Think about your favorite grilled foods for a minute. You’re probably thinking of burgers, steaks, hot dogs, sausages, chicken, ribs, veggies and maybe even fish. But did you think of clams? If not, it’s okay, we didn’t either – at first. But when we started thinking about easy recipes for grilling season, one kept coming up: clams. We don’t know why this recipe isn’t always top of mind, as most bivalves do well on the grill and the process is easier than you think. Think about it; the intense heat does all the shucking for you, so all you have to do is put them on the grill, take them off and enjoy.
The first step to grill clams is to clean them. The clams you purchase from the market have likely been scrubbed before you purchased them, but it doesn’t hurt to take a food brush to the outside of the shells to remove any extra grit or grime.
Then, to avoid any sand from inside the shells, you can place the clams in a bucket of cold water with a half cup of cornmeal on the bottom for approximately four hours. This layer mimics sand in the clams’ natural environment, so they begin to filter out the water and spit out the sand into the bucket, ensuring a clean, sand-free clam when it comes off the grill.
Once the clams are cleaned, you’ll want to make sure all your clams are suitable for cooking and serving, so double check to make sure none of your clams have died by gently tapping the shells of open clams. If they shut, they are still alive. If they don’t, toss them.
When your clams have been checked, it’s time to start grilling. Simply place the clams on top of the grates or inside an aluminum tray. If placing them directly on the grate, the rounded bottom of the shell will help the clam stabilize themselves so you don’t spill the natural juices, called the liquor, that adds so much flavor to the finished dish.
The benefit of cooking the clams in the aluminum tray is that it will automatically collect that liquor and you don’t have to worry about spillage. The most important part of the cooking process is to make sure you don’t overcook the clams. When they have just opened widely, immediately remove them and place them in your serving bowl. When the sauce is ready, pour it over your cooked clams and serve. They’ll disappear faster than you can blink an eye because they are so delicious, and everyone will need crusty bread to sop up the remaining sauce.
The sauce is optional, as the sweet meat and briny liquor are delicious on their own, but we can’t get enough of this white wine sauce, especially with some crusty bread nearby. It’s made with ingredients you probably have on hand like butter, white wine and parsley, without much effort, it produces a perfectly married combination of tangy, salty and herbal flavors that make you feel like you’re eating by the sea.