Clams are God’s way of saying- “Here, taste the ocean”. Like many shellfish, clams have a hard protective shell to hide their delicate, sweet meat from hungry predators. But I am not deterred.
I have foraged for clams in the muddy bottom of Shinnecock with my feet and collected half a bushel of Littleneck clams in a couple of hours. Some of the best clams I’ve ever had were from Parsons Seafood in Tuckerton, NJ. The fresh water that drains out of the NJ pine barrens into the bay and creates a great environment for clams to thrive. The Parson’s family has been farming clams for generations and their prices are quite fair.
Littlenecks are the smallest commonly available size of east coast hard shell clam. They’re named after Little Neck Bay on New York’s Long Island, once an important clamming center. Littlenecks are best for eating on the half-shell (raw) because they are the tenderest and sweetest. They’re also great steamed, roasted or on spaghetti. Cherrystones are named after Cherrystone Creek on Virginia’s eastern shore. They’re a little larger than littlenecks and can be eaten raw, roasted, steamed, in chowder, or stuffed.
Beer Steamed Clams
- In a large cast-iron or sauté pan (or in a large aluminum tray for the grill), add the olive oil, garlic, and shallots with a pinch of salt. Adjust the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until the garlic is aromatic, 1 to 2 minutes.
- Add beer, limes, butter, parsley and clams. Cover the pan with a lid and steam until the clams open, 8 to 10 minutes. Serve immediately with toasted garlic bread.