At a classic New England clambake that’s steamed over hot stones at the shore, the seafood and its traditional accompaniments are infused with briny, smoky flavor from the hardwood coals and seaweed that is all too irresistible. It’s a great way to entertain, but not all of us have easy access to the beach. Luckily, you can recreate the experience at home, no matter where you live. Whether you cook up a stovetop clam boil inside or fire up your grill, you can enjoy all the traditional clambake components, like clams, lobsters, new potatoes, corn and sausages, in a land-locked state or on a rainy day. With so much seaside-inspired flavor, you’ll barely miss the salty breezes (but probably not the crunch of sand in your meal).
• For easy cleanup, cover tables with paper table covers, and have plenty of recycled paper plates and napkins on hand — things are going to get messy. Make it easy on your guests by creating flatware bundles wrapped in napkins. (Inexpensive new dishtowels also work well as napkins.)
• Small and medium-sized galvanized sand pail centerpieces can serve double-duty as tabletop trash receptacles for discarding empty shells.
• Candles in hurricane vases and strings of white lights are all the lighting your deck or backyard will need.
• Don’t forget to set out lots of lemon wedges and melted butter in small serving dishes.
• Keep beverages simple: Place a large galvanized bucket filled with ice, bottled water, wine, and beer on the ground near the dining area.
Tip: To be authentic, your bake or boil should involve steam-cooking all the food together over seaweed for that unmistakable ocean aroma; ask your lobster supplier if he/she can supply you with a variety of North Atlantic seaweed called rockweed.
What to Serve
Here’s the perfect menu for an authentic New England clambake or boil:
• If you’re lucky enough to be able to build a fire pit on a beach, check out this guide to a Nantucket Clambake.
• This Easy Summer Clambake recipe is actually for a layered clam boil. Alternatively, you can make individual servings by laying an ear of peeled corn, partly-cooked (but still firm) whole new potatoes (they’ll finish steaming in the pot), small onions, a handful of clams, a lobster, and fully-cooked Andouille or kielbasa sausage in a mesh bag; repeat for each guest. And don’t worry about packing your pot too tightly — more steam will generate this way and the food will cook faster.
• Finally, for a boiled/grilled combo clambake, try chef Todd English's Backyard New England Clambake, complete with grilled chicken.
• For a classic side dish, serve up New England Clam Chowder.
• Don’t forget dessert! Wow your guests with old-fashioned Strawberry Shortcake, or simply pass a platter filled with big slices of watermelon.
Tip: For a stovetop clam boil, use "chicken lobsters" weighing in at just over one pound. Flavorful, quick-cooking soft-shell steamers are your best bet when it comes to clams, but littlenecks and cherrystones work great too.
An illustrated guide to making a clambake at home
What was once a Native American tradition of cooking clams and shellfish in sandpits over 2,000 years ago eventually became the clambake right after the American Revolution, and has since taken many forms. Over time, it evolved from being cooked over hot stones to being boiled in a giant pot.
Now, it’s a comfort food with many variations across the globe: a Cape Cod beach bonfire clambake, a Chesapeake Bay blue crab boil, low country boil (aka Frogmore stew), Normandy-style fruits de mer with crème fraîche and Calvados, Viet-Cajun seafood boil with shrimp and crawfish, or the way I like it — with kimchi added to the vegetables and sausage in the pot.
Easy Clambake on the Grill
Here’s a fun and easy way to entertain this summer, get adventurous and make this easy clambake on the grill. Think backyard parties, get-togethers and holidays like the fourth of July which is right around the corner. There’s no fuss or mess, the method is simple and it allows you more time to enjoy your guests.
I made something similar in the past, a Seafood Boil, and I won’t kid you it was a huge undertaking trying to find the perfect pot so that everything could fit inside all together, but now I realize we could have easily done the same thing in one big foil pan ( covered) out on the grill with a much easier clean up!
