Friday, May 1, 2009


Steamers in bowl

Here in Rhode Island we call small clams steamers or littlenecks. In my family we always called them streamers. We don’t categorize all clams as steamers. Bigger clams are Quahogs and are usually cut up and eaten in chowda. Although I like Quahogs, I love steamers. If you’re in RI and ask your local fishmonger for clams, you better know what you want. Here’s a little breakdown:

Steamers or Littlenecks = small
Topnecks = medium
Cherrystones = larger
Quahogs = largest

Look for steamers that are tightly closed. Avoid chipped, broken or cracked steamers. I like to buy mine the day I am cooking them.

I store them in the fridge until I am ready to use them, and I give them a soak for about 20 minutes in some water. Why the soak? As the steamer breathes, it will filter water and push out any salt and sand that is in the shell. Some people even put some cornmeal in the water so the steamers will suck it in and spit it out along with any sand. After 20 minutes, they should have cleaned themselves out enough to be ready to cook. At this point I take a little scrub brush and clean off anything on the shell. Most fish markets here sell them labeled “double washed” but I still give mine a good scrub.

Steamers white bowl

Steamers are prominently featured at many Rhode Island cookouts and BBQ’s. It doesn’t hurt that they are fairly cheap here in the Ocean State (during the summer months you can get them for $1 a pound). You simply can’t have a clambake without them. Steamed in white wine, stock, water or beer (my preferred method - beer), these tender little clams are sweet and tender and take just minutes to cook.

Here’s how I like to prepare them:

2 - 3 pounds of steamers
1 can or bottle of beer
3 crushed garlic cloves
½ stick melted butter

Empty the beer into a large pot and add the garlic. Pour in the steamers, put on the lid and let it come to a boil. I start checking my steamers about 5 minutes after they begin to boil. Once they are open, they are done. If you have unopened steamers – discard! Clammed up steamers – no good! Now dump them into a big bowl.

The "neck" is black and covered with a disgusting wrinkled black membrane. Shuck the membrane; it’s not good eats. If your steamers are particularly gritty, you can pre-dip them in some warm water to rinse them and then dip them in the butter. I always top mine off with a little sprinkle of lemon.

Steamers in my belly always make me think....summer is coming.

Steamers CU
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