Monday, October 31, 2011

Broiled Clams with Garlic Herb Butter

This recipe is from one of my favorite cookbooks, "Bistro Cooking at Home" by Gordon Hammersley. The recipes are unique. The illustrations beautiful. And the binding of the spine is actually sewn, not glued.

The first time I served these, I spied a guest licking the shells clean. You will, too. The only deviation from the recipe is that I now place the opened clams on a bed of ice-cream salt. It keeps them stable and prevents the juices from tipping out. I omit the parsley garnish at the end.

Littlenecks are small and tender, not chewy like larger clams.

These can be made ahead and then covered in the fridge until ready to broil. The herb butter can be made a day or two ahead. If you have a few dozen, have a "shucking" party with guests helping. Always fun. Just have liquor on hand ...

Do serve with some torn pieces of artisan bread to sop up the juices. Sometimes, I just lightly toast a piece of bread and tear it into pieces. I eat the clam and then drizzle a piece of the bread with juice. And don't be shy, lick the shells all you want.

You will need a sturdy oyster/clam knife to shuck the clams. Look for one with a large, comfortable handle, preferably rubber so it doesn't slip in your hand.

  • 20 littleneck clams, scrubbed well under cool-running water
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • Pinch of Kosher salt
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • Pinch or two of Cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary needles, finely minced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, minced
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons fresh curly parsley, chopped very fine
  • Garnish: lemon wedges, 1/4 cup chopped parsley

MAKE the butter:

Chop/press the garlic. Sprinkle with salt and continue to chop, smearing it with the side of your knife until it becomes pastelike. You'll have about 1 1/2 teaspoons. Place garlic paste in a small bowl along with the soft butter, the Cayenne, lemon juice, rosemary, thyme and 2 1/2 tablespoons of parsley. Mix together. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

(A quick note on chopping parsley: Nothing is messier than chopping parsley as fine as possible. I now use an old French "MOULIN" I picked up at a flea market. Most vendors have no idea what they are, so you can usually get one for a couple of bucks. It makes fast work of chopping all leafy greens. It makes "chopping" parsley a whole lot easier.)

SHUCK the clams:
Shuck the clams and place each clam on the deeper half shell. Place on bed of ice cream salt in a heavy pan or sheet tray. Place abut 1 teaspoon of herb butter on top.

HEAT the BROILER and place about 4 inches from heat. Broil until clams are sizzling and cooked through about 3 - 5 minutes depending on size of clams. Serve immediately with lemon wedge and a flourish of chopped parsley. I think five-6 clams per person is a great appetizer.

Clams on the half shell served on North Carolinian pottery.

Notes: For this demo I made a full recipe of herb butter, but only 11 clams, saving the rest for the following day. Remember, clams are live things and need to breathe. Do not store in a closed, plastic bag. Discard any clams that do not close when tapped. To shuck a clam, insert clam knife opposite the hinge between the crevice. Pry open and scrape the knife across the top and bottom of the shells to remove the meat. If the shells are particularly difficult to open, run under warm water to loosen the muscles a bit. Once you get the hang of things, it goes pretty quickly. 

UPDATE: I don't have a grill because building codes where I live don't allow it. But if I did, I'd put these on a grill for that extra smoky flavor. If anyone does, give me a holler.