Basically all you have to do is get everything prepped, these are the ingredients I used but really as long as it’s something that cooks up quickly add in your favorites, like crab legs, lobster and mussels and different veggies if you like.
The method is easy, just stack all your delicious ingredients into the vessel of your choice, like I said you could use a big foil pan just as long as you can cover it tightly with a heavy duty foil to create steam.
Covering it tightly is the key.
Using a large pan on the grill makes for easy entertaining and a fun way to gather and eat together. Just place it in the center of the table so everyone can dig in!
Be sure to have plenty of remoulade sauce for dipping.
If it’s just a smaller gathering or dinner for two the individual packets are perfect.
You’ll need a good spice mix, something like Old Bay or you can make your own. I happen to like one from Whole Foods it’s a classic rub and I find it in the fish department.
You’ll also need some kind of a liquid to create steam so everything can cook up nicely, either plain old water, wine, broth or in my case a bottle of beer.
Then just let the grill do all the work, while you sit down and have a cold drink!
Which ever way you decide to do your clam bake it, I feel making it on the grill is the way to go, give it a try next time!
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- 2 ½ pounds small (about 2-inch diameter) Red Bliss potatoes
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- ½ teaspoon black peppercorns
- 1 (750 milliliter) bottle dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc
- 1 (1 pound) cooked chorizo sausage (preferably Spanish), cut into 8 pieces
- 4 (1 1/2) pounds lobsters
- 48 littleneck clams, scrubbed
- 4 ears fresh corn, husked and halved crosswise
Pour 1 gallon of water into a lobster pot or stockpot large enough to hold all ingredients. Add potatoes and salt and bring to a boil. Cook, covered, 10 minutes (potatoes will be slightly softened but not cooked through).
Put coriander, fennel, thyme, and peppercorns in a large piece of cheesecloth. Gather edges together and tie with kitchen string to make a pouch.
Add spice pouch, wine, chorizo, and lobsters to pot with potatoes. Boil, covered, 5 minutes. Add clams and corn and cook, covered, until lobsters are cooked and clams have opened, about 5 minutes (discard any unopened clams).
Cut each lobster in half using a heavy knife and kitchen shears. Serve each person half a lobster, 6 clams, half an ear of corn, 2 potatoes, and a piece of chorizo.
You&rsquore Almost Ready&hellip
- 45 minutes after seeing steam your chicken should be finished cooking. Carefully remove the steamer lid, take the chicken out. Check the potatoes - if they&rsquore done, take them out. If not, pop the lid back on, and give them a few more minutes.
- The chicken will normally finish cooking before the large sweet potatoes
- After your chicken is carefully removed from the steamer, let it cool, then crisp it up on a grill or under a broiler.
- If your fire is still screaming hot, remove some of the coals, (or if you&rsquore using propane, turn down the flame)
- Add your husked corn to the steamer. The corn should take about 20 minutes to cook - giving you time to finish browning your chicken.
Summer Lobster Bake at Home
Summertime clambake in your backyard! Time for a New England lobster bake at home featuring the Maine ingredient, live lobsters. But you don’t have to fight beach traffic or dig a big hole for this home clambake recipe. You just need a big pot, some cheese cloth and seaweed.
Lobster Bake at Home Ingredients
- 4 dozen steamer clams
- fresh seaweed
- 6 potatoes, skin on
- 6 ears of corn with the husk on
- 6 medium whole onions
- melted or drawn butter
- 6 sausages
Lobster Bake Instructions
- Fill the bottom of pot with 6 inches of wet seaweed.
- Divide the steamers among 6 pieces of cheesecloth and tie corners so you can pick them up. Place on seaweed.
- Remove silk and all but two layers of corn husk from the corn.
- Place corn, potatoes, onions and sausage over the clams in that order. Top off with the lobsters.
- Put a layer of cheesecloth over the lobsters and cover with another 4 inches of seaweed.
- Cover closely and place pot over high heat. When steaming begins, reduce heat to medium and cook for one hour and 15 minutes.
