In addition to being affordable and widely available, clams are very healthy! They are high in good fats (Omega-3’s and more) and low in bad fats. It is said that they have more iron than a steak. Even though they basically contain the same amount of protein as chicken (ounce per ounce), they actually contain more vitamins and minerals than chicken or other seafood. If you need an energy boost, head for the clams… they contain lots of Vitamin B-12!
I know seafood is always a healthy choice, so I personally tend to break it down into “ease of use”. It doesn’t get any easier than steamed clams. It requires basically NO work or effort at all and dinner is ready in under 5 minutes.
I started with 3 dozen Littleneck Clams. They are about 7/8″ across. Our oldest son is who requested the clams, so I opted for the Littleneck mostly just because they are bite sized and easy for him to handle.
The first thing you should do when you bring home your clams is to rinse and inspect them. (Never tie or seal the bag they are in while you are storing them in the fridge – they are a live animal and they need oxygen.) Look for any cracked or broken shells and discard those clams. If there are any open clams that do NOT promptly close when you give them a little squeeze, discard those too. They should be pretty firmly closed.
I like to rinse them in a colander in the sink with cold water. I know some people like to submerge them in cold water because it may help them expel any sand they have, but I don’t find it to be necessary at all and out of 3 dozen, only one clam we ate had sand in it. The farmed clams are pretty clean!
The next thing you should do it get your broth flavorings ready. This is completely customizable and the possibilities are endless. We keep it pretty simple in our house. I use a little sliced onion and minced garlic along with my salted butter. For this particular meal, we wanted to stretch the clams a bit so I added some chopped Andouille sausage. Chorizo or smoked sausage also work famously, adding a little bit of smoky salthy flavor and a little bit more substance. There is something so delicious about the clams combined with the spicy, smoky sausage.
Once your clams and flavorings are ready to go, get out the biggest pot you have and put it over high heat (it needs to have a lid). I used a cast iron dutch oven with a lid. The more room they have in there, the better. Put just enough water in to cover the bottom of the pot and add a few tablespoons of butter. You want this to come to a boil so that it produces LOTS of steam. The clams aren’t going to be boiled, they will steam.
Add your flavorings and allow this to boil for a minute so the onions soften and the flavors have a chance to get all cozy together in there. Allow it to come back up to a boil so that you see steam before you add the clams.
Add the clams to the pot all at once and immediately spread them out as evenly as possible (some will be stacked on top of each other). Put the lid on it.
After two minutes, open the lid and stir them. You will see that the clams on the bottom have started opening. Move them around a bit. Replace the lid. Check periodically every few minutes until 90% or more are open and remove them from the heat.
Clams are a little like popcorn. If you wait for ALL the clams to be opened, you will overcook the opened ones. ALL clams will not open. There will be a few that don’t. Discard those. Basic rule with shellfish… discard anything that is open before you start and anything that DOES NOT open when you cook it.
Start fishing the clams out with a slotted spoon. Then get a ladel and pour the broth over the clams. It’s so amazingly simple and delicious. Kids and adults alike will LOVE this. Don’t forget a piece of warm crusty bread to dip in the broth.