A Classic Clambake

August 14, 2014

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All this month, Todd, Jade, and I are happily ensconced in our Long Island vacation rental and enjoying all that a beach getaway entails. Sure, we live a stone’s throw from the Pacific Ocean year-round, but something about being away from home (and all the responsibilities it represents) really allows us to relax and make the most of the sand, sun,
and shore.

For Jade, that means plenty of swimming, shell collecting, and sand-castle building. As for Todd, I can’t remember the last time I saw him out of his wet suit; he’s been so busy surfing, kite surfing, and paddleboarding! I like all of the above, but what I look forward to all year is the chance to really cook for my family without having to work around any schedule but the tide’s.

The farm stands are finally in full swing, with spectacular local corn, peaches, and berries all vying for my attention in the kitchen. And the seafood! This year, lobsters are plentiful and at a 20-year low price-wise, so I’ve been having fun thinking of new ways to cook everyone’s favorite crustacean, whether on the grill, in a delicately seasoned pasta sauce, or simply steamed and chopped for a decadent lunchtime lobster roll. When it comes to entertaining, though, it’s time to go old-school with steamed lobsters, an old-fashioned clambake, and all the trimmings.

Traditionally, a clambake—a feast of lobster, clams, sausage, potatoes, and corn—is all cooked together in a stone-lined pit dug in the sand. A fire heats the rocks, and once it has burned down to embers, layers of seaweed and shellfish go on top and then get covered with a tarp or dampened burlap to trap the heat and steam. It’s a complicated operation that involves permits and shovels, and while it’s impressive, it’s also hard to control the cooking times with a great deal of precision.

I prefer to steam the lobsters separately to ensure that they don’t overcook for even a minute, and serve it with an herbed aioli. While they steam I cook the clams, sausage, and veggies together in a big pot, adding the ingredients from the longest to the quickest cooking, so everything comes out done to perfection. The broth in the pot may be the best part: briny, smoky from the sausage, infused with butter—just the thing to dip the clams in or even hunks of good bread. Pass around a platter of crostini while the shellfish is working, open a crisp white, and you have yourself a world-class seafood feast, no beach required.

Stove-top Clambake
By Giada De Laurentiis
Serves 6


2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup dry white wine, plus 1 3/4 cups
1 1/2 pounds small red bliss potatoes
1 pound smoked kielbasa, sliced into 1-inch pieces
4 ears of corn, sliced into thirds
2 pounds medium-sized clams, such as littleneck or cherrystone, scrubbed well
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon smoked salt
2 lemons, cut into wedges


  1. Heat the oil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add the onion, Old Bay, and salt and cook, stirring occasionally until the onions soften and begin to brown, about 8 minutes. Add 1/4 cup of the wine and the potatoes, then cover and cook for 10 minutes.
  2. Layer the sausage over the potatoes, then add the corn, clams, and pour in the remaining 1 3/4 cups of wine. Bring to a simmer, then cover and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, until all the clams have opened. Using tongs, transfer the clams, corn, potatoes, and sausage to a large platter, discarding any unopened clams. Strain the liquid through a sieve into a bowl; add the butter to the bowl, swirling it until it melts and incorporates into the liquid. Divide the liquid among small bowls for dipping or pour it over the clambake, and sprinkle with the smoked salt. Serve with the lemon wedges.

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