When I was nine weeks pregnant my husband, in all his sensitivity, bought four pounds of mussels from Costco. He proceeded to cook them while I was in the house. I will never forgive him. But I will cook him birthday clams.
Usually, I’m very adventurous with food. I’ll try anything once, twice, even three times if presented novelly. I’ve eaten clams about 12 different ways, in as many sauces, restaurants, and locales. It doesn’t matter which way you serve them…
CLAMS ARE INEDIBLE SEA TRASH.
But, for some reason, my husband has a deep, heartfelt, bottomless love and desire for these disgusting exoskeleton bearing aquatic invertebrate.
The worst part is, he doesn’t just love clams, but ALL shellfish! Shrimp, mussels, oysters, scallops, all of it.
As a self-proclaimed foodie, I have always struggled with my dislike of shellfish. I like fish, but not shellfish. I’ve recently been able to eat shrimp in certain dishes, but I can’t get onboard the clam train. However, as a self-proclaimed foodie, I will always have at least one bite. No food goes untasted.
This is how I have come to decide I will never like clams, because I’ve had them in so many forms, including homemade by yours truly.
My husband is a hard man to shop for. He doesn’t like to dress up, so that excludes all the common man-gifts of ties, tie clips, cufflinks, etc. He doesn’t like massages (right!?). He lets gift certificates sit so long they no longer honor them. If he wants an item, he just buys it.
One particular year on his birthday I was struggling to find a gift he would really love. I happened upon this website and knew I had my gift. Besides, what’s better than a gift you can eat?
The Main Lobster Company
The Main Lobster Company ships live lobsters, crabs, clams, etc. to your front door on your selected date and window of time. All fish are farmed sustainably, purchased directly from local fishermen. The selection is seasonal, so during October I could only get little neck clams.
For Utahns like us, this is a dream come true because we have to pay a boatload for fresh fish, and it’s never reeeaaaallly fresh.
I ordered the minimum quantity of two pounds–because I knew I wouldn’t eat them. They arrived on the correct day, at 6 pm on the dot! The package even included a handwritten card with birthday confetti.
There were very specific instructions on how to prepare them, or how to keep them a day or two. You can also locate preparation instructions for all of their seafood on their website.
I wouldn’t say The Main Lobster Company is the most economical way to go about finding fresh seafood on land, but it’s definitely the most value for your dollar. I would rather pay for expensive, imported clams than expensive, week-old ones.
HOW TO PREPARE CLAMS
Seriously, if you’re anything like me you will be SHOCKED at how easy this is! Here’s what you need:
2 lbs Clams
2 Cups Water
Iodine Free Salt [optional]
A Tall Stock Pot with a Lid
Yup. That’s it.
Now, of course you can–and you know I do–get fancy with it. I’ll be giving you my personal recipe below. But my point is, you don’t need much to prepare delicious fresh clams.
Lay them out, inspecting one by one. Toss any that are already open, have weird goop coming out, or look cracked in any way. If they are open, they are dead, and that means bacteria.
I’ve done this with and without the un-iodized salt. Honestly, I didn’t notice a difference. Gently mix clams in cold water + a few TBS salt (or not) to rid them of leftover sand or dirt. If you use salt, make sure it doesn’t contain iodine because that will kill them.
After cleaning, I put my unopened clams into a pasta strainer to sit while I prepare the broth.
3. Prepare a Broth
The most important thing to remember when preparing this broth:
CLAMS ARE SALT WATER FISH.
THEY DO NOT NEED MORE SALT.
IF YOU ADD MORE SALT, YOU WILL DESTROY YOUR TASTE BUDS.
I had to yell it, because it’s seriously the most important thing to remember. Salt is necessary for every food in the world except ones that live in sea shells.
My preferred broth contains the following ingredients:
1/2 Cup white wine
1/2 Cup vegetable stock
4 TBS unsalted butter
2 cloves minced garlic
1/2 Cup minced onion
2 sprigs each of thyme & rosemary
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Pepper to taste
The general rule is 1/2 Cup liquid for every pound of clams. Put all the ingredients except the lemon juice & pepper in the bottom of the stock pot and mix well.
Bring to a boil, then immediately add in clams and cover.
What you’re doing isn’t actually cooking, but rather opening them. Little neck clams need about three minutes to open. The larger clams may need up to 10 minutes. What I do is briefly check every two to three minutes to see where most of them are at.
Not all the clams will open, that’s ok. When it looks like 80% have opened, take them off the heat and remove the opened clams into the strainer you used to clean them. Any still closed clams can be given another few minutes to open. However, If they aren’t open by 10 minutes than they are dead, and should be thrown away.
Two pounds serves four people, or, in my case, one husband. Clams are often served with a toasted, buttery baguette or french bread for dipping. I serve them with a small portion of pasta tossed in the leftover broth, and steamed asparagus.
[Pro tip: Simmer the broth down with some extra butter and a dash of white wine to thicken it up a touch.]
However you choose to serve them, once they are plated, squeeze a bit of lemon over each plate along with some fresh grated pepper.
Wasn’t that easy!? Expensive, yes. But easy!
I had one taste, and politely declined more, many apologies to the chef. My husband still says it’s the best birthday gift I’ve ever given him.
If you follow my recipe, I’d love to see your results! Tag me on Instagram: @thechicgourmay, Twitter: @thechicgourmay, or Facebook at, yep, you guessed it: The Chic Gourmay.