Who says you have to cook a burger on the grill for Memorial Day? This is one of my favorite ways to enjoy clams…and without the clam knife! I always use hardwood charcoal.
Although I live on the opposite side of Rhode Island, I love visiting my friends at American Mussel Harvesters in North Kingstown. The quality of their seafood is second to none, which is why they supply so many area restaurants with their products. They feature “restaurant ready” mussels, meaning they’ve been cleaned and de-bearded. And their “restaurant-ready” clams mean they’ve been purged to perfection! (www.americanmussel.com) I use ’em whenever I can.
A couple of dozen (or more) little neck clams, washed and purged
1 stick (8 oz) of unsalted butter
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
The clams should be stored cold and dry until ready to use…not in water, not on ice. Place the clams in a bowl and cover with a wet dish towel in the fridge.
Because my clams have already been purged, I don’t have to do it at home. But here’s what to do if they haven’t been purged: Fill a large bowl with cold water, add sea salt and some corn meal to it, and mix it around. Add the clams to this bowl and let them purge in this liquid for at least an hour. They will suck up the corn meal and spit out sand and grit. After an hour, pour off the water/salt/meal/grit mix, and thoroughly wash the clams.
Start your hardwood charcoal grill and divide it in half: coals on one side, no coals on the other.
While the coals are heating up, grab a disposable aluminum foil tray and place it on a burner on your stove over medium heat. Add the butter, olive oil, parsley, oregano, basil, garlic and salt, and stir to combine. Once the butter has melted and everything has blended, bring the tray over to the charcoal grill and place on the side of the grill without coals. It will stay warm.
Once the coals are hot, just place the clams directly on the grill. (Use tongs, unless you want to remove all of your knuckle hair.) When they start to open, carefully flip them over, trying not to lose any of the precious juices inside the clam. Cook them for as long as you like, from raw, to more thoroughly cooked. As each one reaches its desired doneness, place it in the aluminum tray, making sure it gets swished around in the butter and herb mix.
When all the clams have been cooked and are in the tray, serve with on top of pasta…or simply eat with a fresh baguette. A glass of great white wine is a must.