07 July 2011

7 July - Clam Boil

Weather: Rain today means rain for the next four weeks.

A CLAM BOIL is hardly elegant, but nobody cares.  It is easily done, takes about half an hour to fix (after you've cleaned the clams), and serving is very informal (one guy lays down several layers of newspaper on his picnic table and then pours the drained contents of the pot(s) down the middle of the table for his guests to grab, spear, and eat. The kids love it, of course).  So tie on your bibs, tuck large serviettes into your shirt collars, and dig in.

I have a large steamer (the lower part has a spigot for pouring off all that lovely clam broth into individual cups), and I prefer to boil the other ingredients in one large pot and the clams in the steamer.  But here is the recipe for one large kettle.  It serves 4, so add and subtract as you see fit.

First, clean your clams.  It is best to do this overnight, giving the little darlings time to get all that grit and sand out of their system.  Scrub all of the clam-shells with a stiff brush.  Put the clams in a large kettle with enough salty water to cover (1/3 cup of salt for every gallon of water).  Sprinkle cornmeal over the clams (1/4 cup of cornmeal for every quart of clams).  Let them soak for at least 3 hours or overnight in the refrigerator.

Now, for the main event:
4 yams (or more) in their jackets
4 largish white potatoes, or 8 small white potatoes or new potatoes (or more) in their jackets
8 boiling onions (or more), peeled
8 ears of corn, husked, cleaned, and cut in half (or thirds, if they are long enough)
1 pound of hot dogs or frankfurters
1 pound (or more) of spicy, smoked sausage such as chourico (chorizo) or andouille, cut into 2-inch pieces
4 - 6 quarts of clams

In a large kettle, heat to boiling enough water to cover the yams.  Add the yams, cover and boil for about 10 minutes (if I'm using large white potatoes, I'll add them now as well).

Add the onions (and the small white or new potatoes, if using) to the boiling water or on top of the yams, cover, and boil for 10 minutes.

Add the corn and the meat on top; cover and boil for 5 minutes.

Add the clams on top; cover and boil for about 6 - 8 minutes.  (Don't overcook them)

When most (hopefully all) of the clams have opened, remove everything from the pot and serve (I pile all the clams in a large, shallow dish, and all of the other ingredients in another large, shallow dish).  Strain the broth and give each person a cup of broth and a cup or small dish of melted butter.  Serve with lots of good bread - brown bread is preferred.

To eat, grab the clam from its shell, give it a swish in the clam broth, dip it in the melted butter, and then "drop with the hand and arm, describing a majestic curve through the air, into the watering mouth."

What's that?  We're not supposed to eat shellfish in a month without an "R"?......  trust me, Rhode Islanders can put an 'R' anywhere.  Just ask them to pronounce "Bermuda".  All months have an 'R'.

Truthfully, however, the "no R" ban has to do with the excessive algae growth connected with the summer months.  The collected toxins are poisonous.  Buy your shellfish from a reputable dealer, and you should be all right.  If you are going to hunt your own, however, check with your state for warnings about red tides and shellfishing closures.