June 29, 2017

For a summer gathering, there’s nothing like assembling a crowd of seafood-loving friends to dig into steamed shellfish and lobster. With the right ingredients and techniques, you’ll have a hearty meal that’s truly worth celebrating. The clambake has a long history in New England cooking, but Austin culinary arts students may also want to explore this old-school method of preparing shellfish.

A beachside tradition

“Clambake tradition calls for cooking outdoors on the beach.”

Clambake tradition calls for cooking outdoors on the beach as an all-day event. Of course, many public beaches forbid starting fires, so you’ll have to check the rules before planning your event. If you have an appropriate area staked out, then preparing for this culinary adventure is a fun way to spend an afternoon.

First, you’ll need to dig a hole; The Spruce recommended dimensions of three feet deep and up to five feet in diameter. Line the pit with round, flat rocks and place hardwood on top. Start a fire and keep it burning for about a few hours, adding more wood as necessary.

Remove the wood and ash from the rocks before coating them with moist seaweed. Wrap potatoes, sausages and clams that have been scrubbed and rinsed in foil. Set on the seaweed along with lobster and ears of corn, husks still on.

Add another two-inch layer of wet seaweed, and then cover the pit with a canvas drenched in seawater. Place heavy rocks on the corners to seal in the steam as the food cooks for up to two hours. Check that the clam shells have opened and the potatoes are tender before serving with melted butter, salt and pepper.

Steamed shellfish on the stove

If you don’t have access to a beach where bonfires are permitted or you just don’t want to spend the entire day supervising the flames, you can get great clambake results in a single pot. Bon Appetit provided directions that yield plenty of tasty steamed seafood for guests.

Start by setting a steamer basket in a 30-quart pot, pouring in dry white wine and water. Heat to a boil before adding new potatoes, covering and cooking for five minutes. Drop in live lobsters and eggs, and then replace the cover to cook for the next 10 minutes.

Next come husked ears of corn, celery, smoked sausage, lemon, orange, garlic and thyme. After five minutes, add in clams. Allow 10 minutes before finally throwing in mussels to cook until the shellfish open.

When the lobster is finished, and the eggs are hard-boiled, you’ll know it’s time to move all the clambake elements onto a platter. Season with your preferred blend of spices and serve in bowls with broth from the pot and melted butter.

Capturing the classic flavor of a clambake is a perfect way to bring people together this summer. Whether you prepare a feast on the beach, invite guests into your home or prepare a dish for your online culinary arts courses, this is one East Coast favorite that is delicious anywhere.

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