Serve with fresh, hot crusty bread, and plenty of melted butter. Don’t forget to put plenty of beer on ice!
How to Throw a Backyard Clambake
Once when visiting San Diego, we were invited to a beach party. This event was called a clambake. Everything was cooked by a team of men. It took hours and seemed to be a lot of work. But the food was delicious: potatoes, corn on the cob, clams, sausage, and I know for sure that lobster was served. Maybe about 60 people ate and drank either wine or beer with the meal. I live in central Kansas and had never experienced this kind of party before. Can you tell me how to do this for about 6 to 8 people in the backyard?
—Tammy Reinhardt from Hutchinson, Kansas
A clambake is entertaining made easy and a quintessential summer party—especially if you’re nowhere near a beach. Steamed clams and mussels, juicy corn, baby potatoes flavored with sausage and lobsters—how can you go wrong? If you have at least a 16-quart stockpot and either a gas or charcoal grill, you can do this easily. It’s simple to prepare everything in advance.
Steam cooks the meal, and proper layering is the key to success. For a carefree clambake with friends, follow these simple instructions.
1 lb. kielbasa or smoked sausage, sliced into 1-inch circles
2 lbs. clams, cleaned and scrubbed
2 lbs. mussels, scrubbed and debearded (this means to cut or scrape away the little tuft of fibers)
18–20 small red-skinned potatoes, scrubbed and halved
6–8 ears of corn
3 lobsters, about 1¾ lbs. each
1–2 tablespoons Old Bay seasoning
1 lb. butter, melted
Creamy Blue Cheese Coleslaw (recipe follows)
Special equipment: tall 16–20 quart stockpot with lid 1 large cheesecloth (about 20吐 inches)
- Heat a gas grill to medium or have a charcoal grill ready with glowing hot coals (they must remain glowing hot for at least 25 minutes).
- Rinse the stockpot with warm water (do not use soap).
- Prepare 1 even layer of kielbasa or smoked sausage slices in the bottom of the pot.
- Lay the cheesecloth out on the counter. Add cleaned clams and mussels, then tie it up loosely. Place this on top of the kielbasa.
- Add 1 even layer of potatoes, then a layer of corn. Finally, carefully fit the lobsters into the pot. Sprinkle evenly with Old Bay seasoning. Cover tightly with lid, pushing down if necessary.
- Place the stockpot on the grill for 20–25 minutes—no peeking. Open carefully. Remove lobsters to a platter to cool. Spoon the corn into a dish and the potatoes into a bowl.
- Remove cheesecloth, then cut it open to release the clams and mussels. Arrange them on a platter.
- Remove the kielbasa from the stockpot and add to the potatoes. Next, detach the lobster claws and tails, displaying them on the platter with the lemon wedges. Serve immediately with melted butter for dipping in a separate bowl.
Creamy Blue Cheese Coleslaw
10 cups shredded green cabbage (about 1 head)
½ cup blue cheese crumbles
½ cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon raw honey
- Place shredded cabbage in a large bowl. Add remaining ingredients and mix well.
- Chill for at least 1 hour. Toss before serving.
To choose your organically grown and fresh ingredients wisely, use the following criteria:
- chemical- and hormone-free meat
- wild-caught fish
- pasture-raised, organic eggs
- whole, unrefined grains
- virgin, unrefined, first-press organic oils
- whole-food, unrefined sweeteners
- pure, clean, spring water
- sea salt
- raw and/or cultured milk and cream products
Phyllis Quinn is a chef, food writer, and founder of Udderly Cultured, a class that teaches how to make homemade fresh mozzarella, butter, yogurt, cottage cheese, and other cultured products. Private lessons are available. For a reservation, call Phyllis at 970-221-5556 or email her at [email protected] Rediscover nearly lost cooking methods and get one-of-a-kind recipes in her books The Slow Cook Gourmet and Udderly Cultured: The Art of Milk Fermentation.
