25 Ways to Use Clams

By: Contributor

Although there is no official season for clams, to me summertime has always meant sitting out on the porch with some fresh clams: grilled and dipped in a beer sauce, raw clams on the half shell with butter, or steamed clams in a white wine and tomato sauce with some fresh bread to “zup up the sauce,” as my family has always said. These little guys are low in fat, high in protein and have crazy amounts of vitamin B12. The best part about clams is that the greatest preparations are often the most simple (and they cook in about 5 minutes)! There are over 150 varieties of clams, but the most popular are quahog, littleneck, steamers, Manila and razor clams.

It may seem tedious, but you need to tap any open clams on the counter to make sure they're still alive. If the shell is cracked or the clams don't shut their trap, discard and move on with the prepping process. Because clams live under the sand and use their body as a filtration system, you're going to want to soak them in fresh water for about an hour to clear out the sand. Everyone has different theories on what to add to the water to get the most sand out; my favorites are cornmeal or baking soda. Pick each clam out individually and rinse its shell under running water (dumping them all out will pour the sand right back into what you just cleaned out). Feeling clammy yet? Here are 25 things you can do with those clean clams:

Photo by: Tara Donne

Tara Donne

Photo by: Emmer Schmidt ©Emmer Schmidt

Emmer Schmidt, Emmer Schmidt

  • Put those suckers straight onto the grill. They'll steam in their own delicious juices. Try out Grilled Clams and Oysters (pictured), Grilled Clams with Garlic Butter, Grilled Clams with Charred Zucchini and Garlic, and Grilled Razor Clams with Meyer Lemon-Chive Vinaigrette.
  • Giada creates pasta perfection with her Conghilie with Clams and Mussels.
  • Fresh mayo is just one of those things that probably doesn’t seem worth the effort. Well, I'm here to tell you that it is not very hard and might just be one of the most amazing things you'll ever eat. Try Alton Brown's Clams on the Half Shell with Fresh Mayonnaise.
  • Pasta with clam sauce is a family favorite. Giada's Spaghetti with Clams features a white wine sauce while Nadia G. sticks with a rustic tomato sauce in her Linguine with Clams.
  • New Haven-Style White Clam Pizza is truly an American classic. Italian immigrants brought the thin-crust pizza to this Connecticut city and the local clams ended up on the square slices.
  • Add beer to clams for a match made in taste bud heaven, whether it's on the side as a refreshing bevvy or used as a steaming liquid, like in White Water Clams with Beer and Orange Broth.
  • One of the simplest yet most delicious recipes around: Mussels and Clams with Sizzling Brown Butter and Capers. Brown butter (or beurre noisette) means that you cook the milk solids in butter. When you're heating the butter in the pan, it'll start bubbling up. After it stops bubbling you want to swirl the butter around. Once you start seeing some brown flecks in the butter you can turn off the heat and keep swirling. You will get this rich, nutty aroma and that's when you know you've hit the mark.
  • Giada's Mussels, Clams and Shrimp in Spicy Broth get their kick from some crushed red pepper; feel free to add more to taste!
  • Warm up during the cool evenings of August with Clarissa's Clam Chowder.
  • Polenta and Clams is a traditional Italian meal and a great way to switch up your usual pasta with clam sauce.
  • David Rocco's Vongole al Cartoccio: Clams Cooked in Foil is a single-serving meal without any cleanup.
  • Seafood boils are perhaps the easiest way to cook for a crowd in the summer. Just toss everything in a pot of seasoned water and you've got Tyler Florence's Shrimp Boil with Clams and Lemons in the bag, er, pot.
  • Fresh raw littlenecks are a staple of summertime. Serve the clams with a simple spicy cocktail sauce or some Sriracha, or try out Emeril's Littleneck Clams on the Half Shell with Champagne-Caviar Mignonette for a luxurious appetizer.
  • Emeril uses instant flour when battering Fried Clams with a Classic Tartar Sauce for a crispy fried exterior. Instant flour is precooked and dried; it is often used to thicken stews and gravies because it dissolves quickly without creating lumps.
  • Clams Casino is a baked clam appetizer that originated in 1894 at the Narragansett Casino in Rhode Island.
  • Fregola is a type of pasta from Sardinia in Italy, very similar to pearl-shaped Israeli couscous, and the perfect vessel to soak up the broth in Giada's Fregola with Clams and Mussels.
  • Emeril's Portuguese Clams Stew with a creamy beer broth will feed a crowd. Another beer broth? Don't judge me. It's different because it has bacon and chorizo! If you take nothing else away, just know that beer and clams are perfection together.
  • Chocolate Clams and Salsa — sadly, it's not what you think, but Chuck Hughes' dish of clams, salsa and refried beans will surely please. Chocolate clams, named for their brown shells, are a variety of large clams popular off the coast of Central America. If you can't find any, feel free to substitute your favorite fresh clams.
  • Barbecued Buffalo Clams: It's like Buffalo wings but much more elegant and not as messy.
  • Garlic, tomatoes, parsley, white wine broth and some bread makes for happy diners. David Rocco adds a stone from the sea to flavor his Zuppa di Vongole: Clam Soup; if you add one, don't forget to take it out before you dig in!
  • Emeril's spicy Clam Pot with rice wine vinegar and somen noodles is a quick one-pot wonder. Holy basil, also known as tulsi, is a slightly spicy herb and common ingredient in Thai cuisine. If you can’t find any at a local Asian market, you can substitute sweet basil.
  • Bouillabaisse is a classic French seafood stew but Kelsey Nixon gives you the option of mixing it up, with curried, Latin and chicken variations.

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