Instead of Flügtagging, Wifey's dad held the annual Stahl Crabfest, this weekend. After three years of being in the family, he offered me the honor of helping in the cooking. While Dad-in-law steamed two bushels of crabs, I took to the grill and steamed 500 clams (minus the ones we ate raw).
I really enjoy steaming clams, because it’s easy, and the number of ways you can influence the flavor of the clam. All you really need is a cooking vessel, a liquid, and heat. The liquid imparts the most flavor to the clams. Water gives you a true clam flavor, but beer, wine, chicken broth, or any other clear liquid work great and add flavor. Beyond that, you can add any number of things to the liquid to impart more flavors; aromatic vegetables, seasonings, or butter give the best results. I steam with water when I am using the clams as part of another recipe (clams over linguine, pork in clam and garlic sauce) but when we are eating the clams as an appetizer, I usually cook my clams in white wine with butter, red and green bell peppers, and garlic. This time I kept it simple and steamed with white wine, except for one batch I steamed in beer.
The size of the steaming pan depends on how many clams you are cooking and what you plan on using to heat the pan. On a stove-top, I use a large frying pan or a stockpot. In the oven I use a cast iron pan, a roasting pan, or a casserole dish. On the grill, I use a roasting pan, or sometime just put the clams on the grate. I like using the “foil-ware” lasagna pans or steaming trays in the oven or on the grill when I am cooking more than one batch, since I can use a new one instead of cleaning the pan when switching liquids, or when serving the clams in the juice.
- Liquid of choice
- Flavorings of choice
- Corn Meal
- Knives and cutting boards to prep flavorings (if necessary)
- Storage container
Prior to cooking, any bad clams (broken shells, chipped, barnacled) should be discarded. The remainder need to be cleaned by soaking them in ice water with some cornmeal added to it. After about a half hour the water will be cloudy and dirty, but the inside of the clams will be dirt free. Pick the clams out of the water, don’t pour them through a strainer or you will just be pouring the dirt back over them.
Pick a cooking vessel which fits over your heat source, and is over an inch or two deep. Fill the pot with one layer of clams. Don’t stack clams on top of each other, or you risk over-cooking the bottom clams. Pour about an inch of liquid, and add any flavorings into the pan, and cook over high heat until the clams start opening. As each clam opens completely, remove them to your serving plate. Discard any clams that don’t open within a few minutes of the rest of the clams. Eat right out of the shell or dip in drawn butter and enjoy.