorns
12 baby red potatoes, halved
3 ears of corn, husked and halved
45 - 50 fresh butter clams
1 bunch flat leaf parsley salt and pepper
The Essential Garlic Butter: Prepare herb and garlic butter ahead of time and store in refridgerator until ready to use. Directions: add butter, garlic, oregano and basil to a microwave safe bowl and place under medium heat until completely melted. Stir gently. Serve in ramekins along side dinner plates.
Cooking Your Delicious Clam Bake: You will need at least an 18 quart pot. You can do this with smaller pots, but you will have to adjust the ingredients in the recipe so they will all fit once assembled. Add the two beers and 4 cups of water to pot. Add bay leaf, thyme and peppercorns to liquid. Place over high heat. If you dont wish to have your house smelling like a clam bake, then use a barbeque outside, but check the heat regularly. Once you have a boil, add the lobster head first, cover pot and cook until the lobster is bright red, about 8 minutes. Remove lobster from pot and set aside. Can you believe people actually forget to remove the little lobster handcuffs, or bands that hold the pincers? Please remember to remove these. And don't feel bad for the lobster. The alternative to imminent death by boiling is to choose lethal injection, hanging or, in some states, firing squad. Boiling is the preferred method here, but it sure leads one to wonder if maybe we should hold a vote and add 'boiling' to the list when one is sentenced to death. Headfirst. Add potatoes and onions to pot. Make sure cooking liquid covers vegetables. If you have too much liquid, ladle some out and set aside. If you need more, add some water. Cover pot and bring the liquid to a boil. Cook vegetables for about 10 minutes. Layer sausage and ears of corn on top, cook 10 more minutes. Add clams on top of sausage and corn and then add the lobster on top of the clams. Please check your cooking liquid to make sure you have at least 1/4 pot of liquid. Steam clams for 10 minutes or until shells open. When cooking is complete, transfer lobster to a surface shell side down and using a large knife, pierce the center of the tail lengthwise to tail and crack open to remove the meat. Using a large slotted spoon, carefully remove contents from the pot onto a decorative serving platter. You can also drain the liquid and dump out onto a table over newspapers and let your guests dig in if that is more your speed. Be sure to sprinkle with chopped parsley, salt and pepper. Don't forget the garlic butter! Garnish with lemon wedges.