The How-To: Throw a Kick-Ass Clambake
Gabriel Frasca knows every possible way to assemble a clambake. He’s done the all-day, build-a-fire, dig-a-hole-in-the-sand kind. And as the chef and co-owner of Nantucket’s Straight Wharf, he plates a cheffed-out version with butter-shellacked lobster meat, neatly sliced coins of chorizo, and a silky corn purée every night.
One approach is rustic, one refined—yet both seem out of reach for the home cook. But the needle can be threaded, with the help of a giant pot and a strategic shopping trip (or two).
“You are not building a fire. There is no discussion of muslin or rockweed. This is a pot, and some deliciousness,” Frasca says. About that pot—the chef suggests buying a 10-gallon vessel with a steamer insert to seamlessly pull off his at-home recipe.
City dwellers lacking the kitchen real estate for such a thing can still make the recipe work, albeit less smoothly. Downsizing—or skipping the insert—requires keeping an extra-watchful eye on the process. But done right, the potatoes will be fork-tender, the clams will open and release their briny liquor, and soon enough you’ll find yourself happily gnawing on a cob of corn slicked with rendered chorizo fat. Chase it all down with the same dry white wine you threw into your pot, or, better yet, a cooler’s worth of frosty beer.
ABOVE: 1. For cold, clambake-friendly canned beer, Frasca likes Harpoon’s German Kölsch–style summer ale. 2. While Old Bay will do the job, Frasca suggests Formaggio Kitchen’s fruitier, more-complex Balik seafood spice blend. 3. When it comes to chorizo, Frasca prefers Palacios brand. “It maintains its sausagelike texture while bringing all of those chorizo notes and oils to bear,” he says.
Gabriel Frasca’s One-Pot Clambake
— Recipe serves eight —
Cooking for a larger or smaller crowd? When shopping, Frasca says to plan for one lobster, half a dozen clams, two red bliss potatoes, one ear of corn, and about 2 ounces of chorizo per person. Cooking times will remain largely the same regardless of quantity.
2 gal. water
One 750 ml. bottle of dry white wine
Eight 1 ¼–1 ½ lb. live lobsters
2 Spanish onions, peeled and cut in half
1 head of garlic, top trimmed
2 leeks, washed and halved lengthwise
16 red bliss potatoes, scrubbed
1 lb. spicy chorizo, cut into 2-inch pieces (Frasca recommends Palacios brand)
8 ears of corn, shucked
4–5 lb. littleneck, mahogany, or count-neck clams, scrubbed
1 lb. shell-on shrimp (optional)
1 bunch chives, chopped, for garnish
2 sticks of butter
Old Bay seasoning
Balik seafood rub, from Formaggio Kitchen
Place scrubbed clams in a bowl, fill with water until slightly covered, and add a couple of tablespoons of cornmeal to the bowl (to help release grit). Set aside.
Fill pot with water and all but one glass (for the cook!) of wine. Note: Liquid* should be about 3 inches deep in the pot, and not seep into the steamer. Adjust water accordingly before adding wine.
Bring to a boil. Insert steamer basket; layer onions, leeks, and garlic across the bottom.
Add the potatoes and cook for 10 minutes, covered. Add lobsters and eggs, and cook for 10 minutes, covered. Add corn and cook for about four minutes, covered.
Drain and rinse clams, add to the pot along with the chorizo, and cover. Shake pot occasionally to evenly distribute and encourage clams to open. Cook for 10 minutes (if using shrimp, add three minutes after clams).
Once clams are open, shrimp is pink, potatoes are fork-tender, and the corn looks ready, check a lobster or peel an egg. (Old Yankee trick: If the egg is cooked through, so is the lobster.)
Once cooked, remove the steamer insert and gently dump contents onto one or two large trays (a nearby friend with tongs will prove helpful), and return any accumulated liquid back to the pot.
Sprinkle clambake with chives.
With the heat still on, season remaining broth with Old Bay or Balik spice blend to taste, and add a squeeze of lemon and orange and a couple of tablespoons of butter to the pot.
Reduce liquid until more viscous, deeper in color, and more concentrated in flavor (if it starts to taste too salty, thin with water).
Pour into a bowl. Serve clambake with reduced broth, melted butter, and lemon wedges.
*When scaling the recipe up or down, work with a roughly 10:1 ratio of water to wine.
Hungry for more?
Check out our complete “Seafood Lover’s Guide.”