Round these parts we call these guys Steamer Clams, elsewhere folks call them Cherrystones and Little Necks, but here in my neck of the woods we call them good ole Steamer Clams. And no matter what you call them, they make me go “nom nom nommy nom”.
My very first taste of these guys was when I was a kid and our family would go camping at Penrose Point State Park. We would forage the rocks at low tide looking for these little things. As a child I had no idea that I was hunting for my dinner while I turned over rocks and dug my little fingers into the substrate. It was not until my Dad brought out a big pot, filled it with water, set it to boil and then dumped out day’s work into the pot to cook that it finally started sinking in. He called me over so I could watch the magic happen, the shells popping open one by one… it was like watching popcorn pop, Sea Popcorn!
My Dad would have Mom melt up the butter. Then he’d reach in the pot with his bare hands and gingerly snatch a treasure bearing shell from the pot. He scooped out the insides with a regular old fork, dipped it in the liquid gold and then turned to me with that alien looking thing dangling off the end of the fork, glistening with butter. His eyes as wide and mischievous as his grin “Go on, take a bite.” And with much trepidation, I closed my eyes, opened my mouth and prepared to taste something horrible. I chewed,opened my eyes and looked at him in amazement. This explosion of buttery, sweet and briney all hit my palette at once. I was in love and have been ever since.
Every time I make steamed clams, I think of my Dad and thank him for making me take a bite. Miss you, Dad.
- 3-4 lbs Live Steamer Clams
- 2 Tablespoons Garlic, finely chopped
- 2 Tablespoons Shallot, finely chopped
- 4 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1/4 Teaspoon Black Pepper, freshly ground
- 2 Cups Dry White Wine
- 8-10 oz. of low sodium Chicken Stock
- 4 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter, cut into pats
- 3 Tablespoons Basil Paste – or Pesto
You can scrub the outside of your clams if you like, I rinse and pull any seaweed, but don’t bother scrubbing because it adds to the flavor of the broth. Take your clams and put them in a big bowl or non-reactive metal pan. Put a little sea salt in the pan and put it under the water faucet in your sink and let cold water slowly run into the pan, this will help your clams to expel the sand they are holding and give them some oxygenated water to breathe while you prepare the rest.
A really large skillet works best, place your garlic, shallots and oil into the skillet or pan over a Medium-High heat. Sweat the aromatics and add the wine 1 cup at a time, let the wine reduce down to half before adding the second cup, then let the second cup of wine reduce down to half. When adding your chicken stock only add the first half of it, let it reduce down to half then add the second half, no need for this part to reduce. Give it a good whisking, and while whisking constantly add the butter. Once the butter is melted add the Basil Paste, give it a quick whisk to distribute.
Take your clams out of their cold sea salt water bath. Just use your hands it’s the easiest way. Make sure to give them one last quick rinse under the running water to get any additional sand or debris off of them. Place them carefully and as evenly as possible into your bubbling sauce and cover tightly, if you don’t have a lid use some foil. Let them steam for 10-13 minutes.
Important: Do not eat any clams with closed shells. Do not try to force them open to get at them. Toss any unopened clams as they are not good to eat.
To serve, place in a big serving bowl and be sure to have an empty bowl or “graveyard” to catch all the empty shells. Have slices of baguette on the side to soak up all that gorgeous broth & enjoy!