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how to cook steamers

Steamers with Compound Butter and Garlic Toast

Sometimes during the overnight soaking process, the clams retain some of the grit and sand. When you clean it to eat it, if the belly still looks full of dark grit, simply remove and discard the belly and continue on. The very large clams often retain stomach contents and the smalls ones do not.

Yield: 4-6 servings 1x
Prep: 12 hours 30 minutesCook: 5 minutesTotal: 12 hours 35 minutes


46 dozen steamer clams

Table salt

Compound butter

2 sticks butter, softened to room temperature (1 cup)

2 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced fine

1 teaspoon fresh thyme or half that of dry

1/2 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning

Zest of one lemon

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Garlic bread

3 tablespoons butter, melted

1 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced fine

Ciabatta or other hard chewy Italian bread

1 garlic clove, cut in half


In order to purge the steamers of sand and grit, they need to be soaked overnight in salted water.

Fill a large pot or container half full of cold water and add 1 tablespoon of salt for every pint of water (1 pint equals 2 cups), then stir with a whisk to dissolve.

The steamer shells are soft and delicate so carefully place the steamers into the pot with the salted water, making sure the water covers the tops of the steamers by an inch. (Add more water if needed.)

Loosely cover with plastic (leaving air between the top of the water and the plastic).  Refrigerate and soak overnight.

Make the compound butter by mixing the two sticks of softened butter, parsley, thyme, Old Bay, lemon zest and pepper. Roll in parchment or plastic and refrigerate to harden.

The next day, remove the clams using tongs or your hands. Pour out the water and rinse the sediment from the bottom of the pot or container. Under cold running water, rinse each clam* while rubbing the outer shell to remove any grit from the shell. Then place back into the pot or container.

*Note: The long neck that protrudes is a siphon and to make sure the clam is still alive, give it a poke and the clam will react by pulling back or trying to close the shell. Any that don’t move or smell, discard.

Place a steamer basket into a medium to large pot with lid, and fill with water up to the bottom of the basket. Cover and bring to a boil.

In the meantime, toast slices of the Italian bread. Mix the remaining butter and parsley. Once the bread is toasted, rub one side of the toast with the garlic half, then brush with the melted butter and parsley.

Place compound butter in a small sauce pan to melt.

Once the water comes to a boil, gently place the steamers into the basket either with tongs or a spider.

Cover pot with lid and set timer for five minutes. Have a large serving bowl standing by.

After five minutes, remove lid and move any clams that have opened to the serving bowl. Replace lid and continue cooking the unopened clams, removing more as they pop open, and replacing lid as needed. If the clams don’t open pop after ten minutes of cooking, discard those.  Save the cooking liquid for dipping while eating the steamers.

To serve, place the large bowl of steamers in the center of the table and give each person a small bowl of the clam cooking water, a small bowl of melted compound butter, a bowl or small plate to portion their own clams, plus a large bowl for everyone to use to discard shells.

To eat, pry open the shell and carefully remove the whole clam, belly and all. Grab the skin that surrounds the siphon and peel up, removing the skin along with the rest of the dark material that connects to it. You should have a nice clean clam ready to eat. Dip your steamer into the water to clean off any last sediment and to warm up, then dip in the butter, then place the clam into your mouth. (Silverware not needed!)

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© Author: A Family Feast
Cuisine: New England Method: steamed