Buttery, garlicky clams are a quintessential summer dish — especially when paired with a chilled glass of white wine (or rosé, you do you) and crusty bread for soaking in the white wine and herb-filled broth. I love making this for friends and family, because it looks like a restaurant-quality meal but is actually so easy and quick with minimal prep work.
Clams might seem intimidating at first (they’re alive? How do I know when they’re cooked?) so here, I’m answering any worry or question you might have so that you can get these on the table without a hitch.
Pro Shopping Tips
As you’ll see below, this recipe calls for littleneck clams, which are the smallest and sweetest varieties of quahogs and therefore your best bet for steaming — clams get tougher and chewier the larger they are. You’ll want to inspect your clams when you get home to check for broken ones (throw those away) or ones that are already dead. If you’re not sure, tap them lightly on the kitchen counter. Any clams that are open should start to close, and if they don’t, get rid of them. Hopefully the fishmonger is already checking, but it doesn’t hurt to check them yourself.
If you’re traveling a long way or walking in the heat, ask for a bag of ice to keep them on, and always make sure to keep the bag open since the clams are alive. Then, at home, put them in a bowl (keep the bag open so air gets in) and place them on top of a bag of ice on the fridge.
A Few Things to Note
The recipe is pretty straightforward: We melt the butter, infuse it with garlic, add some white wine. and then steam the clams in the fragrant and tasty liquid. Here are a few tips before you start.
1. Pick a white wine that you’ll also want to drink. You’ll have a good amount of the bottle left, so choose a wine you like sipping on. Or, use this recipe as an excuse to use up an open bottle already in your fridge.
2. Soak your clams. If your clams are looking a little dirty, soak them in cold water for 20 minutes to filter out the sand or grit. Then, scrub the outsides to remove any dirt. Lastly, throw away any that don’t open after you’re done cooking, as they most likely were not alive.
3. Dip the bread. Most importantly, don’t forget to dip the bread in the briny broth at the bottom of the bowl. You can thank me later.
Note: Littlenecks vary in size, so you’ll get about seven to 10 per pound. The recipe below serves four as a main course, so about seven to 10 clams per person. You can also serve it as an appetizer and it will serve six people, with everyone getting fewer clams.
Garlic Butter Steamed Clams
- 3 tablespoons
- 1/4 teaspoon
red pepper flakes
small cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon
salt, plus more as needed
- 1 cup
dry white wine
- 4 pounds
littleneck clams, scrubbed
Juice of 1 medium lemon
Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup
fresh basil or parsley leaves and fine stems, thinly sliced
medium lemon, cut into wedges
Sliced crusty bread, such as ciabatta
Melt the butter in a large pot, Dutch oven or wide skillet with a tight-fitting lid over medium heat. Add the pepper flakes, garlic, and salt, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Pour in the wine and raise the heat until it comes to a simmer (avoid a boil). Add the clams, cover, and adjust heat to maintain an active simmer. Cook until the majority of the clams open, about 6 to 9 minutes depending on the size of the clams. Give the pot a good shake about halfway through to move the clams around. Discard any that don’t open.
Remove from the heat. Stir in the lemon juice, adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper as needed, then top with most of the herbs. Ladle the clams into bowls. Pour the remainig liquid over the clams and sprinkle with the remaining herbs. Serve with lemon wedges, crusty bread, and the remainder of the wine.
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