Place a steamer basket in 30-quart pot. Add wine and 12 cups water cover and bring to a boil. Add potatoes cover and cook 5 minutes. Add lobsters and eggs cover and cook 10 minutes. Gently nestle corn and next 6 ingredients (and littlenecks, if using) in pot. Cover and cook 5 minutes. Add Manila clams or steamers (if using), cover, and cook 10 minutes. Add mussels, cover, and cook until shellfish open, about 5 minutes (discard any that do not open). Peel 1 egg and cut in half. If it's hard-boiled, lobsters are ready.
Using a slotted spoon and tongs, transfer clambake to a very large platter or a table covered with newspaper. Sprinkle with spice mix. Pour broth from pot into small bowls, leaving any sediment behind. Serve clambake with broth and melted butter.
Preheat a grill to high. In an 18-inch roasting pan, add the potatoes, sausage and 4 cups water. Place on the grill, close the grill lid and bring to a boil. Add the clams scatter the lemon rounds, garlic and thyme on top. Cover with foil or the roaster lid, then close the grill lid and cook for 15 minutes. Stir well, add the shrimp and corn, cover, close the grill lid and cook until the clams open, 10 to 15 minutes.
Transfer the shellfish, sausage and vegetables to bowls or platters and serve with the lemon wedges, melted butter and Old Bay Seasoning. Ladle the clam broth into large bowls and serve with the crusty bread.
Backyard Clambake Party
Set up a well-oiled cocktail station. Leave a fresh batch of drinks on ice with plenty of shatterproof glasses and bandanas for cleaning spills. And make sure there are lemons, limes and extra hot sauce for guests to add their own finishing touches.
If you&aposve got flowers, flaunt them. Pluck a few from your lawn, then toss into mugs or glasses (choose some sturdy enough to hold up to a strong breeze). Stagger them down the table in a sweetly imperfect pattern.
While dinner cooks, let the games begin. Pull out bikes and skateboards, sporting equipment, or toys like hula hoops and Frisbees from the garage, and let the kids and adults play together.
SET THE TABLE
Lose the linens and use a sheet of brown paper: Tape the ends to the underside of the table after dinner, have a friend help you unwrap, then toss the mess right into the trash.
Set out bowls of broth (reserved from the grill pan) and melted butter for dunking, as well as empty pails for guests to toss tails and shells into.
Keep the feast casual and outdoorsy with a hands-on policy: Let guests use fingers or seafood picks instead of forks.
Offer extra spice: Fill seasoning shakers with Old Bay and leave them out for on-the-spot flavoring. The spice blend will complement the seafood, sausage and potatoes -- and the tomato-based cocktails.
Leave guests with a memory of the delicious feast -- not the scent. Before the party, dunk a few washcloths or thick paper towels into cold water. Roll and stack them on a tray and place in the fridge. After the meal, serve them with lemon wedges for partygoers to clean their hands.
Jennifer Sbranti, founder of hostesswiththemostess.com, has fresh ideas for fair-weather fun.
Reinvent Charades Make a list of celebs, such as actors, bands members or reality-TV stars. Write the names on scraps of paper and have each guest choose one. The mission: to impersonate the celeb using only charades-style clues (no speaking!) and fun props (just leave out a pile of movie-star sunglasses, hats, and accessories like beaded necklaces or bowties) while the other guests guess.
Have a Chipping Contest Create a chipping "net" -- any large box or some blocks will do -- then lay out ping-pong or small foam balls, a stopwatch and a few golf clubs (a 7- or 9-iron will give the ball some lift). Make teams, then specify a short amount of time for each guest to try to chip the ball into the net. Shots that hit it within the time get 1 point, and shots that make it in score 3.
Make Tasty Arts and Crafts Take advantage of the great outdoors with edible finger painting: Lay craft paper (or paper leftovers from the meal) on the lawn and let kids create designs with pudding "paints" -- vanilla pudding colored with food dye.